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Have Time, Will Travel

We’re hitting the road this summer, making the rounds to the grandparents and other relatives along the way.  It will be just my boys and me as my husband will be toiling away at his desk job.  Which means, it will be Me versus Them in the loooooooong car ride to Grandma’s house.  I’m going into this challenge armed and ready!

If you will be road-tripping this summer with your family, take a look at some of these great tips to make it a bit more bearable for everyone.  And, if you have any of your own to add, please leave a comment and let us know!

  • Pack smart.  While consolidating space in my sedan is important, I do pack an extra bag of just the essentials – a change of clothes for everyone, perhaps a bathing suit, our toothbrushes, anything we might need for just a night.  Then, instead of having to trudge our huge everyone-packed-in-one-bag suitcase around, I simply pull out the smaller bag if we need to make an overnight stop.  In our larger suitcase, I do manage to pack all of our belongings together.  The key is to “layer”…place each item in an outfit in a pile, then pack backwards through your vacation.  That way, the items on top are the things you’ll need once you reach your destination, and each day following that should be the next on top.  This eliminates “the dig and throw” method that my boys usually have!
  • Since I do drive a mid-size sedan, indoor space is at a premium (we downsized from a mega-SUV last year).  To eliminate in-car clutter, my boys are both issued a backpack the day before we leave.  They are allowed to bring whatever will fit in the backpack, and nothing else.  If they want a special blanket or stuffed animal, it has to fit into the backpack.  If a certain toy is important enough to make the journey, it has to fit into the backpack.  Want a snack on the road?  It has to fit into the backpack!  That way, my boys only bring the things they REALLY want, and it elminates a lot of the “extras” we used to bring but never touched.
  • On the longest leg of our journey, I try to provide something new for the boys.  While a small toy (like a little car) is okay, I try to find something different than what they are accustomed to: for my older son, this might be a word find book and a new cool pen.  For my toddler, perhaps a small spiral notebook and crayons (or if I am really adventurous, I stock up on “party favor” toys and use those).  They get to take a break from the other stuff they brought, and I get a break from the “are we there yet” chants – hopefully.

What are some life-saving tips you have for travelling with kids?  Let us know!

Spring Break Road Trip!

We’re staring a day-long car ride square in the face right now…and that’s just one way.  We’ll repeat the process again after a couple of days of Grandparentdom.  My panic-personality decided to rear her ugly head during dinner tonight…what will we DO with two boys, in the SEDAN, for hours at a time, to keep them from a) maiming or killing each other or b) driving the adults to an insane asylum?  Do not fear – Creative Mom is here!

Think back to your younger years.  Were you a victim of the hours-long car rides to the grandparents, Dad at the helm, Mom navigating from the passenger seat, you (and perhaps a sibling or two), crammed in the back seat between the cooler, a suitcase, and a pillow, realizing that, about 30 minutes into the trip, this is going to be ONE LONG DRIVE?  What did we do to occupy our time?

In our family, we played games.  All kinds of games.  First, there was the animal game.  All players would count the animals they saw out their window (it was just my brother and me, so we didn’t have the “sitting in the middle” issue).  The player who counted the most animals over a set period of time would be the winner.  However, if a cemetery (or a sign pointing down a road to a cemetery) appeared outside your window, you would have to “bury your animals”, lose your total and start all over again.

Another fun game we used to play was the Alphabet game.  I was the Champ of the 1977 Impala for this game.  As you drive down the road, you have it identify each letter of the alphabet, starting with A.  We would keep score as to who would find the most letters.  This can also be done using only license plates or even setting a time limit.

Some travellers enjoy the state game: identifying as many state license plates as possible.  This isn’t such a great idea where I live as most plates are from our state.  It is not common to see an out-of-state plate.  However, on a road trip to Colorado one summer (Yes, I know!  18 hours in the CAR!!!), we did have a great time playing this one.

While these three games are wonderful games to play in the car to keep children engaged, active and happy, none of them are really ideal for my kids today.  My boys have an age gap of 5 years, with the older son being 8.  My three year-old, while knowing all of his letters, cannot keep up with the speed of his big brother.  So, I’ve come up with some quiet activities for both of them in the car this time that are appropriate for each of them.

For my younger son, I am packing a small bag of goodies for him – some old, some new.  He is an avid crayon-man, so I have a baggie with 8 triangular crayons (to keep them from sliding).  I also packed a new coloring book for him, and he has a clipboard to use as a “desk” in the car.  I am also including a small sticker sheet and a small Aquadoodle set.  I am a huge fan of Aquadoodle, especially in the car.  He also has an I Spy book to look at in the car and he will take his Lovey as well.  We have three scheduled stops during our drive, and at each stop, I have a “reserve bag” of activities to trade out with him so he doesn’t get bored: a pop up book, a small bottle of bubble solution to occupy us while we stretch our legs, his Magna Doodle, and a felt set I made for him.  Snacks are a given, but the food stays up front with me (or even better – in the trunk) so eating times can be regulated.

For my older son, I have also created a travel bag.  I found out, on our last road trip, that he is a HUGE fan of the Rush Hour Jr. toy.  So, for this road trip, I have purchased the Rush Hour set with an extra set of cards.  This alone would occupy his time.  However, variety is the spice of life, so he is also getting a set of markers, paper and a clipboard (to make cards and write letters that we will mail along our journey), a couple of new books by his favorite authors, and a baggie with his Zoob pieces in it (safe for both boys and not as apt to be lost in the Abyss of the Backseat as Legos might).

Do you notice what is flagrantly missing from my list?  Electronics.  Don’t get me wrong: we have the Nintendo DS system, the TVs for the car, every Leap Pad learning system device and software available and everything in between.  We’ll probably bring the TVs and the DS along, too.  However, getting kids to do something besides stare at a screen for ten hours is my goal, and with these great tools under my belt, I think we’ll succeed.

And if not, I’ll make sure to stock up on extra batteries – just in case.

Wonderbrains carries an extensive line of great travel toys for all ages – magnetic activities for older kids and perfect for toddlers on up!

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