Saturday, August 8, 2009

Traveling Tips--Extra Goodies

Because I wanted this trip to go very smoothly with 3 little ones, I packed above and beyond what we needed. A lot of the activities I had along never got used because of our driving through the night with sleeping kids. But, it's always better to be prepared, I think, and I know that if we had decided to drive back during the day I would have needed EVERY single item I had along!

My good friend Laura had a yard sale a week or two before our trip. Her folks and her in-laws spend HUNDREDS of dollars a year on toys for her girls each year. She has the nicest, cleanest toys you've ever seen and keeps them organized perfectly since she used to be a preschool/daycare teacher for many years before kids. When she mentioned a yard sale, I was ecstatic! I showed up at the exact time her yard sale opened only to find that some early birds had already been buying stuff like crazy as she set up but there were still lots of deals to be had. Most of her toys were marked 25 cents for a WHOLE BAG!!!! I filled up a few bags, getting lots for our trip and some for the nursery at church. Her larger toys were a quarter each. I literally got all of my kids' toy Christmas gifts and Justus' birthday gift, a beautiful dress for Ali and a gorgeous, like-new, name-brand crocheted summer sweater and some darling baby girl clothes for my gift stash and spent a whopping total of $4 at her sale!

So, in my surprises bag, the kids were delighted to be treated to some new toys from Laura's sale. It's not something I plan to do every single trip since I don't want to teach my kids to be greedy or always expect new things, but it did help immensely in making the journey fun. There was a cute baby doll and fanny pack for Ali and for each of the boys there was a Baby Leap stuffed animal (lion and elephant) that had a little roller on it's tummy that showed different pictures, played fun music, and lit up in the dark like a glowworm (lion pictured above). Those kept the kids entertained for long stretches of time, especially when it got dark! There were also some fun little baby things to give to Justus (new teethers, little farm animals that made sounds, etc.)

I also took some little odds and ends from my gift stash and threw them in paper lunch sacks (one small gift per bag) and stapled the top closed and wrote their nickname on the bag. I had about 4 of them for each child. So, when things started getting rough (like when we were on a detour trying to find Olive Garden with hungry kids who were beginning to fuss) I could whip out a bag for each of the kids and they eagerly opened them up. Jer's bags contained things like a new matchbox car and a darling baby giraffe beanie baby and Ali got a Cinderella mini-notebook, some bright Hello Kitty socks, and some polka-dot sunglasses. Other ideas include lollipops, small balls, mini-photo albums or board books, or plastic animal figurines. The stuff you wrap up doesn't even have to be new! I wrapped up one of their favorite things to play with from the craft closet (wooden popsicle sticks) as one of the gifts. I plan to use toys from the shed next time that haven't been played with in a while so that they will still seem "new" but it won't cost me a dime!

Other ideas:

Ali is now old enough to use a walkman/discman. My mom gave us an old one that works but she doesn't use. So, on our next trip, Ali can listen to kid's music or stories on CD from the library as we drive.

In the past I've borrowed a portable DVD player from friends to help me stay up all night so I can help Josiah stay up all night. Some of our friends have had great success with using one of these for their children on long trips. It's something we may buy in the future, but I don't want my kids to just veg out the whole time and have no family interaction whatsoever.  *Update:  We received one for Christmas in 2009 and it has been a huge blessing for giving the kids a distraction when they reach the crabby "I can't stand another minute of driving" stage.  They usually only watch around 3 hours of programs on an 18 hour drive so it isn't overkill for them.*

I had started making a little album with family photos for the kids so they would recognize relatives in MN that we hadn't seen in a long time. In the busy week preceding our trip, I never found time to finish it, but it's something I hope to do in the future for the kids.

My brothers and I always loved listening to Adventures in Odyssey tapes on trips so I'd like to invest in a collection of these (in CDs) for my own kids!
Simple craft projects for kids bagged up and easy-to-assemble in the car.

Ultimately, the biggest reason I think this trip was a success is because I viewed myself as a servant to my kids and viewed this trip as a "homeschooling" opportunity. I planned ahead, had lots of educational things to keep them busy, and played more with them than I normally do, and made it fun, almost like a traveling preschool! Instead of trying to read my own book or getting into a DVD I was focused on making this trip pleasant for the kids and that makes all the difference in the world!

1 comment:

The Three 22nds said...

When we drove out to the black hills this summer we used basically 3 things. (my kids don't "play" with toys in the car. They are too "large motor" and things start hitting the driver).

They just sit back there and listen to their GT and psalty CDs on the van player.

And they used white boards to practice wrting their names.

And we did bring a dvd player but we really limited it's use (only after lunch etc).

In the last couple weeks though my boys started listening to adventures in Odyssey. They love them, which makes me happy because I love them too! I listen to the episodes (they are in our public library) and I remember them from elementary school! So, I know that in future car trips that those will keep them entertained too. Basically, if GT can do it for a few hours, I am sure that Odyssey can for longer than that!

Oh, and we brought the "Granny Nanny" which was nice! She handed out snacks and grabbed things that fell out of little hands.

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