Monday, June 28, 2010

Celebrate Good Times!

Taking a family vacation in the old family car can sometimes be anything but a good time between home and your vacation destination. It is quite evident that boredom leads to irritability, hunger, space issues, and over the top tattling. So, what to do to keep mom from pulling her hair out?

When my children were young we would play games such as finding the abc's on road signs and on other vehicles. We would watch to see how many different states we could find from license plates, or count the cars on a passing train. We would also play "I'm thinking of something you would find in the kitchen (or anywhere else)." The rest of the group would ask yes or no questions until the item was correctly guessed.

I founded a few traveling must-do's for my family that helped to make our time spent in the car part of the vacation fun. Over the years these simple things became loved traditions by my four children.

1. I made up a Ziploc bag (with their name on it) filled with snacks for each child. It was kept as a surprise until we were on our way.  It was up to each child to ration, share, or trade snacks among themselves. Each child was also issued a water bottle with their name on it. The "I'm hungry" or "I'm thirsty" from the back seat came to a complete stop!  This must-do was mostly for me.

2. I gave each child a notebook with paper, pencil, and a few clear vinyl sleeves to hold souvenirs. (They would gather free pamphlets, leaves, flowers, rocks, feathers, wrappers from favorite snacks, ticket stubs, or whatever they wanted as keepsakes.) The kids used the notebooks to journal about the trip and they left space so that  photographs could be added later. 

3. The biggest hit that became a loved tradition was that before a family vacation I would purchase small activities that could be done in the car. (Activity books, coloring  books, small crafts, games, or anything that could keep their hands and minds occupied.) I then gift wrapped each of the activities and put tags on them for each child. The bag of wrapped gifts would be kept at my feet and every 50 miles or every hour or so each child was presented with a gift to celebrate our time together.

These simple things made a world of difference in our travels. Today, my children are grown but we fondly share in our vacation memories and we celebrate the good times that we all had a part in creating for one another.

This post is a part of the All About Parenting Blog Carnival for July on the subject of road trips. If you're a blogger, you can be a part of it. Write a blog post about road trips or family vacations and send the link to Heather Corley, Guide to Baby Products, by June 30.


  1. Shelley, you have the most wonderful ideas! I hope you know just how much a gift you are, not just to your family, but to people like me, too.

    Gem and I have been on several road trips with our grandchildren. Some more successful than others. One thing we have learned that is essential is to make the trip itself part of the holiday. We stop frequently ... at parks, lookout points, at any place that seems interesting. I always bring plenty of snacks and drinks. My grandchildren adore sing-a-long children's tapes. They really love the one Little People has out made especially for travel which involves singing with actions.

    Last year we took two of our grandsons, age 5 and 3 at the time, on a five and a half hour plane journey to Ottawa. I brought all kinds of seat activities for them ... mini tubs of Play Doh, stickers, crayons and paper, knitted finger puppets, a travel games of Snakes & Ladders, magic paint books which only needed water, miniature zoo animals and dinosaurs, and of course, story books. I was very proud when one of the flight attendants told us when we left that the boys were the best behaved little children she had ever had on a flight.

    I love your idea of giving each child a notebook with sleeves for souvenirs. We're going on a road trip with three of the grandchildren at the end of July. I'm going to do that, and also wrap a few little gifts like you do, too.

  2. This is a great post and very timely! My daughter and her husband are planning a vacation in their car with their 6 year old. I will be sending this to them -- I bet it will help! Thanks for sharing. Kc

  3. I remember playing the ABC game as a young girl on our family trips and also with my own children. I guess somethings never get old.