Neil’s grandmother lives on a farm in Mississippi, about six hours away. We visit her every year during Spring Break. A few years ago we started waking up super early and getting on the road before the sun comes up. We realized we could get at least a couple of hours in before the kids are even fully awake and arrive in Mississippi with enough daylight to run around and play.
We approached the twenty hour trip to Colorado the same way, and because it was Christmas day, the roads were empty and we made great time. We split the trip up in two days and we arrived at our half way mark before dinner. After a long day in the car, there was time for the kids to jump on the beds and spend some couped up energy. We packed a cooler with enough food for two days and found that not having to worry about where to stop was a huge time saver. The kids napped in the car both days, and although it is never for as long as you hope for, the afternoons flew by!
Here is a list of the things that kept the kids occupied and happy for the duration.
* Baggie Breakfast: I put different types of food in small baggies for breakfast: Cereal, blueberries, clementines, cut up bagels, etc. and pass out one baggie at a time. They have to finish one before getting another one. Breakfast takes about an hour and they are peaceful and entertained by their food.
* Library books: we put a basket of books between the boys in the back, and Antonella had her own pile. I made sure to get books that they had not seen before. These were visited and revisited the whole trip.
* Books on tape: We listen to books in the car on a regular basis, and it never gets old to the kids. On this trip we listened to Marley and Me and several Magic Treehouse books. I think this is the best way to entertain the kids on long trips. Hours and hours of fun!
* Stockings: I have done goody bags for them for trips in the past, but with the stockings I wrapped each small gift individually and numbered it so that they would open the same thing at the same time. Neil and I went to the dollar store and the Home Depot and picked up things that we knew they would like. The boys got flashlights, army and indian men, bungee cords, mini measuring tape, stickers, rope, cars, plastic dinosaurs, whoopee cushions and fake roaches. Antonella opened books, magnetic dolls, little animals, puzzles, stickers, and more books! They opened a gift every couple of hours, so by the time the novelty wore off, it was time to open another gift! They each had a small bag to keep their treasures in.
*Coloring books: Although crayons usually do end up all over the car, this is another good pastime for long trips. I put four coloring books and one bag of crayons in the basket along with the library books.
* Music! An obvious one, but we try to play music that we can all enjoy and get into. The kids have been in several plays so it is always fun to listen to the music from their performances. They don’t hear those songs on a regular basis, so when we play them they are singing at the top of their lungs!
* Dollar bill: We gave each of the kids one dollar towards the end of the trip to spend at a gas station or rest stop. Boy, did this ever provide distraction from the hours of traveling! They discussed and debated their choices, and at every stop they started the conversation up again. It actually led to some good family discussions about spending and the wisdom in saving.
We also had our laptops ready with a couple of movies just in case, but on the way there we didn’t need them. I think the excited anticipation was entertainment enough!
The way home, folks, is a different story. They had read all the books several times, listened to all the books on tape, practically finished their coloring books and there were no presents to open. The toys provided some distraction, but sooner or later it became clear to them that sometimes we just sit. And sit.
They watched a movie and whined and I learned my lesson. The next time we take a long trip, I will hide some books and activities for the way home! Maybe I’ll surprise them with something like this. But, I really can’t complain. Both the way there and home went incredibly smoothly and the kids did a great job!