I did it. We did it. 3 hotels, 1 condo, 8 days, 7 nights. 1200 miles in the car. Me, two kids, 4 states and the District of Columbia. My sanity and my data plan still mostly intact. It’s taken me a week to finish unpacking and recover 🙂
We’ve been doing this trip for several years. This was the 7th to be exact for this particular route. And several more travels with long car rides. So the kids aren’t novice travelers. But it’s still a long trip and the journey is part of the adventure.
The last two years I’ve tried to mix it up and make it more interesting. This would be after the year of the data plan disaster. The time they somehow went through a gb of data in less than an hour and mom had to put massive restrictions on data usage.
As always Pinterest to the rescue…
Our first year ideas that we picked up and found successful.
– the “tray” – yes the simple dollar store baking sheet. It was a success and has remained in the car ever since. Useful for dining on the go. Hard surface for writing and the occasional craft. Dry erase markers were fun. But other markers made themselves permanent after baking in the sun.
– the “surprise” packets – there were a total of 8 – meant to be opened about every hour… The only packet that I really remember doing really well was an m&m guessing game. Mostly because the results were eaten. The rest were opening and considered for some time and set aside.
For year two I needed to up my game – I had a future middle schooler in the car now.
First – I upgraded their space – a shared seat in the back of a sedan. I went for the back of the seat organizers. They had different options to choose from – with or without the tablet viewer. My son sent me back to find a hybrid that had a tablet holder and had plenty of pockets. She had picked a different one and switched over to his after she saw it. The final choice was this one – https://amzn.com/B00UO6DDVS – large enough for two older kids, and smart enough to have openings for the charger and headphones on the tablet pocket.
Second – I decided to try to do a travel binder this time around. (note binder should be minimum 1 inch – the pouch alone took up most of the space)
– binder basic contents – a zipper pouch with: new markers, colored pencils, glue stick, post it pad, pencils and pens plus scissors, pencil sharpener; blank lined paper, blank three hole punched paper, a few page protectors, in the back pocket some regular plain paper and a small 5 x 7 envelope that they could use to put trinkets in
– dividers – I created a few sections in the binder to help keep things a little more organized…
1) maps of the trip – we actually had multiple stops so multiple maps. These went over surprisingly well. Not so much of the “hey how much time do we have left?” and more of “did we pass such and such yet?”)
2) a travel section with information about each state we were traveling through. Most of the pages came from education.com. There’s quite a bit here including a fun page for each state. However both kids (now headed into 4th and 5th grade) felt those pages were better for younger kids. The favorite was a print out of fun facts about DC (helpful that the Lincoln Memorial was on our list of things to see and yes, there really was a typo). More of these are requested for next year.
3) travel fun pages – a checklist of I spy type things for bigger kids (http://travelwithkids.about.com/od/Free-Printables/ss/Free-Printable-Travel-Games-for-Kids-in-the-Car-or-on-the-Plane.htm#step11 – this one we completed, but this one we did not http://carlaschauer.com/travel-scavenger-hunt-for-tweens/) ; a license plate hunt (42 out of 50 states – not too shabby) ( we used this one, simple checklist – but wish a bit we had used this one, as coloring on a map takes a few more steps ); and a few word searches that were ignored.
4) travel journal pages – concept good, execution was meh. I tried using two different kinds (all one page – and multiple pages – for more options – try this page). And of course my daughter wanted what her brother had. They were initially intrigued but nothing was written in past the first day. They liked the options to circle things. Neither wanted to draw pictures. I may try to design my own version for the next trip.
5) some typical word games – sheets for hangman, tic tac toe, and battleship. I put one extra in the page protector for reuse with the dry erase marker.
Third – I went for the surprise packages again. Different options this time.
– postcards for friends and family – this went over decently with my daughter. I had some instruction sheets (http://www.time4english.com/aamain/school/Vac/v3_postcard.pdf and https://learnenglishteens.britishcouncil.org/skills/writing-skills-practice/postcard-new-york ) and ideas for what to put on a postcard (https://www.postcrossing.com/blog/2013/02/05/20-ideas-of-things-to-write-on-postcards) . I included postcard stamps and a few starter postcards (I travel through the area for work and had a stockpile). For good measure threw in a few articles on the history of postcards (http://siarchives.si.edu/history/exhibits/postcard/postcard-history and http://www.arthistoryarchive.com/arthistory/photography/History-of-Postcards.html). Plus a few addresses of friends and family. Educational and fun. (Side note – postcards that are bigger than 4 x 6 require full first class postage, so grab a few regular stamps)
– pressed pennies – simple enough – a binder clip with enough quarters and shiny pennies to do a few pressed pennies along the way. This one made everyone happy. (Side note – there are never enough quarters on our road trips – the arcades are highly adored by my two, so having these specifically set aside made it easier to ensure pressed pennies for all)
– make your own comics – this had potential but my kids asked that I make something a little more generic for them to use next year
– puzzles and mazes and brain teasers – by far their most favorite were the rebus puzzles. And they blew through them in less than 5 minutes. Mom has promised to find more and more challenging ones for next year.
– calculator riddles – entertaining for 2.3 minutes when she figured out how to read the riddles without the calculator…
– I Spy Challenger books – my daughter loves to play I spy – however in a car with a driver who can only look so many directions and a brother who bores of the game quickly – the books made a good 30 minute dent in her time.
All in all – worth the effort to keep them off the devices and the data plan for at least some intervals. Not saying that I’m not pricing hot spots and pay as you go options for the next big travel at Christmas, but it was nice to have them enjoy a few bonding moments over staring out the window on the look out for license plates and random searches. And my daughter is still looking for those last 8 licenses plates.