Oh boy, this post took me only a whole week longer to write than I had planned. Last week was killer - nothing like a week of blissful vacation to create a nightmare when you get home, right? Monday I had nonstop meetings from 6:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and 600 emails to catch up on at work! Insanity! So, unedited pictures and probably lots of typos, but I am submitting this post!
I am excited to share with you some things I learned planning our road trip to the beach! A LOT of planning went into this trip, obviously because I wanted to have a fun, relaxing vacation without tears. But more than that, honestly, I spend MONTHS looking forward to this trip - there were some very stressful weeks this spring and summer at work, and rather than lying awake at night thinking about that, I would lie there at night and think about what I would pack, or what I would bring for the kids in the car, when we finally went away to the beach...
And here's what I came up with! I am happy to report that, truly, we had a very pleasant trip ~ with four kids ages 7, 5, 2, and 8 months. We hit some crazy traffic in Alabama, so overall we were in the car for 15 hours with only one hour break!
Okay, let's start with the girls...
I was VERY excited to find this bin thing to go between the girls' seats in the third row of our Expedition (Sophia is in a booster seat, and Amelia is in a GIANT Britax Regent car seat, and this fit PERFECTLY between the two).
I also love that it fastens to the seat, so it stays put and I don't have to worry about it flying around if we have to brake hard.
I loved that the top was hard, so they could use it like a table. Each girl had a cup holder for water bottles, lots of little pockets on the sides for gum, chapstick, etc. and then a very big compartment inside for lots of goodies.
Normally, I am ALL about sharing things and I really try not to encourage all that "this is mine, that is yours" business between the girls. But life is life, and two sisters 19 months apart will fight over ANYTHING if they are together long enough... say, for example, in a car for 15 hours. SO, I came up with a color-coding system for our trip. Everything green is Sophia's and everything pink is Amelia's (their favorite colors). Blue was Henry and orange was Wyatt. I bought these little mini round stickers and stuck them on EVERYTHING. Every little snack pouch, every individual pencil, everything had those stickers on them. And it worked! Not a single fight.
So, in that big black box, the girls had little packs of trail mix, Poptarts (we leave at 4:00 a.m. while the kids are sleeping, then when they wake up 2-3 hours later, they get to eat a breakfast treat that they don't normally get at home ~ that keeps them happy for another little while!), packs of gum, fruit snacks, and water bottles. Oh and Cheetos ~ this is a (gross) road trip tradition in our family. It was nice not to have to dole out snacks.
For sleeping, I got these for the kids, and they loved them. This was especially nice for Sophia, who has complained that it is much harder to sleep in her booster seat than a 5-point harness.
I made little binders for each of the girls to put in the big black bin. I got these 5x8 inch binders and made one for each girl.
On the inside, I stuck a little piece of hard cardboard that they could use to put behind pages they were coloring for a hard surface.
Then I put pencil holders in each one. No crayons in a hot car! And no I wasn't kidding - each pencil had a green or pink dot on it!
I made some laminated pages that could be used and re-used with a dry erase marker. I hot glue-gunned a pom pom (oh yes, pink and green!) on each one, which the girls could use as an eraser - this worked great!
The first item in the binder, was a laminated sheet that showed our trip. I numbered milestones along the way - (1) home, (2) welcome to Louisiana, (3) welcome to Mississippi, (4) lunch in Hattiesburg, (5) welcome to Alabama, and (6) condo. It was great to be able to just refer to those when the kids asked where we were or how much farther.
Also, I made little clippies out of clothespins, which I clipped to the visor in the front seat. If the kids were being good, their clippies stayed up. If they were crying, whining, fighting, etc. their clippies came down. If their clippies were up when we reached one of our milestones, they would get $1 to buy a treat at the next stop. Only one clippy came down the whole trip! (Henry, of course)
Behind the map, I had a roadtrip bingo game that I found online, which I also laminated so they could play and erase.
Then a tic tac toe sheet, also laminated.
And then the rest of the pages were all different coloring sheets, word searches, and other simple games I found online and just copied and printed. I didn't laminate those, they just colored them in with their color pencils. I also had some blank pages at the end for them to doodle on.
They also each had their Leapsters, my old camera (to share), an iPod Touch (to share), and a bunch of books. I also found this travel memory game, which was GREAT! I also ordered some of these sticker books for the girls.
Honestly, this was WAY more stuff than they needed! We could have probably driven twice as far. It's been kind of nice, when we've been in the car since our trip, the kids have been really happy, playing with their binder and stuff.
Henry was surprisingly happy too. For him, I just used one of these stroller clips to attach his little backpack to the door handle on his door so he could reach it and it wouldn't spill. I put a sippy cup of water in the cup holder on his car seat. Then he got snacks, books, sticker books, and toys like Matchbox cars and trains and toy dinosaurs in the backpack.
He also loved this and this and this sticker book.
He was also really happy to just watch trucks and trains along the way.
And when we were stuck in traffic, he got the iPod and was perfectly entertained the rest of the way. I will do a post at some point about good apps for toddlers and preschoolers ~ there are some really great, educational ones out there that the kids love. Henry learned his colors from one on this trip!
Oh and the Magnadoodle! How can I forget that... all time BEST entertainment for toddlers. All of my kids have loved these at this age. Henry is obsessed with Blues Clues right now, and he calls this is "notebook" :)
Wyatt, well, he's just happy. He is. All the time. I nursed him and changed him a couple of times, and he had this robot, which he LOVES, but mostly he was just his normal happy, laid back self!
I am pretty strict about limiting stops when we are on the road. I make sure we have everything packed and organized in the car (I made a binder for us, too, with maps, a menu from the restaurant we were stopping at, stamps for postcards, and all the information on the condo, etc.) and the car full of gas, and then I don't stop except for planned stops and emergencies. When we stop for gas, I make everyone get out and go to the bathroom and get anything they might need/want. Except for the big traffic jam at the end, we were actually ahead of schedule all the way!
And on the way down, we never even used the DVD player - the kids were happy with their toys and binders and books, and we played a few road trip games. Happy, happy memories!