Colorado Vacations 
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Your Guide to Visiting Colorado with the Kids
10 Tips for Better Road Trips with the Kids
The idea of taking a road trip with the kids can terrify some parents.

But it doesn't have to be a nightmare. Here are 10 tips to make the trip smoother.

Did You Know?

Colorado has four national parks, six national monuments, and two national historic sites.

Photo: A young hiker mulls over the mysteries of ancient architecture at Canyons of the Ancients National Monument.

Photo: Scenery near the Million Dollar Highway is some of the prettiest in Colorado.

Colorado is rich with some of the prettiest scenery in America. Check our our list of Colorado's Best Scenic Spots for Traveling Families.

d You Know?

Colorado has 41 passes over 10,000 feet above sea level.

Many can be traveled by passenger car, though some can only be accessed by 4-wheel drive vehicles.

Vail Pass offers great views of the Gore Range in Colorado
Families on vacation in
Colorado can travel right over
10,662-foot Vail Pass on I-70.  

Photo: Two families on a road trip through Colorado take a break while crossing Red Mountain Pass.

o just about anywhere in the West, and you can expect to spend time in the car. Although children naturally love an adventure, the third hour of red rock spires or beautiful, jagged peaks can wear on a kid. 

There is only so much looking out the window you can do.

So we made a list of things to bring, and activities to help pass the time. And we’ve included some tried and mostly true ways to settle kids down for the long haul.

1.    Make a Survival Bag.

Pack a canvas bag or an old soft-sided briefcase with 
supplies for your journey 
  • maps of the area you will be exploring 
  • pencils
  • colored pencils
  • highlighters 
  • pad of sketch paper
  • round-tipped scissors
  • glue sticks
  • stickers
  • small toys
  • lolly pops
  • sugarless gum
  • music
  • books from the library 
Try to choose items that are new to the kids.

2.    Make a List.

Itemize the items in the survival bag and some activities to do with the materials. That way, when you are brain dead after hours of driving, you’ll have a quick reference when boredom rears its head.

3.    Map it out.

One of the best things about traveling with kids, is that it gives them valuable hands-on learning experiences. It follows that trips create a prime opportunity for children to learn map skills. 

Pick up special maps or atlases for the kids to use. Show them on a large map of the continent or the world where home is. Then help them find your destination for the day. 

As you trundle down the road, have them identify things on the map to look for in real life. Help them anticipate towns and cities by checking the size of the dot on the map. Help them learn the four directions and orient the map with a compass or the sun. You’ll help them understand geography at a gut level that can never be matched in a classroom. 

3.    Keep Their Hands Busy.

Small manipulatives are great for kids cooped up in the car. Sometimes, simple things are the best. My kids love brightly colored chenille stems (we used to call them pipe cleaners). Make figures that have to do with your vacation: cactus, buffalo, skiers, or tents. 

We also save all those little plastic toys that come in party favor bags, and bring them out, one at a time, to play with on road trips. 

Some families like to make trip journals while on vacation. The kids are each given a notebook with blank pages. As they travel they can make drawings, write poems or notes, and collect post cards and brochures of the places they visit. These are then glued onto the pages of the notebook and labeled. Then by the end of the trip, they have a complete scrapbook of their experiences. 

4.    Keep Their Mouths Busy.

Idle mouths are soon complaining or hurling insults at siblings. Have a variety of activities for those oral children. Small musical instruments, like a harmonica or pan pipes will keep hyper little ones entertained for a minute or two. Then you can fall back to singing. (You might want to print copies of camp song lyrics to pass around.) It is especially fun to sing songs in a round. 

When that’s worn out, and the griping starts, pop out the lolly pops. They are good for at least a few miles of quiet.

We also like snacks made from a mixture of cereals, pretzels, dried fruit and nuts. Each child gets a cup full and they seem to enjoy picking out the items one at a time to eat. Follow up with sugarless gum to help keep the cavities away. Dispense water bottles to keep kids hydrated.

5.    Alternate Brainwork with Down Time.

Insert a bit of learning into the fun of a vacation. Give a 3rd grader a multiplication fact or two to memorize as you roll down the road. Or have an older sibling read to the younger kids out of a book or brochure about your destination. We sometimes practice handwriting by writing silly sentences on that paper made with the dotted lines for the purpose.

When they get tired of brainwork, they are welcome to veg out and do nothing for a while. Toys, craft supplies, candy and gum can also be used as a break from the brainwork.

7.    Take a Tag Break.

Sometimes nothing works like getting out of the car. Find a park in the next town or even just an empty field. Pull over to jump out and run around. Mom or Dad is “it”, and tries to catch the kids. Don’t stop running until everyone is completely winded and sweaty. It is a great way to wash away all the stale air that collects when you’ve been sitting too long.

8.    Bring a Book on Tape.

Books on tape are a gift from Heaven on long road trips. Check out the children’s section of the bookstore or library and pick titles appropriate for the whole family. Then settle back to fall under the spell of a good story, and put the miles behind you. When it’s over, talk to the kids about their favorite parts, characters, and what they thought of the story. Our favorites: anything written by by Beverly Cleary.

9.    Keep Them on a Budget.

Pick up bill-sized envelopes from the bank or buy small zipper bags to hold cash. Decide how much you want to spend on souvenirs for each kid. Put that amount in envelopes with the kids’ names on them. Tell the children that you’ll hold the money for them, but they can spend it however they want. Be sure they understand that’s all they get for the whole trip.

When they want to burn through all their cash in one place, remind them of the attractions still on the itinerary, and ask them if they think they’ll want to buy anything at those other places. Suggest inexpensive souvenirs like postcards and key chains, so they have enough for later. Use the whole process as an opportunity to work with your children to understand budgets and wise use of resources.

10.     Pillows, Blankies, and Cuddly Animals

Finally, there is nothing like the hum of a motor and the constant swaying motion to lull little ones to sleep. And there is nothing like the peace in the car when the children are asleep. Encourage the process with small pillows, blankies, and cuddly animals from home. Snuggle the children in and insist on 5 or 10 minutes of quiet time, when no one, including adults, is allowed to talk. What a lovely break the silence can be.

Related Links:

Best Family Attractions in Colorado

Recommended Trips

Lodging for Families on a Colorado Vacation

Camping in Colorado with the Kids
Hiking with the Kids in Colorado
Skiing in Colorado with the Kids

National Parks of Colorado

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