I knew it had been a long time since I posted on our blog, but I didn’t realize I hadn’t posted since Jonah started Pre-K. He’s finishing 1st grade now! I don’t have time to post all that’s happened since then, but I thought I would post about our big road trip this summer. We took our kids on a 7 day trip from Dallas to Pigeon Forge, TN when he was 2 – 1/2 and she was only 6 months old. At the end of the trip we thought, “Wow… that really wasn’t that bad. I’d actually do that again!” So we did. When he was 4 – 1/2 and she was 2 – 1/2, we made a 9 day trip to Michigan. Again, we had a good time and managed the car time pretty well. I think we only watched 2 movies during that whole trip!
So with those two relatively good road trip experiences under our belt, we’ve become a little more ambitious for this summer, since they’re now 5 & 7 years old. We have some friends who moved up to Seattle last summer and thought driving out to see them would give us a good excuse to see some of the major sites out west that Jason and I have never seen ourselves. The list of places we wanted to see kept growing and so did the list of friends and family we’d visit along the way. Next thing you know, we were planning a full 3 week road trip…. that’s longer than any vacation any of us have ever taken before! Did I mention we’re camping 7 of those nights?
Of course, now when I tell people we’re taking a 3 week road trip… with kids, people give me the jaw dropped look and then either tell me: You’re crazy. You know that right!? OR How in the world are you going to do all of that!? Hehe, yes I’m crazy. I do know that. I also thought this post would be a good way to answer the second question on how we do it. We’ve learned a few tricks from our previous trips, so we’ve just scaled it all up for 3 weeks. In no particular order, here’s a run down of how we roll.
We used to have a small car trash bag made for that purpose, but it was never big enough for road trips. We’ve actually replaced it permanently with this because it holds more and is a bigger target that the kids can both hit when they are throwing away their own trash.
I found this little 6 pocket “shower organizer” in the Target Dollar Spot and attached it to the back of our seats so the kids can keep a few small toys for playing with in the car. Putting it behind the grab bar helps keep it from flopping around.
To keep things fresh, I have a box of small toys to swap out what’s in the pockets every day or two. If I gave them access to the whole box, they’d make a huge mess and get bored with everything quickly. Some of the items have been put away for months, so when they see them again on the trip they’ll be excited to play with them. Some of the items are new and will be wrapped as surprise gifts along the way.
Magnetic stuff: dolls, words, tangrams, swizzle eggs, trapeze men desk toy.
Tactile stuff: squishy light up spider and puppy, koosh ball, fuzzy bracelets, noise putty.
Fidget stuff: push button collapsing animals, push button action happy meal toys, bending links, balancing bird, mini slinky, pop open calculator, Jacob’s ladder, mini top, ball and cup.
Visual stuff: light up wand, oil and water I Spy wand, fractal kaleidoscope, light up happy meal toys, mini puzzles, ball maze.
Creative stuff: create a face, etch a sketch, Rory Story Cubes, mini play dough kit.
Imagination stuff: Polly pockets, mini play mobile sets in travel soap dishes, littlest pet shop, micro remote control car.
We have a second canvas cube between the kid’s seats to hold a few bigger toys that won’t fit in their small pockets.
Color wonder markers for them to share, 3-4 play sets I prepackaged in zipper pouches, CD and DVD wallet, a big slinky (it’s always a big hit), a hobberman ball, hot wheels and squinky barn play sets that don’t fit in the zipper pouches. The kids are each going to practice their new found stitching skills by making a felt stuffed animal. I put those supplies in a regular ziplock bag so we can throw it away once they’ve completed their projects.
Aren’t they going to be so cute?! Once we finish them, we’ll use them like Flat Stanley and take pictures of them at the various landmarks.
Just like the box of small toys to trade out in their pockets along the way, I have several other play set pouches to trade out too. I use the zipper pouches because they are more durable and hold their shape better than regular ziplock bags. We tried that one year and it was still hard to find stuff in the box, not to mention that the kids had trouble closing them. I’d seen this pencil bag idea on Pinterest, so I’ve been collecting them for a couple years, in preparation for future travels. It definitely makes my OCD happy too, seeing them all lined up in this box. 😉
These pouches could have anything in them, but here are some of the ideas I’ve done. Weaving loom, mini doll house nursery furniture and babies, mini play kitchen set from the Dollar Tree, farm animals and wild west figurines, small building set like k’nex or legos, playmobile pirates, my little ponies, army men, kaleidoscope, view finder, their beloved Minecraft action figures, felt flannel board, finger puppets, and their sewing kit.
We have these books and activities saved for the 2nd half of the trip stored in the bottom of the extra play sets box too.
We’re each going to have a car back pack with a smaller bag/purse for carrying essentials inside. I haven’t gotten those entirely together yet, but here’s a peek at some of the stuff I’ve got set aside. Pencil box with map pencils and dry erase markers (I have an altoid box of crayons to keep in my purse so they never get left to melt in the car), scissors, glue stick, and a dice (for some of their binder activities). A head lamp, book light, mini fan, sunglasses, lanyard with compass and magnifying glass to pin their Junior Ranger pins to, walky talky, mini journal/sketch book, and a little slug bug car counter I made for our last trip.
I found these metal desk file boxes that make good use of the space between their seats and the minivan door. I used a bungee cord to keep it from sliding around (not pictured).
Each of the kiddos has their own box that will hold their stuff. They both have a cookie sheet lap tray, an eye spy book, an atlas kind of book, a stencil book (he gets to design cars and she gets to create outfits), a color wonder coloring book, a paint with water book, and a car bingo game board.
He also has a neon drawing board, an Ed Emberly drawing book, brain quest cards, a dry erase game board, and license plate game.
She has a magna-doodle, water marker book, and a frozen book to practice reading. We will be adding some other readers for both of them too, I just haven’t got them yet.
My husband really hates clutter, so I had to put a warning sign on our office door the day I decided to tackle organizing all of the stuff to keep the kids occupied. Hehe
I’ve also done some planning on how to pack the car to make everything easy to get to and keep it tidy (hopefully). I made a master packing list for the clothes a few months ago (more on that later) so I know I’ve got one big bag, 2 medium bags, and 4 small bags for all of the clothes and toiletries. In the back we’ve also got the cooler, camp stove, a tub of camp kitchen stuff, a tub of general cleaning stuff, a stroller for sight seeing (because the 5 year old will tire out and they are both still under the weight limit), and a Luggable Loo for camping and emergency potty stops. All of our camp stuff like tent, cots, chairs, sleeping bags, and pillows fit in a car top carrier we got.
I also found this two compartment canvas tote with pockets that’s supposed to be a trunk organizer. I’ve got it’s handle tied to the 3rd row seat belt so it won’t slide off, but we can still lift it off to get into the cooler. The pockets are nice for paper plates, napkins, and utensils. Most of our daily snacks and drinks will be stored in a soft sided cooler up front, but the rest of our “pantry” will go in here.
Our kids always freeze when we go out to eat, and then they don’t want to eat because they are so cold. Our solution is to keep jackets in the car year round.
This is another feature we keep in the car year round. I found this wipes/sanitizer/tissue holder in the baby section at Wal-mart. We keep the first aid and barf bag up front too, just in case of emergencies.
For the trip we are adding these two boxes right behind the kids’ seats for easy access when we stop.
We’ve got a zip up picnic blanket, 4-square ball because it’s the most versatile for kicking/bouncing, sidewalk chalk (in a re-purposed frosting container), no-spill bubbles (I need to get a refill bottle though because they’re empty LOL), jump rope, frisbee, an oball, and a mesh bag to hold a couple of small sand toys so we can shake the sand out afterwards.
In the swim box we’ve got their inflatables, her puddle jumper life jacket, and another mesh bag for their goggles and dive rings.
The cleaning box will be right behind our cooler and contains all of the supplies for the car, camping, snack packaging, and doing laundry.
Paper towels, car leather and glass wipes to keep our space clean, lysol wipes for the plastic stuff, hand and face wipes, laundry detergent, hand and dish soaps, camp stove propane tank, canister of bungee cords/twine/clamps, toilet paper and trash bags, 3 pop up Dollar Tree hampers for sorting laundry, wash rag and towel, baby wipes refill for the front door as needed, ziplock bags in various sizes, whisk and dust pan, lugable look bags, and the propane hook up for the camp stove (so it doesn’t rattle inside the stove).
I have a really awesome wooden chuck box that I built for camping, but it’s huge and heavy and just can’t come with us this time. So I’ve got my camp kitchen essentials consolidated into one tote for this trip.
This is what it looks like under the layer of table cloth, griddle and cutting board.
I’ve got a collapsible mixing bowl, my whole set of nesting pots and pans, a set of stainless steel plates/bowls/mugs, some small snack cups, kettle, 2 dish pans, dish drying rack and drying pad. I use the dish towels/rags/potholders to keep stuff from rattling inside the box. I re-purposed a crystal light container to hold our silverware/can opener/knives. In our box we also have our telescoping marshmallow roasters, lighter, scrubbing brush, salt/pepper, tablecloth clips, retractable clothesline, foil, apple slicer, and some basic cooking/serving utensils.
I suppose next I could tell you a little about the travel binders I’ve been putting together. The kids will each get their own with travel iteneraries, brain work, and fun activities for them to do. I’ll have a master binder with the schedules, reservation numbers, packing lists, etc. too. I’ll show you theirs so far. This next section is mostly just going to be pictures because they’re kind of self explanatory.
No, not as cool as the computer game we all played in elementary school, but I do plan to buy the kids the ipad version to play too. 😉
I’m sure I’ve got other stuff I could add to this post, but I don’t have pictures of any of the rest of it at this point. If it seems like a lot, well that’s because it is. I didn’t do it all at once though. We’ve been thinking about going on this trip for over a year and half, so I’ve had a lot of time to brain storm, plan, and to gather ideas and stuff. I always try to have a really good plan in place with back up options and then once the trip starts, it allows me to be completely flexible with it not going the way I planned. My philosophy with plans… better to have and not need than need and not have. The kids may not play with half the stuff we’re bringing, we may slack and not do as much of the educational stuff we brought either, but at least we will have it. Besides, I just enjoy the planning process.