Craving an unplugged vacation? Secrets to keeping the family road trip fun

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Posted: Thursday, May 22, 2014 1:00 am | Updated: 3:40 am, Wed Jun 11, 2014.

(BPT) - Whoever said the journey is part of the fun probably never took a summer road trip with hungry, bored children in the backseat of the family car. Keeping kids occupied and their tummies full goes a long way toward making a driving vacation fun for everyone. But if you don’t want kids to fill up on junk food and spend all their car time plugged into the electronic device of their choice, what are your options?

Seventy-nine percent of all leisure trips in 2012 were made by car, according to the U.S. Travel Association. Summer is a peak time for family travel, as Americans visit friends and family, and take vacations while school is out. This summer, it’s possible to entertain kids, engage the whole family and keep everyone happy in the car. All you need is a little creativity, some time-tested activities and wholesome foods. The family road trip experts at Cracker Barrel Old Country Store offer some advice:

Unplugged entertainment

Smartphones, game consoles, laptops, tablets, television and mp3 players keep kids plugged in almost constantly. When traveling, many families try to minimize electronic time in order to provide the maximum opportunity for members to connect with each other and enjoy the new sights and experiences they’ll share.

An unplugged vacation is a great idea, but it’s important to use that free time wisely in ways that entertain and educate kids while also engaging adults. Games that all ages can enjoy will also help families connect while in the car.

Look for games that travel easily, require minimal moving parts and offer a bit of nostalgia. For example, the Original Wooly-Willy game is one parents will recall from their own childhoods and will enjoy introducing kids to. The game allows players to use a magnetic wand to move iron powder around, drawing whiskers, hair and eyebrows on a plastic-covered face. A mini version of the popular Simon game uses flashing lights and sounds to test players’ memories.

Games can also be both educational and fun. A Wooden Magnetic Hangman Game delivers all the brain-building challenge of the classic word game in an easy-to-carry format that uses a magnetic dry-erase board, 26 letter magnets, 10 hangman body magnets and a dry-erase marker – great for backseat entertainment. Or you could use a map game to help kids learn more about the United States as they drive through new locations on their way to Grandma’s house, the theme park, national park or other family destination. Cracker Barrel carries these games and many more appropriate for on-the-go fun.

Listening in

A car trip is also a great time for everyone to catch up on their “reading.” Audio books are an ideal way for everyone – including the driver – to enjoy a good story together. From New York Times bestsellers to non-fiction, self-help and children’s titles, a variety of best-selling books are available in audio format.

An exchange program is a cost-effective way to enjoy an audio book for your road trip. Cracker Barrel offers a service that allows travelers to purchase an audio book at one location and return it to another Cracker Barrel anywhere in the U.S. Customers will receive a full refund less an exchange fee of $3.49 for every week they kept the book.

Car time is also the perfect time to expand everyone’s appreciation of different types of music. Introduce kids to oldies that parents (or even grandparents) loved when they were kids, or ask the kids to share some of their favorite music with you.

Refreshments on the go

Hungry travelers are unhappy travelers, and parents know the value of having plenty of snacks on hand in the car. Avoid having too many sweets, high-calorie or high-fat foods in the car, as heavier or sugary foods can leave kids over-excited or feeling sluggish. Instead, snack on wholesome treats like fresh fruit (pack a cooler), protein-rich Virginia Peanuts or crunchy  Okra Chips from Cracker Barrel, and bottled water.

When it’s time to stop for a meal, Cracker Barrel has the family-friendly atmosphere and food that travelers have come to love. With familiar favorites and new lower-calorie options, Cracker Barrel ensures families will be able to enjoy a great meal while on the road. When you’re done with your lunch or dinner, stop by the Old Country Store and stock up on games and a few sweet treats such as McCraws Flat Taffy or popular candy bars. Visit www.crackerbarrel.com to learn more and find locations along your route.

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