"vacationing" with little ones

I put vacationing in quotes there because, let's be honest, if you're traveling with kids under five then the term is used loosely. Am I right?

Blythe has always been a pretty great traveler, and Becks is kind of a hit or miss. We've taken sixish hour trips before, but this one felt bigger. And it felt like I needed to prep for the car ride a little more. 

Our drive was going to be about 9 hours, give or take, without accounting for stops for meals and potty. We figured it would take about 10-11, and I wanted to be prepared. 

So I browsed Pinterest, stole a few ideas from here, and added a few others that had worked for us in the past.  I tried to document them [mainly with my phone camera], as I went in case it worked really well and I could report back to you all [or in case it failed miserably and I could share that as well]. Like I said, Blythe generally does pretty well in the car, but an 11 hour day for a three year old is a little crazy, and these little tricks and activities really seemed to help. 

// SNACKS. My dad was never a fan of us eating the car, but at this point I'm like, "Whatever." These really helped Becks more than anything, and she consumed three containers of Puffs on the trip there and back. Like I said, "Whatever." The squeeze pouches are pricey but so convenient that I indulge when we're gonna be on trips [and for the church nursery!]. Also, the snack cups help cut down on the mess a bit too. Minus Becks' carseat, the van stayed pretty clean and organized. Snacks for the win! 

On the way home we had a late lunch and the girls were being rock stars, so we decided to push on. I scrounged around for anything I could feed them and handed Becks a fruit bar. She's one. So that wasn't my brightest idea...

But she LOVED it, AND the girls stayed in their carseats for over SIX HOURS straight and we made it home in record time. Like I said, they were being rock stars. 

//Container of ACTIVITIES. This was mainly for Blythe, but I had a couple of things that worked for Becks too. I separated them in ziplock bags in this box, and I'm pretty sure I'm just gonna keep it in the car indefinitely. 

// VISUAL of the trip progress. Blythe LOVED this and it really helped her comprehend our progress, and how much farther we had to go. I found this free printable here,  and simply pinned it to the van roof [picture at top of post]. I printed 8, and took one down about every hour-ish. Only once did Blythe ask if we were "home" yet, and I simply pointed the the count down. Worked like a charm. This is definitely happening next time.

 //CURTAIN. My mom thought this was mean, and if by mean she meant brilliant, then I agree. I got out my "sewing kit" ... ahem....

... oh my mother in law is so ashamed of me right now... and I loosely sewed a strip of velcro on to the top of a blanket. I don't sew. A sewing machine would have made this really simple, I'm sure, but after ten minutes, I'm not gonna lie, I got out my stapler to help the job along. Anyway... the girls love to make each other laugh, which is adorable, UNLESS it is nap time and they are just distracting one another and keeping each other awake. Insert curtain. It just stuck right to the top of the van and came down with no problem. Brent said it cut down on his visibility to which I responded, "Unimportant." Even in St. Louis traffic. Because THIS:

/--Here is a breakdown of the activities I brought with us, as well as which ones worked the best for us. Also, it was kind of important to me that they could all be contained in that one box, because I get a little hyper-stressed-out if there is STUFF everywhere in the van.

/sticker I-spy/
We have 1.4 billion stickers in our house. I stapled a little book together [gotta love that stapler], and found stickers that all had a match. I put one sticker in the book and another in a baggie. Blythe really enjoyed this and it kept her occupied for over half an hour. SCORE! 

I gathered books from around the house that I knew Blythe hadn't looked at in awhile, a couple from library, and one new one. They all had to be small enough to fit in a gallon ziplock. Again, these kept her occupied for awhile...on the way... but she didn't really look at them on the way back. 

/a couple new activity books/
You know what I'm talking about? The ones you can find at Dollar General for a dollar or two. Worth every penny. I got Blythe a "magic ink" Mickey Mouse book [she diligently colored every page], and a  Doc McStuffins "fun pack" that had stencils and crayons and stickers and a coloring book and one of those little felt posters to color [for $1!]. She worked on both on the drive there and the return trip. 

Blythe is really into playing "I-spy" right now, so I found some free printables online and slipped them into sheet protectors. I threw in her binoculars just for fun [but she didn't use them much], and she played for a little while. This probably only lasted 20 minutes for her. She got frustrated when she couldn't find something. I think it would be AWESOME for kids slightly older though. 

/pom pom game/
My sister made this little pom pom game out of a tupper ware container and it is easily Becks' favorite toy, so I threw it in the box. She played it several times on the road, and enjoyed it once we were there as well. [Kali, I'm sorry Wes missed out on this game because I kept it.]

Hands down a favorite. She LOVED this. I cut little fish out of cardstock and hot glued paper clips to the back, and then I tied a string on a little circle magnet [dotted it with a little hot glue for good measure], and let her "fish" from her seat. I simply sprinkled the fish on the floorboard. She couldn't see  the fish, and would get so excited when she reeled up her line and had caught some! This took a little effort on my part because I had to keep moving the fish to the ONE spot she kept "casting" in so she wouldn't get too frustrated, but it kept her happy for well over half and hour. PLUS we brought this little activity inside with us when we got to our friends' house [we actually brought the entire box of activities in, but this one specifically got brought out a few times to be played while we were there]. 

 /magnetic doll/
Awhile ago a friend gave Blythe this little magnetic doll set. It's nothing fancy, but I through in a small baking sheet and she played with the doll for at least 20 to 30 minutes if not longer. PLUS the sheet was a PERFECT work space for all the other activities. 
I didn't have time to glue little magnets to the back of a puzzle for her, but I think she would enjoy that next time. 

/books on tape/
The biggest hit was books on tape. These beauties have been around since my family vacations. My dad found his old Walkman [!!!!], and I picked out some of the books I thought Blythe would enjoy the most. Cinderella got listened to/read so many times the poor tape got a twist in it [remember how that used to happen?]. I also decided that my generation is more patient than the current generation because we had to wait for cassette tapes to rewind. Regardless of their quality, these were THE BEST. And our friends all LOVED the fact that we are letting our daughter experience the beauty of the Walkman. 

We have two CDs that we play in the van that Blythe really enjoys listening to/singing along with: Wee Sing Bible Songs and Slugs and Bugs Sing the Bible. We spent some time jamming to these along the way as well. I highly recommend them. [Especially the latter]. 

/Picnic Lunch/
I think it's important to let the kids out of the car [except apparently on the way home when they aren't complaining], for a good break at least once on your trip. We found a beautiful state park [actually my sister discovered it on one of her trips] and it was a gorgeous day. We probably spent a little too long there, as we just couldn't tear ourselves away and stayed about an hour and a half. We let the girls run/crawl and we walked down a little trail to a creek and let Blythe throw in some rocks before we loaded back up. I really think it helped them both nap better and have a better end to the trip. 

/and when all else fails.... DVD/phone/ 
We don't have games on our phones, but Blythe likes to look at pictures and videos we have, so we would let her do that every so often for a few minutes. And a friend let me borrow her DVD player, and once we were within an hour and a half of Louisville, you better believe I turned that sucker on for Blythe. It's a really great option to have, and I'm all for it. 

The last ten minutes were the worst-- Becks pooped and was screaming, we were semi-lost within a block of where we wanted to be, and it was.just.time.to.be.done. But we made it! And had such a wonderful time in the city where we learned how to be married, and with friends who shaped us in so many wonderful ways.

Saturday morning Brent [and our friends, Heather and Justin], got up and ran a half marathon in the drizzle and rain. They all did AWESOME. Brent had a personal best at 1:29. And Justin helped pace Heather and she ran it in her personal best at

Super impressive.

 And I just have to share how awesome Heather is.

Early in the morning, while anxious and preparing to run thirteen point one miles, she was thoughtful enough to set out a travel mug and cream and sweetener for me, and this note: "Have some 'juice' to get you going. Good luck!" Seriously? With everything she had going on she thought to wish me luck, because she knew I was anxious about navigating down town and getting the girls down to the finish line by myself. We have the best friends, I tell ya.

 Which, by the way, I totally nailed it! Becks was strapped on and kept semi dry, and I pushed Blythe in the stroller. Luckily the heavy rain didn't start until after Brent was done and could help me get back to the van.

The girls enjoyed the "Daddy's treats" after the race: Blythe loved the chocolate milk and Becks' chowed down on the banana.

I'm also so proud of Brent after races and this was no exception. He was phenomenal. He ran his last mile in just over 6 minutes... after running 12 others! He placed 124 over all out of 23,000 runners. He will never tell you, so I will ;).

And our trip was just so good. Exhausting, as trips are, but so good. Time with Justin and Heather [who gave up their own bedroom for us], a lunch with my old coworkers, and time with Shane and Meagan too [who had to move a lot of boxes around in their new home to welcome us!]. We are overwhelmed by the community God always places around us, and He did some good work during our time in Kentucky.

And...if you are just finding out we were in Louisville and we didn't get to see you... I'm so sorry. It was too fast, and race day filled it up quickly! Please let us see you next time!! 

In summary:
The travel box of activities worked like a charm.
When all else failed, I just handed Becks random items until she chucked them overboard.

What tips/tricks to you have for traveling with toddlers? I'll need to add some activities to our bin for next time! 

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Hannah said...

I love all of these things, You're such a creative and thoughtful mama. I'll have to remember some of these things for our next trip. We always like to stop for a picnic lunch/dinner if the weather is nice enough. And I love those little car pictures marking the hours of your trip, maybe Emerson will be old enough to understand that on our next trip? And also, I love how you have them all in baggies in a box. genius. and tidy. I'm so glad you had a fun visit in Louisville and congratulations to Brent - he is amazing!

*carrie* said...

Great ideas, Kelsey! That is awesome that your dad kept his Walkman and some books on tape!

Happy belated 1st b-day to Becks!