We just recently returned from our first real family vacation (of more than one night away from home), and it goes without saying that traveling with kids is quite an adventure! I realized at some point during our trip that I was never really going to be able to relax. We were away from home and completely out of our routines, however mundane they may be. I spent most of a week preparing for the trip which lasted 4 days and three nights at my parents' house Up North.
First, I made a packing list for Mia, Logan, our dog Ritzy, and myself. I knew I would be responsible for packing all of our stuff and Brett would have to take care of his own packing. Next, I spent quite awhile figuring out car activities for Mia to make it through the 5 hour trip, which I was sure would take much longer. (It didn't, thankfully!) I really, really wanted to be prepared for entertainment, and we don't have or plan to purchase a DVD player for the car anytime soon.
I looked all over the internet for car game ideas and asked friends and family for suggestions, too. Then, I took the ideas I thought would work best and started assembling a car trip kit. My kit included 6 lace-up cards that I made from cereal box sides cut into animal shapes, hole-punched around the edges, and threaded with yarn that I had taped on one end so it wouldn't unravel. I made a lion, a generic bird, a penguin, a parrot, a dog that looked like Ritzy (bichon frise), and a bunny. (Mia wasn't interested in these at all, but at least I have them for our next trip.) One thing that I included that Mia did enjoy was stickers and large index cards to put them on. Another idea I got from my sister-in-law was giving her surprise bags every so often. I made six in case I needed one for each hour of the trip. Each one had a small treat (Dum Dum sucker, trail mix I made with stuff from the pantry, fruit snacks), sticker sheet, and a small toy. She liked the vinyl window clings the best. I think I will go to the Dollar Store for more the next time we are traveling. Mia also liked the Disney princess slide puzzle, even though it may never look the way it did originally! She was excited about the beach ball and red, white, and blue headbands (which I knew were not really car activities, but I thought she would like them). One definite mistake I made was the Dora paddle ball toy. This is NOT a good car activity, especially when the person using it is sitting right next to a baby! I had Color Wonder coloring books and markers, which we had laying around at home, but she didn't want those in the car. Also, I made a reusable activity book that I thought was perfect. It included coloring pages, activity pages, and car bingo games and a car scavenger hunt (which I found on a nice website called www.momsminivan.com). I put these all in plastic page protectors and had dry erase markers to use with them plus pocket tissues for cleaning them off. Mia wasn't at all interested in this, but again, I have it for the future. I was proud of myself, though. I made almost all of that stuff and didn't have to spend any money except $6 at the Dollar Store for the little toy items and a bag of Dum Dums.
In retrospect, packing more food would have been better. We stopped for fast food both on the way there and on the way back. We're pretty cheap about what we get, but still, we could have saved some money. On the other hand, we made these stops approximately half way through our journey (both ways) and it was a good way to break up the trip. Luckily, both kids slept well, 2 or more hours of the drive. We made it through, and learned a few things for when we hit the road again.