Ideas when traveling with kids this summer

Hey, I’m Charlie’s wife, the other Jen (Aaron’s wife is also named Jen).  I’m a stay at home mom of 3 boys (5 yrs., 21 mos., & 7 mos.). Picture of me at left was drawn by my 5 yr. old.  We just returned from taking an 8 hour round trip in our minivan and are preparing for our next drive, which will take us at least 16 hrs. round trip.  I wanted to share some “thrifty ideas” on keeping children entertained in the car wherever your destination may be this summer.

Really Thrifty Ideas

  • Utilize your local library for checking out “new” movies and books.  Don’t forget books on tape/CD, my oldest son enjoys them and is at the age where he can follow along.  For books that can be enjoyed by multiple children, I suggest the “I Spy” or “Where’s Waldo” type books.
  • I will admit that I used to not be a fan of wanting my kids to watch movies in the car.  My family traveled a lot when I was growing up and we managed just fine without it, so I figured my kids could just suck it up too:).  Well, we now use our laptop computer and play movies on it for part of a long car trip – the car is so quiet for that time, except for the Elmo video playing in the background.  My kids are laughing, not fighting or screaming from boredom, and the time is passing by quickly.
  • A favorite travel game in our family is the alphabet game.  This game is easier along highways that have many billboards, but one can also use license plates, names of cars, sides of semi-trucks, etc….  Start with the letter A and say where you found the letter, then continue on until Z.  First person to Z wins.
  • Novelty can never be underestimated.  Plan ahead and stash some of their favorite toys away about 2-3 weeks before the trip, then the toys will hold their attention a bit longer if they haven’t been played with for awhile.
  • Aluminum Foil.  I found this idea at momsminivan.com and I think that it sounds like there is a lot of cheap fun to be had.  The idea is that each school-age kid would get a certain amount of foil and have to sculpt something out of it.  You could have various categories, i.e. animals or jewelry.  The options are limitless.
  • Food can be very pricey if you eat out for every meal or stop at gas stations to get your snacks/treats.  Pack a cooler for a picnic and stop at a park so that the kids can eat and burn some of that energy along the way.

Partially Thrifty Ideas

  • Crayola has come out with this line of markers called Color Wonder. It is genius.  These markers will only color on the special paper/coloring books that come with them, so there is absolutely no chance of ruining clothes, car seats, or drawing on a sibling.
  • Travel versions of your favorite games.  You can find almost any game in smaller or electronic hand-held form nowadays. Our son has a Leapster game system, so I am constantly on the lookout for games on clearance that I can put away for trips.
  • Go to a few garage sales or to a dollar store and buy some “new to them” items.  Pull a new item out every 50 – 100 miles depending on the length of your trip.
  • I’m all for rewarding good behavior, especially when you are expecting your child to attempt something super-human, like sitting in the car for long hours.  Pack special treats that you don’t always buy (my favorite is Dum-Dum suckers) or take them out to lunch at one of their favorite places that may just have a playland attached to it.  Buy them the kid’s meal with the toy (just make them wait till they get back in the car to play with it:)).

Plan ahead, have patience, and keep your expectations reasonable.  I hope these tips help make your next trip a little more enjoyable for everyone.

Do you have any great travel tips to add?  Please share your wisdom and leave a comment.

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3 comments

  1. Ty says:

    The Leapster is a fantastic handheld game system. When my daughter first got her’s I was impressed by how well made it was. This is clearly a device that is intended to be used by children.

    From the same company there are the LeapPad reader and books which can be found at garage sales.

    I have to throw in support for the Tag Reader system though. It is the same idea as the LeapPad, but contained within a pen type device. It isn’t cheap. $50 for the pen, $11-13 for the books. It’s a great thing for grandparents to get as a gift though.

    The benefits of the Tag Reader are

    1) Smaller
    2) You can plug headphones into it
    3) You can have it read you the book, point to words and have it say the word, point to various parts of the page and get sound effects, or you can play games with it. As you play games, you can earn points that can be redeemed on the Tag website.

    Magnetic playsets are great for long trips.

    A pretty basic idea that I’m sure is common practice, but still should be mentioned. Don’t take your dvds in the case. Get a CD/DVD binder and put the kids movies in there. We keep one binder full of Veggietales and other Christian videos and one full of other movies (Disney, Dreamworks, Dora, etc) at home for easy organization.

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