A mini van. Four kids. Over 1,000 miles each way. More gear than anyone could possible need or use. We must be crazy!
Our family is about to road trip to Disneyland!
Nick and I are super excited about taking our kids to Disneyland. And, crazy as this sounds, I am also super excited about the road trip!
(Warning: long post ahead, but totally worth it!)
This might be because the memory of my own childhood road trips have faded enough that I only remember the experience and not so much of the negative (my brother terrorizing us, various siblings throwing up, etc.!). We road tripped to Montana, Yellowstone, California… It was definitely character building. And I do have some really fond memories of the experience. Tootsie pops, Dad making a curtain out of a sleeping bag to screen he and Mom off from us kids, Bridget and I laying across the backseat head-to-foot. Ah, the good old days before seat belt enforcement laws!
And now I am really excited to start building my children’s memories of this time honored experience!
To make the experience, and the memories, positive, I have put a lot of thought and planning into activities for the road trip. I may have gone overboard (a frequent fault of mine), but with a two year old and a baby, I wanted to make sure the bases were covered!
I came up with a mix of things I bought, picked up at yard sales, made, and already had. Without further ado, here are the activities I have made/gathered to help make our road trip fun!
Let’s start with basic road trip necessities:
I hope that sleep will be one of our activities during this car trip! A fun animal neck pillow and soft eye mask for each kid might help make that dream a reality! I will have these in their seats before they get in the car. I bought the pillows at TJ Maxx, and I made the eye masks. I will post a tutorial on the eye masks when we get back! The neck pillows were in the kids goody tub.
I see your questioning look! This, my friends, is a pass-it basket! I can’t actually reach the girls in the back seat while we drive, and the boys are too small to pass things back. We plan to tie a rope to each handle of this bin and use it to pass things from the front seat to the back seat! The girls are actually really excited about this, and I think it will be a bit of a game for them. I bought this bin for $5 at Ross.
Now you are really laughing! These handy little helpers will help the kids pick up items they have dropped on the floor. Unless you are also a mother with little ones riding in the back of a mini van, you would not believe how many times the kids freak out because they’ve dropped something! These also have a bonus of being very much a toy! They were $3 each at Target.
Next, we have some basic items to be used with other activities:
The kids decorated the clipboards earlier this summer. These will serve as writing surfaces. They will each have a folder to hold their road trip printed activities. They can decorate their folders (activity!) on the trip. These will also be great for storing any paper souvenirs we pick up, as well as drawings that they made to give the Disney characters.
The Twistables. Let me take a minute to tell you about my Twistable conversion. I HATE crayons!!! I am sick and tired of finding shredded crayon wrappers all over our craft room. So I declared our house a crayon free zone, and purchased Twistables instead. We have had REALLY BAD experiences with the kids drawing on car trips before. Markers are messy, dry erase markers are difficult to remove from clothing (trust me!), colored pencils need sharpening, and crayons…well, you know how I feel about crayons. So on this trip we are only bringing some Twistables! These were $2 each at Walmart.
The Frozen sets are something I picked up at Target for $3 each (only two pictured, but I bought three). They include two notepads, a pencil pouch, an eraser, pencils, and a pencil sharpener. I took out the pencils and sharpener, and replaced them with the kind of pencils that have little cartridge type things. Not really sure how else to explain them. Basically they don’t need to be sharpened. When it breaks or wears down you pop out the top cartridge and push it in the bottom, pushing the next one up. Those were $1 for 4, also at Target.
Now the art activities:
The sketch pads were $1 each at Target (also available at the Dollar Tree). The Color Wonder sets are something I’ve never tried before, but I love that the markers will ONLY color on the sheets provided. And the stickers were all purchased for $1 each. The princess and Mickey ones came from the Dollar Tree, and the Frozen stickers and tattoos were purchased at Target in the dollar section. Some of these were in the kids’ goody tub.
And, of course, some educational activities:
We already had the flash cards, and the Brain Quest (we always did Brain Quest in the car when I was growing up!). The books came from the Target dollar section. I made the color book for Patrick out of paint color cards. The whole book is laminated and held together with binder rings. Each page has a pocket and there is a shape to go in each pocket. Cute and free!
We can’t forget craft activities:
I have read several blog posts that recommend pipe cleaners and post-it notes as great car activities! We’ll give them a try! I bought the post-its at Target, and the pipe cleaners at the craft store. And my kids love sewing on shelf liner! Read more about that here.
Time for fun and games:
I had some fun making some of these games! The fish and fishing pole (there are three poles and around 20 fish) are going to be a huge hit, I know! I used dowels for the pole, and the string (bakers twine) is held on by, yep, duct tape! Duct tape also holds a magnet to the end of each string. For the fish I cut fish shapes out of felt (two per fish) and hot glued them together with a paper clip in between.
Each kid will also receive a felt cupcake and ice cream cone set. My kids are very imaginative, and love to play pretend. I can totally see the girls having a sweets shop with this!
And the Popsicle stick figures was my stroke of genius! For the princess ones I used puffy glittery stickers, adhered them to cardstock, cut around them, and hot glued them onto craft sticks. For the others, I had my sister and sisters-in-law send me pictures of their kids. Then I ordered prints of those pictures, and pictures of my own kids, cut them out, laminated them (love that laminator!), cut them out again, and hot glued them to craft sticks. The kids will have a blast playing with their cousin figures! Another great way you could do this is to take pictures of your kids’ favorite toys and do the same. I thought about doing it with our My Little Ponies and Thomas the Train trains, but ran out of time! This way you could bring their favorite toys with you and not take up so much room!
As for the other games, I got the farm animal lacing cards (wooden, Melissa & Doug) at TJ Maxx for $7, the princess lacing cards at a garage sale, the Lalaloopsy magnet dress up dolls at TJ Maxx for $6 each, the card games we already had (except Nemo) and they were from the dollar section at Target, the magnadoodle toys are from Target and were $1 or $3 each (can’t remember!), and the Thomas the Train puzzles are from a garage sale.
Great opportunity for some religious activities:
Can’t pass up an opportunity for some religion on our trip! Our family enjoys saying the Rosary together, so I am bringing them as an activity! I am also bringing workbooks, a story book, and cards from the girls’ Little Flowers Catholic Girls Club. The Bible story cards are something we already had, and I look forward to this great chance to use them!
We also have sticker books:
No road trip is complete without some media:
Nora’s good friend, Cadence, gave us the Frozen CD as a gift for our trip. I am so excited to hear “Let it go” over and over and over and over…no really, I am! We also have several other favorite CD’s we are bringing. And yes, we are bringing some movies. Not so much because we think we will have to use them in the car, but because they are our favorite Disney movies and after all we are going to Disneyland! Here’s the trick to making this extra fun, set some movies aside long before your trip so they seem fresh again! I packed our favorite Disney movies (Frozen, Brave, Tangled, Little Mermaid, etc.) a while ago. I also bought the movie Cars (Patrick has never seen it but loves Lightning McQueen!), and we borrowed Planes (again, Patrick has never seen it but loves Dusty!). Borrowing is a great idea on a trip so your kids can watch “new” movies. We borrowed a few from Cadence.
Another great idea is audio books. I planned to check some out, but I honestly think we have plenty to do! I’m not sure whether or not we will watch a movie in the car. We wanted a mini van without a DVD player, but at the time actually we couldn’t find a used one without! So ours has the DVD player, but we have a rule that we don’t watch movies when the car is in motion (we only use it if we have to wait in the car for some reason). We might break that rule, we might not. If we do, we will limit it to one movie per day. The other movies are available to watch at the hotel if we need some down time. I am bringing a portable DVD player with us.
Add in a few treats and we’re set:
Nora picked out some yummy gum for the girls. This will help their ears on the mountain pass. The Pez dispensers are from their goody tub, and the candy bracelets are from Grandma. We also have lots of healthy snacks, and I will post about the food after we get back.
Oh, and my plan to battle “are we there yet” anxiety:
I found a great idea on Mom’s Mini Van on how to track your trip progress. You put a piece of string across the van and move the van cut-out along as you go. I plan to mark the string for 100 mile increments and move the van accordingly. I hope this helps the kids to understand how far we still have to go.
To make hauling this all with us easier, I packed each activity (except the big clipboards, sticker pads, etc.) for all three kids (Norman is too young!) in a Ziploc bag. All of this, yes, all of it, fit into one large reusable plastic tote bag. I decided to use two though to make it easier to dig through on the road.
Long post, I know! Thanks for hanging in there (if anyone is still reading!). I hope any of you traveling with children may have gleaned some good ideas from this. As I said, I may have gone a little overboard. One thing is for sure, I’d better not hear “I’m bored” even once on our trip!