How to ENJOY a Road Trip with Young Kids
“Let’s take a road trip,” they said. “It will be fun,” they said. Anyone that has ever taken a long road trip with kids, knows that this is not always the case. Hours of togetherness in such close quarters can cause adults to get a bit antsy, so it is not surprising kids can a have hard time on being strapped into carseats and seatbelts for long periods of time. Who really wants to spend hours upon hours hearing the dreaded, “Are we there yet?” Blaine and I have learned the key to stress-free car rides is keeping the kids busy. So sit down, buckle up, and learn how we have managed to stay sane,and actually enjoy ourselves with the kids on road trips.
In 2010, we decided to take our kids to Disney World, and I immediately jumped into planning. I never once thought about the 2 days we would spend in the car getting there, until the week before we left. Then it hit me…our very active 4- and 5-year-olds would be stuck in a car for much longer than they had ever been before. I started thinking about the hours and hours of hearing, “She touched me.” And, “He looked at me.” I started having visions of arriving at Disney with no hair left, after having pulled it all out in the car on the way. It was then I knew I needed to plan for the ride, just as much as I planned for the time we had at Disney. Operation “keep the kids busy and the parents sane” commenced.
Toys from Home
The first step was to go through our house and find any toys I thought would keep the kids busy in the car. When I was done, I had several hand-held electronic games, hot wheel cars, dolls, and Legos. As I looked over my loot, I began to wonder how we would organize all of this is the car. Then I remembered a set of plastic drawers I had in the attic. At the time we had captain chairs in the back seat. To my amazement, the drawers fit perfectly between the two seats. So all of the toys went into a drawer and the kids could reach their toys all by themselves. Eureka!!
Things you will need from home:
-small electronic games
-plastic drawers or baskets
The morning we left, the kids found a small Disney backpack in their seat. I bought the backpacks at a local flea market for $2 each. The backpack had a zipper pencil pouch full of crayon pencils (these don’t melt in the car!) and a pencil sharpener. Also included were several Disney-themed coloring books from the Dollar Store and a sketch pad. We brought each of the kids a plastic lap desk that we already had at home. They used these as a desk to color, but it also kept their toys from falling. This unexpected treat waiting for the kids the morning we set out got them excited for our trip, but also provided hours of entertainment.
Things you will need:
“The Magic Bag”
Toys from home and craft supplies would only get us so far, so I dreamed up “The Magic Disney Bag.” I decided we needed something to encourage the kids to behave, as well as keep them busy. The Magic Bag was one of the best ideas I have ever had! Before leaving on our trip, I made a stop at the local dollar store. I picked up coloring books, water bottles, small puzzles, books, beach toys (for our trip to the beach on the way home) and anything else I could find with Disney characters on it. At the dollar store, I also picked up a Disney-themed bag and some Disney fruit snacks. The quest to find all things Disney, for cheap, was kind of fun! The day before leaving I filled the bag with all of my Disney goodies and hid it in the front seat. When the big day arrived, I waited for about an hour to introduce the Magic Bag. The kids were so excited when I explained they would get a treat every hour they behaved in the car. The thrill of seeing what would come out of the bag next kept the kids from misbehaving. We never had to miss a treat from the bag! If you are not headed to Disney, the bag could easily be filled with other non-Disney items. Be creative! Your kids will love it.
Things you will need from your local dollar store:
Movies are always an option if you have a DVD player in the car. We were lucky enough to have 2 separate DVD players on the back of each front seat. If you do not have these built in, portable DVD players are always an option. I brought every Disney DVD we had and stored them in the center console. I also borrowed a few Disney DVDs the kids had not seen. My plan was to only use these as needed. To our surprise, we only had to break out one movie each day of our 2 day road trip. You can also check out movies from your local library!
Things needed from home:
Foil (Yes, you read that right)
Stealing an idea from one of our favorite restaurants, I stuck two rolls of dollar store foil in my magic bag. When I felt the kids were getting a little antsy, I pulled out the foil. I gave each of the kids a piece of foil and told them to create something. My goodness…did they create! They made dogs, trees, letters and so much more. These 2 rolls of foil provided hours of entertainment. When we ran out of foil, they took some of their creations apart and made more. The entertainment provided was well worth the $2 spent.
Things to buy:
-2 rolls of cheap aluminum foil or aluminum sheets
To our amazement when we stopped for our first night on the road, we had not heard “How much longer?” one time! Our kids, who could not make a 30 minute trip without complaining, had just gone more than 8 hours in the car without one word of complaint. We could not believe it! All of my planning and preparation had been worth it. Instead of being stressed out the entire time, we were all able to enjoy our ride and enjoy each other! So if you have a long car ride in your future and want to enjoy it with your kids, start preparing now! Gather toys from home, get some craft supplies, create a magic bag, pick out some DVDs, and buy a few rolls of foil. All of these things will be loved by your kids, and will allow you to enjoy your ride. The entire family will arrive at your destination happy and ready to explore!
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