Road Trips: Why Our Kids Watch Unlimited TV in the Car

Road Trips: Why We Let Our Kids Watch Unlimited TV in the car


It’s nearly road trip season and more often than not, one of my favorite parts of vacation is the time we spend in the car. Yes, in the car.


After eight years of parenting (and multiple attempts to keep our kids occupied sans the DVD player), we have finally decided to just let our kids watch as much TV as they want while we are in the car (on road trips only, not on everyday driving).


Nine hours of unlimited TV time might seem horrific, at worst, or lazy parenting, at best. But we prefer to call it marriage enrichment.


You see, when we pop a DVD in the player and our kids are quiet and occupied, my husband and I can take time to truly talk. We dream together, hash out parenting issues, reminisce about memories, and plan for our future.


And for the record, I have tried just about every suggestion known to man (and Pinterest) about keeping kids occupied in the car. I’ve bought Dollar Store trinkets and travel games, all of which inevitably end up either broken or dropped on the floor, ultimately result in a meltdown of epic proportions…or the need for a chiropractor after bending and twisting to pick up the pieces of the floor.



I still bring plenty of books and a few pads of paper. Surprisingly our kids will get tired of watching the DVD player and want to do something else for a while (all on their own), so rather than micromanage we just let them choose what they want to do in the car.


And as for feeling guilty, we don’t. Our kids don’t have much screen time throughout a normal week, so having several continuous hours of it for a few days a year isn’t going to hurt them. :)  Plus, hour-long conversations with our spouse offer great bookends for a vacation!



What about you? Do you let your child watch unlimited TV in the car on road trips?



  1. Love, love, love this! We do much of the same. Our DVD player is not used unless we are driving more than an hour at a time. There is lots of watching on a road trip. But like you, we find we have really great conversations. Thanks for sharing this!

  2. I can’t believe you didn’t mention listening to audio books on road trips! We don’t have a DVD player in our van, but our kids LOVE listening to audio books on long road trips- or even just around town (and at home, they are little obsessed!). We always reserve 3-4 that they haven’t heard before (or ones they have if they are requested) and our road trips are very quiet- even with 5 kids 7 and under :) Just think of any book that you love or your kids love and there is likely an audio version!

    Some favorites:
    The Henry Huggins series
    Dr. Doolittle
    Little House on the Prairie series
    101 Dalmatians
    Geronimo Stilton series
    Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle series
    The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
    Three Tales of My Father’s Dragon
    The Mercy Watson series
    Chronicles of Narina Audio Dramas

  3. Love this! We hardly watch TV at home, on our two 12 hour trips to see the grandparents, I let them watch until they’ve had enough. I’m glad I’m not the only one! I’ll have to try audio books as well since we only have 2 screens and 3 kiddos!

  4. I drive my boys (age 7 and 9) 13-14 hours to visit grandparents by myself. When they were younger I packed so much stuff for the car to keep them occupied while I drove. I started doing this trip solo with them when they were only 2 and 4. Now, we install the travel DVD player, charge their Nintendo DS units, and throw in the family Kindle.

    I did give them each a backpack to fill with other stuff to take for in the car. One son put in a soccer ball, a duck call, and a few odds and ends. The other put a basketball, Frisbee, and four lego bricks in his. So, I learned they are not up for the task of choosing stuff to entertain themselves in the car.

    This year, I decided to do the unlimited electronics thing. It worked for awhile. Then, they got bored, started arguing over who got what games, crying when the game did not work the way they wanted it to, etc. Mine get bored with the constant access to electronics. Also, my oldest gets too intense with the games and needs a break from them.

    I did take colored pencils (crayons have melted in the past), paper, some books, and a few other things. They really enjoyed the license plate game and the ABC travel game. Because I had back up activities, I did not hesitate to pull the plug on all electronics with three hours left in the trip as a consequence for inappropriate behavior. They were bored for part of the time, but I am okay with that. We talked about how back in the day, our cars did not have air conditioning, there were no kindles or internet, etc.

    I found that if they are plugged into electronics the whole time, they miss what I point out to them and conversations with me. On the way home, I had them rotate electronics with reading, drawing, playing the ABC game with me, etc. It was much easier on the way home. They still had a lot more electronics time than at home, but they were happier and had better attitudes.

    Each child/family is different. I think we should do what is best for our own family. And, we should be free from the guilt. If my kids are still in pj’s in public at three in the afternoon because we have been on the road since 4am and they literally rolled out of bed and into the car, I just smile big at the people whispering loud enough for me to hear about how “wrong” that is. :) What would those people say if they new that we were on our fourth fast food stop of the day and one kid only had Teddy Grahams and Gatorade for lunch because he hates fast food?!? Since we hardly ever have fast food, I am okay with a few days a year of fast food overload. We have done the healthy food in a cooler thing and sometimes I just don’t want to bother (usually the way home).

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