If you have the chance this summer, I highly recommend you take a road trip with your kids. Being in such close quarters together can lead to great (inescapable) family discussions and quality time together.
When it comes to traveling, weekends tend to be a more convenient time for most of us to get to or from our primary destination—which can mean lots of time in the car on the Sabbath. If you’re trying to keep up with Sabbath observance on a road trip, those long stretches in the car on Sunday afternoons can be, well… long.
Most days, you (and your kids) might have phones, video games, pop music, and endless movies to keep yourselves entertained. But if you’re aiming for something more on Sundays, what exactly can you do? Here’s a few ideas that might fit the bill:
1. Do family history based on your location.
Family history may not seem like an obvious choice for car travel, but hear me out. Did you know that the Family Nexus app can tell you about your ancestors based on your current physical location?
When you’re ready for a pit stop, login and check the map to find out what significant events happened to your ancestors near your current GPS location. You might stumble across the gravesite of a long-lost cousin or find the chapel where your grandmother’s parents were married.
Stops like these can be so meaningful! Digging up physical history can also be a great way to talk with your kids, no matter their age, about the importance of family history. I guarantee that they’ll get more out of a stop at the birthplace of their great-great uncle than a random picnic table in the middle of nowhere.
2. Listen to uplifting and entertaining audiobooks.
This one is a no-brainer. The only activity more versatile and fun than reading books is having them read to you. You can start with this collection of 12 Audiobooks Perfect for Your Next Family Road Trip.
You can also download the Deseret Bookshelf Plus app on your device and get unlimited access to Deseret Book’s entire audiobook catalog, including new releases the day they come out.
Most libraries also have a decent range of audiobooks available, so you can choose whatever titles seem appropriate and appealing for the Sabbath.
One tip: Look at the name of the narrator instead of the author. Once you find a voice that engages you and your kids, it will be easier to find other stories you enjoy.
Audiobooks can last for hours, so the trip will go by in a snap! If you’re feeling really ambitious or in particular need of a spiritual boost, the Gospel Library app also has audio recordings of all the scriptures and nearly every other Church resource.
3. Try LDS Living’s new All In and This Is the Gospel podcasts.
For families with older kids or grown-up travelers, these new podcasts are an engaging look into the lives of some of the most interesting Latter-day Saints around the globe.
This Is the Gospel is a storytelling podcast. Each episode features at least one inspiring, true story told by Latter-day Saints who are striving to live their faith.
Download a few episodes before you leave so data coverage won’t be a problem. You’ll be entertained, inspired, and focused on the gospel, too.
4. Check the dollar/discount store for quick, easy ideas.
Many discount stores offer a variety of activities that are wholesome and even faith-based. It’s not uncommon to see Bible-themed action figures, faith-based coloring books, and scripture-themed board books on the shelves.
Generic art projects and puzzles are great fillers, too. Why not pick up a few new items for each child and hand them back at intervals along the road? The novelty of something new helps it hold the attention of little kids longer.
If you want to really get them excited, you can even try wrapping each new toy or activity so it’s more like a party. For even more small books and games, try toys and games under $10 at deseretbook.com.
5. Dive deep into Come, Follow Me.
When it comes to spending time in the car on Sunday, why not take your gospel studies on the road? Most of the lesson ideas in the Come, Follow Me manual are easily portable—particularly if you have the Gospel Library app on your phone. Plus, talking about serious subjects as a family might even be easier in a car setting where no one has to make too much eye contact and no one can escape.
Do a bit of prep beforehand. You can even show applicable Bible videos on a tablet or listen to conference talks that go along with the week's lesson.
6. Start a family journal or a family history.
What better moment is there to capture your family’s collective thoughts and stories than when you’re all stuck together in a tight space careening down the highway? While everyone’s present, take out your phone and record short videos sharing important family stories that you later upload to familysearch.org.
For older kids, you may want to start a blog where each member of the family can write their own stories in their own voice. You can then make your blog private—just for internal reading and sharing—or public for the world to enjoy.
If the road’s not too bumpy, you can even just go back to the basics with a simple journal or notebook in which your kids can record their thoughts and experiences.
These journals, whether in video, blog, or handwritten form, will become family treasures years down the road.
7. Put a gospel twist on the ABCs.
Have you ever played the “ABC” game in the car? You don’t need any supplies and there are no complicated rules. You just start with one person in the car. They name something that starts with the letter “A.” The next person comes up with something that starts with “B,” then “C,” and so on. That’s really it. It’s so simple, but it has been a big hit.
We always end up laughing by the time we get to “Q.” With slightly older kids, we like to make it challenging by choosing a category that we name things from.
On Sundays, gospel topics are great category starters. You can also try things like names in the scriptures, books of scripture, names from church history, and so on. You might be totally surprised to hear the words everyone knows. Plus, you never know, it could spur other important gospel questions and conversations.
8. Visit temples and Church history sites.
If you’re lucky enough to be traveling near a Latter-day Saint temple, detouring a bit off the freeway is well worth it. Temple grounds are always so beautiful and peaceful, so stopping for a quick look is a great way to get a dose of the Spirit before moving on.
You might also consider looking for other Church history sites near your destination. Besides the famous ones in Palmyra, Nauvoo, and Salt Lake City, there are quite a few notable places where Latter-day Saints have lived, worked, and done cool things in their communities. (For example, if you’re going to be in the Southern California area, here are a few off the beaten path.)
9. Download and enjoy more spiritual apps.
If you get desperate and need some quiet time for everyone in the car, there are a quite a few screen-time options that might work for your family. For example, younger kids might enjoy LDS Coloring Book Lite (available on iTunes) or LDS Children's Activity App (available on Google Play). And teens might enjoy the Church's LDS Youth app (available on iTunes or Google Play).
The free Bible for Kids app, while not specific to Latter-day Saints, tells the universal, tried-and-true stories from both the Old and New Testaments in a cute and really accessible way for kids. The app reads the story out loud and then has a game or coloring activity to reinforce the main concepts. Kids love it, and you can feel good about the scriptural exposure they are getting. Everyone wins!
Remember to keep it fun!
Sabbath-day road trips don’t have to make you feel awkward. And they certainly don’t have to be a drag. But they also don’t have to feel just like any other day of the week either. Thanks to modern technology and a little ingenuity, there are probably hundreds of faith- and relationship-building activities readily available to weary travelers.
Preston Lee is a latter-day dad who would spend all summer road-tripping with this family if he could. He also runs a small business helping people build side-hustles or start freelancing.