Are we there yet?

Part 1: Traveling with children and still loving each other when you arrive.
by Lori Barrow
Every summer our family practices the ultimate exercise in growing towards one another in love and good will: “The Road-trip.” I’m not sure how this event has wormed it’s way into our yearly summer vacation, but we’re four years running now, and last year we embarked on the Mother of All Road-trips; a transcontinental adventure spanning from Pismo Beach, CA to Toronto, Canada and back.
Now I know some of you are already doing the math in your head (one mini van + one roof cargo carrier+ 4 kids under ten + 2 parents + 52 hours one way + 21 days total + one wedding + one family reunion = INSANE) and you have counted yourself out! But not so fast my dear friends, I have discovered a few tips and some tried and kid-approved activities that will bring some peace to your vehicle and allow you too to experience the fun and adventure that road-tripping can be.
  1. Activity Boxes
Especially for the pre-readers - I used pencil boxes and zip lock bags and created a few activity kits to hand out throughout the day.  A few favorites:
  • Pipe cleaners and beads. Each pipe cleaner had a paper square glued to one end with a number written on it. She then had to thread that many beads on the pipe cleaner and count them out loud.
  • Oversized buttons and shoe laces, perfect for threading.
  • Chalk Board Trays: I spray painted dollar store cookie sheets with chalk board paint. These worked as drawing surfaces and tray tables for other activities. They are also magnetic which we used for another activity.
  1. Travel Binders
I created a binder for each child with age appropriate activity pages. Each binder had:
  • A pencil pouch with a dry erase marker, colored pencils (we don’t do crayons in the car, heat + wax = no good), a pen, a pencil.
  • A map of our entire trip, one page for each day’s journey.
  • Connect the dot pages, word searches, drawing prompt pages, pencil game pages, etc.
  • State activity pages for each state we were driving through.
  • Letter dot pages and round stickers.
I used tab dividers and spaced out the pages for each day. This way they were only allowed to work on the pages for that day, ensuring that there were new activities each day we were on the road. Reusable activities went into page protectors so they could use a dry-erase marker and wipe it clean to play again.
  1. Parental Sanity Tools
  • Post it notes. Seriously.These are fantastic and can be used in a variety of ways. Give a small stack to the littles for them to pull apart and put back together. Place a row of them on the dashboard with each hour written on them until your next stop (9am, 10am, 11am, etc). At every hour give the children a new activity or snack and remove the post it, helps them stop asking for things every five minutes and have some idea of how long until the next stop.
  • Little toys or snacks, for handing out at these hour intervals. Pieces of gum, toy cars, stickers, fidget spinners, anything small and inexpensive your children would like.
  • Baby wipes, paper towels, kids and adult tylenol, bandaids, essential oils/car diffuser.
  1. Audio Aids
    1. Family Play list - I asked each person to choose 2 songs and compiled a play list. This created a 12 song eclectic loop that everyone enjoyed.
    2. Audio Books - driving through the plains can be a little boring (no offense plain dwellers), and while the kids had activities to occupy themselves, I found myself going crazy staring at the endless horizon!  Thus the audio book.  Will and I have never listened to books together before and found it a bit addicting. There are several apps you can download books from, but I like to use our local library online system to borrow books for our trips.
  1. Adventure Stops
Plan your route ahead and be sure to stop at some fun places and famous land marks to take photos and get out the wiggles.  We found the best park at a random stop in Grand Junction, Co - it’s sure to be a planned stop on future trips through Colorado.
Check out my Road Trippin’ Pinterest Board for these ideas and more that I put into play last year!
Road-trips can be enjoyable, and with a little planning and preparation I think you’ll find some of the best moments and memories are in store as you load up your car and hit the road!
Tune in for Part 2 - International travel with kids.