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6 Ways to Use Driving Time Intentionally

6 Ways to Use Driving Time Intentionally
How to make your time on the road meaningful and memorable.
By: Brittany Highland

 

Front end of Winnebago View driving down road with view of ocean

As RVers, we spend a significant amount of time behind the wheel or as passengers. It’s all too easy to spend the hours staring out the window or staring at a screen (if you’re not the one behind the wheel). But considering our family can never retrieve lost hours, we’ve learned to use our driving time intentionally over the past six years of full-time RVing. Especially since we travel with our three-year-old son, Caspian. We don’t want to look back and regret wasting any time during the brief years we have with him during his childhood.

Fortunately, there are many ways you can make the most of driving time, varying with the mood and your family members’ personalities. Here are a few ideas to make your traveling hours meaningful and memorable.

1. Listen to Podcasts

Podcasting is experiencing a surge right now, with countless high-quality shows for every interest. I love listening to podcasts to catch up on current events, learn about history, and plan our next visit to Disney World. (Confession: I’m subscribed to at least a half dozen Disney-related podcasts). Podcasts are an excellent resource whether you want to be educated or entertained.

But did you know there are podcasts especially for kids? “Tumble” teaches kids about science, while “Storynory” tells them stories. “Circle Round” shares folktales from around the world. “Aaron’s World” was originally created by a six-year-old and is especially recommended for anyone who loves dinosaurs!

First image is of Caspian sitting in car seat giving a thumbs up. Second image is a screenshot of the Circle Round podcast

Especially with children being home from school due to COVID-19, I predict we’ll see even more focus placed on podcast content for kids in the coming months. Exciting news for RVers!

2. Binge Read with No Hands

Of course, we all know about audiobooks, which I highly recommend for long drives (an Audible membership will serve you well). But there are other ways to listen to written content when you’re on the road.

One of my favorite discoveries is an app called Speaky - Article Voice Reader (not to be confused with another language app also called Speaky). With Speaky, you can import any URL from the web and Speaky will read it to you. This resource has transformed long drives for me! I can import news articles I normally wouldn’t have time to read. I even listened to six years of blog archives from the Overlanding Family, my biggest inspiration when it comes to family travel.

Look out driver's side window of road and ocean

Finally, don’t neglect to take advantage of local libraries. Start with the library in your hometown, but keep in mind large cities may allow open access to online library resources. During shelter-in-place, when local libraries were closed, Caspian and I took full advantage of Austin Public Library (where we have a library card) and Seattle Public Library (where we don’t). We were constantly borrowing a stream of ebooks, audiobooks, and even videos. Many of these can be transferred to Kindle for driving days.

3. Smart Screen Alternatives

Because of research showing the impact of screen time on the developing brain, we carefully monitor Caspian’s time with television, Netflix, and YouTube. But soon after his third birthday, we found an alternative he enjoys. The LeapStart system by LeapFrog has booklets children interact with by using a special stylus. Booklets are designed for ages two through eight, and content covers everything from math to social studies.

Caspian doing a LeapStart activity

While LeapStart does have a tiny screen with simple animations sprinkled throughout the booklets, the screen is not the focus. Instead, Caspian works on his listening skills to complete activities, motor skills as he manipulates the stylus, and problem-solving skills through each page’s activity. 

4. Learn a New Language

Make your RV a rolling classroom by using your driving time to learn a new language! Pick up some French before you visit Quebec or Spanish before driving through the beautiful Baja Peninsula of Mexico.

Depending on whether you’re learning as a family with children, or as adults only, there are multiple learning options available. Since Caspian is still only three, I like listening to “Cuentos Infantiles.” The podcast episodes in Spanish are short, usually around five minutes long, and they tell children’s stories like “Hansel y Gretel” and “El monstruo de colores” (The Colorful Monster). We’ll pick out a few vocabulary words to repeat and talk about afterwards, but mostly I’m happy to familiarize Caspian with the Spanish language and pronunciation in snack-size portions.

Caspian standing inside of Santa Rosalia sign

Music is also a friendly way to expose your children to other languages. Putumayo is one of my favorites, sharing world music in several different languages.

5. Go Deeper with Your Copilot

Day-to-day life often gets in the way of meaningful conversation with our loved ones. During driving time, your copilot and back seat passengers are a captive audience. Take the opportunity to dive into valuable topics that inspire or teach life lessons. Or just use the time to get to know your partner better. There are always stories from our childhood or family history that are interesting or just funny. Telling them draws a family closer together.

Highland family standing in front of large brick building in Baja

My husband Eric and I have had some memorable conversations while driving. There was that time we wanted to buy land in Texas Hill Country to keep a herd of bison, or that other time we were convinced we could become successful house-flippers (until we realized we’re basically helpless when it comes to home renovation).

6. Break Up the Drive with Interesting Quick Stops

There’s nothing worse than barreling towards the day’s destination, on such a tight schedule that even potty breaks have to be timed. Travel days like that are a recipe for burnout. Instead, set manageable goals for each day. Leave time for the unexpected, but also make time for interesting stops along the way! Unlike other forms of transportation, RVs make it fun to take a break between Point A and Point B. (Here are some roadside attractions another RVing family recommends).

Brittany holding Caspian in front of cars at Cadillac Ranch

After using a website like Atlas Obscura or an app like Diners & Drive-Ins to find quirky stops, you’ll always want to budget extra time for this kind of fun. With Atlas Obscura, you’ll play Ghost Town Disc Golf in Colorado or see the Greek Revival Folk Art Chicken Coop in South Carolina. Now that’ll give everyone something to talk about for a few hours afterwards. 

Using Driving Time Intentionally

Our RVs are much more than a means to an end. The journey can be just as valuable and memorable as the destination, if we use our driving time intentionally. Whatever matters most to you and your family, I hope you can find creative ways to learn and laugh as you travel down the road together.