Getting Mileage out of the Miles

A summer trip is a great time to make academic skills come to life.

School-age children often wonder how the things they are learning at school relate to their everyday life. Parents wonder how they are going to keep their children from forgetting everything they learned at school during the summer break.

With a little creativity and common sense, fun and practical activities can be made-up that will keep up children’s skills and make the learning relevant.

Here are some suggestions of activities you can “direct” when preparing for and taking a trip with your family this summer.


  • Locate your home and destination on a map. Find out such things as: What route(s) will you be taking? What direction will you be going? What states, cities, or counties will you be going through?
  • Get a book or pamphlet on the cities or states you will be going to. Find something interesting that you would like to see or share with the family.


  • Keep track of your mileage. Write down the starting and ending mileage each day. Use your subtraction skills to find out how many miles you traveled that day. Did you travel more miles today than yesterday? How many more or how many fewer? Add to find out how many miles you have traveled all together. Find out how many miles you still have to go. What is the average number of miles traveled in a day?
  • Make a bar graph to show the number of miles traveled per day.If you bring money to spend on your trip, keep a record of how much you started with, how much you spent, and how much you have left. A blank check register borrowed from Mom or Dad would be a great place to record this

Language Arts / Comprehension

  • Keep a daily journal. Write down things that you thought were fun different, or interesting. At the end of the week, choose one entry to read to your family.
  • Tell or write two facts and two opinions about something you saw.
  • Compare a city you have traveled through to your home city. How are they the same? How are they different?
  • Draw some of the road signs you have seen. Write or tell what you think they mean. Get a book that is local to where you are traveling. Listen to or read the story as a family Make pictures in your mind. Discuss the story. (On our vacation through Yellowstone last summer, we read a story about an ancient Indian boy living in the Yellowstone area. Traveling through the area helped the story come alive and was a great way to pass the miles).
  • Think about something you saw on your trip. Picture it in your mind. Describe it without telling what it is. Have other family members guess what you were thinking of.
  • Read menus! Collect menus from restaurants that will allow you to keep one. As you read different menus, you will get used to how some of the common words look. Make up your own menu to play with.
  • With the help of Mom or Dad, create an itinerary for each day. Read the day’s plans to the family.


  • Visit historical places along the way or in the city where you are staying. Notice the differences in what people work, what they did, and how they lived. What were some of the important things that happened? When did they happen? How many years ago was that?
  • Pick up five to eight picture postcards that show historical events. Put the postcards in order of when they happened and tell about them.
  • Make a time line to show the events you learned about. Write the dates and key words. Draw pictures or use postcards to illustrate your timeline.
  • Read a biography about a famous person from the area. (Visitor centers often have children’s biographies as well as books for more mature readers.)

Traveling, where on short or long trips, whether by plane, train, or car, offers many opportunities for practical learning. Be creative! Have fun with it! It is surprising how much the whole family can learn!

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