Thursday, July 6, 2017

Road Trips ~ How to Save Your Sanity with Tips and Tricks For the Ride



We recently went on a road trip vacation.  We had two weddings to attend, one week apart.  One in Ohio, the other in Wisconsin.  So in between the two, we decided to make it into a vacation, visit places we have not been and wanted to explore, and break up the driving.

Some of our driving was during nap time in three hour chunks.  But we had two 5 hour days and one 7 1/2 hour day.  We wanted to keep moving along while we could and as long as the kids were content we plugged our way through the long days.

The longest, 7 1/2, was the day I was dreading the most.  It is already a long time to be in the car, but if we had to make a lot of stops, it would take us even longer.  Also, my youngest was down to one nap by the time we left and the longest he had lasted in the car until this point was 2 1/2 hours.  It was going to be a long drive.

So, I prepared myself mentally for that.  I also prepared my kiddos.  While my oldest could watch a DVD the whole time, I didn't want him watching that much T.V if possible and my youngest could glance at it, but not get much out of it as he still faces backwards.

We always have books and toy remotes in the car.  The kids tap into those as we drive around town.  We did use these some before taking out the new stuff.  Luckily, we have the DVD player and we only use that for long distances and for the first part of our drive.  But we did pop one in a couple of extra times just to get a little more mileage out of the drive before stopping. 

But I knew that even the usual stuff wouldn't hold them over for the entire trip or as the week went on.  I also wasn't sure if we would need ideas to fill our time in the hotel, as well as at any stops we made.  When we travel we always toss a soccer ball or two into the car just in case we need to stop and burn some energy off.  So, the soccer balls, DVDs, books, and remotes were ready to go as usual.  We also travel with water-less reusable paint books.  Melissa and Doug make painting books that just use water filled paint brushes.  The kids paint on the page and the picture shows through.  The water dries and they can use it again. 

But this time, I wanted to change things up and create some surprises for the kids in hopes it would allow us to get a little further in our drive or in the case of through Indiana, we couldn't stop until we got to the other side as everything was under construction.  Before going, we spent some time at the dollar store.

Oddly, the day we were scheduled to leave and the next, two of longest days, both kids were up early.  Which helped because then my youngest did two naps and my oldest did a decent afternoon nap both days.  Very helpful.  But, for the in between times, here is what we packed and why.

We found all the items at the dollar store.

Bubbles, stickers, blank notebooks, whiteboard, crayons, car bingo, sticker activity books, a frog jumping game, and coloring activity books.  As the drive went on, we added in beach balls and counting games

Bubbles:  a great idea that I wish I had found sooner.  From Jill Savage I got the idea.  You crank the car's vents up to high.  Make sure you have just the top vents on (it works better).  Hold up the bubble wand to the vent and let the air blow the bubbles.  We have a van so they flew all around and the kids had fun trying to catch them.  This alone would sometimes buy us an extra 20 minutes or more of drive time.

Stickers: Nothing to it, just stickers.  I would hand them back to my youngest and he would stick them to where he could reach.  The kids also had blank notebooks to use however they wanted.  They would sometimes stick the stickers in them.  Sometimes, my oldest would put them in his and then create a picture to go with it.  We used smiley face ones, which are fun to just put on things and have a smile at you.  The other was farm themed.  This one too would give us a decent amount more drive time.

Blank Notebooks: My oldest loves art.  So I figured if anything he can pull this out and crayons to color and create pictures.  My youngest likes to color, so blank pages and crayons were easy for him to use in the car.  I even thought that maybe it could be used to "write" about our trip.  The kids also stuck the stickers in them.

Whiteboard: My oldest found a Thomas one.  It had number writing practice on one side and counting engines on the other side.  He used it once in the entire trip.  But it was good practice and fairly clean.  He asked for it and I figured for $1 why not.

Car Ride Bingo Cards:  I was planning on making them, but when I saw them in dry erase form, I bought them instead.  One was road signs and one was vehicles.  My youngest just looked at them.  But my oldest tried to find some of the stuff.  He didn't want to mark any off, but still enjoyed them.  We joked about some the things pictured figuring we'd never see them from the car, like a hot air balloon and a sailboat, but we did end up seeing everything on them. Being four, my oldest preferred the vehicle one over the signs this time.  I just taped them to his window.

Sticker Activity Books:  These were an extra find.  I knew my oldest liked stickers and knew his letters, numbers, etc., so these were something he could do on his own.  He had to find the right page to put the matching sticker.  He had lots of fun doing them.  The only tough part was getting the stickers off.  We solved the problem by pulling off all the extra parts around the stickers.  Then he could easily peel them off.

Frog Jumping Game:  Not intended for the car, but was a lot of fun in the hotel room.  It could be done outside if needing a break at some point, or even at a restaurant.

Color Activity Book:  Just a bunch of pages that can be colored, mazes to do, word finds, etc.  We used these more in the hotel room if my youngest ended up needing a morning nap, then my oldest would color for a bit.  

Beach balls:  Never realized how much fun these could be.  We picked them up at one of the lighthouse gift shops for the kids.  They had fun playing with them in the car ride back to the hotel.  They also used the water filled paint brushes to paint them.

Counting Game:  At one point we picked a vehicle...semis...and said let's count semis.  You could totally do this with any other vehicle or object.

For older kiddos I spy works great and so does the ABC game, as well as the license plate game.  The ABC game is: starting with A, find the letter.  Once found, move onto the next letter.  The only time I skip over a letter is Q and Z.  But when I see them, I bank them.  Then again, more and more license plates are showing up with a letter Z on them.  The license plate game is: watching for license plates from each state and marking them off. 

In the past, when we make stops, we try to plan them around meal times.  Added bonus if we can find a place that has a play place inside.  But if not, on a decent day, we find a local park to go play at or green space nearby.  I have also stopped at a rest stop and let the kids do a nature scavenger hunt collecting pine cones, flowers, and sticks to decorate the picnic table there.

The black pocket thing in the picture hangs on the back of a seat.  I put it on the seat in front of my oldest's seat and put all his stuff in there or under his seat.  He could reach the pockets and I could reach the stuff under his seat, while it all stayed organized.  My youngest's stuff was in a bin near the front seats to easily hand him stuff.  We also kept a cooler in front with us filled with snacks and water to have within easy reach when needed.

This is what worked for us.  Will it work next time?  I hope so, but I don't mind changing things up a little bit too.  Then again, I don't know when our next long distance road trip is happening, so a lot can change between now and then.  But have fun, be flexible, and let the kids help pick out ideas too. 

Before your next trip, head out to the dollar store or dollar section at Target and see what you can find.  Get creative and have fun.  If it doesn't work that's okay.  Have a bunch of options to work from.  Just because it didn't work at one point in the trip, doesn't mean it won't work later on (or vice versa).  And you know what, a vanilla shake can go a long ways sometimes.

What are your tips and tricks for road trips?  Extra bonus if they aren't electronic.