We are doing something kind of crazy (right now in fact!)–we are taking an extended car trip with a 5 year old and an 18 month old! Although we aspire to take a yearly family vacation, in reality it really only happens every couple of years. We were so fortunate last year to get to go to Hawaii for a family vacation with my parents, sister and brother in law–but that was definitely a rare treat, courtesy of Gita and Pacha of course 😉
This time around, rather than flying to our destination and staying in a swank condo (sniff) we’re driving to Colorado, spending a few days here and there to visit lots of family and have a fun adventure! You maybe picked up on a little trepidation at the beginning of this paragraph…if you’ve ever made a long trip in the car with young kids you may know what I’m nervous about. Car trips can either be perfectly fantastic, with everyone having plenty of activities to stay entertained and taking lots of naps…or they can be stressful ordeals with crying children, potty breaks every few miles and grumpy passengers.
I’m trying to plan for success, so I’m making preparations for activities and snacks to keep the kiddos happy and entertained for at least a large portion of our driving. We’ll be logging upwards of 30 hours in the car (if all goes well) within a matter of 10 days, so you’ll understand why I have a keen interest in making our car time as pleasant as possible.
Let’s start the overview of my preparations with a look at the activity baskets that I’ve put together.
For Luca, a 5 year old boy, I’ve included a variety of short activities (from L to R): a scratch and sketch book, a funny faces sticker book, color by number and activity pads, a clicky-coiled bendy toy, dry erase driving activity flip book, sticker puzzles, magnetic tangrams, a slinky, a magnetic doodler and a box of 4 puzzles that can be put together on the lid of the storage box. These are all activities that don’t take too much time all at once, but that he can cycle between at his leisure. They all fit into the basket, so I’ll be encouraging him to make sure everything gets back in there when not in use.
For Isla, an 18 month old girl, I have included a water paint book (for unwinding in the hotel room), a few small books, her favorite baby doll with a couple of pretend bottles, a mini-Barbie (accessories removed), a play purse with appropriately sized accessories inside, a cloth quiet book and a bag of large wooden beads with a lace. She’s a little tougher to plan for at the age she is, as she still wants to put most things in her mouth and is still working on fine motor skills. My hope is that she’ll spend several hours napping, so perhaps with this collection of activities she’ll have enough to do during her awake times. I also know from experience that babies her age tend to “hit a wall” at a certain point during a long drive and no matter what you give them they’re just going to be mad.
So that’s where the snacks come in. It’s so easy to prepare for a trip and either skip packing snacks all together or just pack convenience foods that are going to lead to blood sugar spikes and grouchy kids. As we’re staying here and there during our trip, I’ve also tried to pack some breakfast options: dry cereal, granola bars, a box of PopTarts, and bags of bulk oats and homemade nut/seed/dried berry mix to eat with milk or yogurt. I will be packing a bunch of bananas, a large container of cut up strawberries and a bag of carrot and celery sticks. (We will have some snackie foods too, but we’ll try to balance it out with fresh, wholesome foods) Since we’re having to take a cooler anyhow to chill Isla’s lactose-free milk in, we may as well fill it up with bottled water, juice boxes, drinkable yogurt and fruits and veggies.
As an added bonus, I packed one of these adorable Little Explorer bags from Gypsy Forest (unfortunately she doesn’t make these anymore, but does offer other fantastic things!) for each kiddo with the essentials–a hat and pair of sunglasses for each and their new snazzy insulated water bottles. I’ll also toss in a few diapers and package of wipes for Isla in case we’re in a hurry for a diaper change and don’t want to get in the trunk to find supplies.
Lastly, we’re planning to include our portable car DVD player that has two small screens that can be installed on the back of the front row headrests so we’ll be able to watch our favorite movies. I’ll also be bringing my audio book Chronicles of Narnia discs that the whole family thoroughly enjoys.
The final addition to our activity baskets just arrived a few days before our departure from an Etsy shop called Dinky Doodads. I ordered a collection of 50 Squinkies for Luca, a seek and find trinket pouch for them both, and a bag of trinkets that I fashioned into a seek and find jar just for Isla. Long car trip accomplished 😉
Updates! We just got back from vacation last night and the activity baskets were mostly a success. Each kid cycled through most of what was included in their own basket, and some of the other one’s too. But by the time we made it to Colorado they were pretty bored with what they had. Target One Spot to save the day! Gita and I picked up several new books for Isla, a singing brush, some stickers, some letter and number spinners, some lacing cards, a classic pin-art box–similar (this was the favorite–we should have gotten 2!) and some large bouncy balls with floating glitter inside. We made it home with minimal fussing and meltdowns, even though we left Ft. Collins, Colorado at 3:15am MDT and arrived home in Texas at 7:00pm CDT!
P.S. Taking a break for a picnic lunch at a park (in Amarillo) each way was an absolute LIFESAVER! The kids got to run off some energy and stretch a bit and it made the rest of the drive much more pleasant to have that reset. It was an hour-long stopover well spent!
What advice do you have for traveling with young children?