Tell me what you read and I'll tell you who you are
Maybe it was the way I was raised. At the end of most vacation days and while on long road trips, my mom (or brother, because he didn't get car sick) would read a book aloud. Several genres were covered, but most memorable was my mother reading every Little House on the Prairie book aloud (Farmer Boy is still my favorite).
So it isn't really a surprise that books are a big part of our vacations--though we often prefer to get the audio version for car rides instead of having me (the mom) read out loud. On our vacations, each child packs a reading book, an activity book (with puzzles, mazes, games, etc.), the diaper bag is filled with board books, my husband packs his kindle, and I always have a book for myself, and, when possible, an audiobook for the family to enjoy.
When it comes to road trips, a good book can make the miles pass far more quickly and create an amazing time together. A bad book could makes those same miles unendurable (think Dora). The trick is finding a book that both kids and parents will enjoy.
#1--Harry Potter--With seven books in the series, you can drive cross country more than once and never run out of story. Even our preschool aged children have listened to the first few books while our elementary aged children were enchanted. I have read the entire series three times and just finished the third book with my third child. I am still captured by the story and love watching my younger children hear each book for the first time. The audiobooks are well done and the reader uses multiple voices to add more magic to the story. Hands down, this is my first choice to keep everyone happy on a road trip.
#2--Rand McNally's Backseat Books--these activity books are wonderful to keep kids busy, happy, and learning. Younger kids (ages 4-7) will enjoy the Best Travel Activity Book Ever with simple mazes, dot-to-dots, and other puzzles in this black-and-white coloring book. Older kids (ages 7-12) will love the full color Are We There Yet? book with complicated games, silly songs, interesting factoids, and puzzles. Coast to Coast Games is also excellent, but I would avoid the Kids' Road Atlas which has far fewer games and puzzles than the other books in the series.
#3--How to Eat Fried Worms and Freckle Juice--for families with younger children (ages 4-8), these books are shorter, simpler, and silly but still give parents a good laugh along with their kids. Be sure to pack some gummy worms or a little freckle juice in the car and your kids will never forget this road trip.
#4--Little House on the Prairie Series--based on the opening paragraph of the post, you knew this would make the list. My favorite two books in the series are the first one, Little House in the Big Woods and Farmer Boy (the story of Laura's husband's childhood). From Pa staring down a bear to Ma churning butter to Christmas being only a stick of candy and a doll, your whole family will discover how families survived in the frontier. This series is especially good when driving through America's heartland.
#5--Dr. Seuss--On a recent trip, we had The Lorax on our iPad. This made the book interactive--almost like an electronic pop-up book. iTunes also offers other classics like Green Eggs and Ham and the Cat in the Hat. After finishing listening to the iPad story, my children begged me to read Fox in Socks (a tongue twister book that gets the whole family laughing). My personal favorite is the 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins and what is more fitting for vacation than Oh, The Places You'll Go.
#6--The Great Brain and Indian in the Cupboard--aimed at school aged kids, these books teach about ingenuity, daring, and making tough decisions. The characters are often mischievous (that's part of their charm) and the stories are fast paced. These are two classics from my childhood.
#7--Percy Jackson and the Olympians--another fantasy book mixing modern times with ancient Greek legends. This adventure series follows a less-than-perfect boy on his quest with frightening monsters and impossible opposition.
#8--Fablehaven--this fantasy series is about a brother and sister and their adventures on a magical preserve. With plenty of mystery and magical creatures, this book has plenty of imagination as well as the ups and downs of sibling relationships. Both children make mistakes and have to pay the consequences as well as decide what is really important.
#9--Snow Treasure--this adventure book is about a group of children outsmarting the Nazi's. Though not a holocaust book, this story depicts another ugly truth of an invading foreign army. Who wouldn't be rooting for the children through all the twists and turns right up until the unexpected ending? And though hard to prove, the story may actually be based on true events.
#10--The Giver--a Newberry Winner, this negative utopia book will keep your kids guessing and provide an incredible teaching moment to discuss the value of individual human life, the role we play in our communities, and the role of government.
Of course, families with older children can enjoy more mature books like The Hunger Games, Lord of the Rings, or Ender's Game. Because we still have preschoolers in the car, those books will just have to wait.
So in addition to a few electronic devices and a snack, grab a good book on your next family vacation.