Over the weekend we took a family road trip to Williamsburg, VA. Whether all 3 of us or just Dylan & me, one thing I've long known - traveling with a young child requires entertainment. While he will actually look out the window at the scenery a good bit now, that's never enough. Here are a few of our tried & true ideas for making road trips a success:
Car Toy Bag
I originally kept a couple of toys in the diaper bag for use when out & about. Then I saw Allison's idea of using a fabric storage cube to contain an assortment of toys and books in her backseat. I copied the idea with a small bag, but quickly saw the need to upgrade. I ended up purchasing a medium sized tote from Land's End with a zipper closure. This bag is always in our car and filled with toys and books to entertain whether we're going across town or across the state. It has come in handy for road trips and long waits at a restaurant when crayons & paper aren't enough. Most of the items following are all stored in this bag.
The smaller size travels well and provides a creative outlet that is clean. Just be aware of leaving it in the car in extreme weather. One of ours was warped beyond repair over the summer when left out in the heat. Perhaps best stored in the diaper bag versus the car bag.
I found the idea of creating a travel sized car roadway on Pinterest a while back. The original idea used the top of a shoe box. I didn't have one handy so I used a small cardboard box from canned cat food. I trimmed the edges down to approximately 1" high. Then used a permanent marker to sketch a road, trees, signs and houses. This roadway fits Dylan's lap perfectly and he's driven cars on it for almost a year now. Another plus - by leaving the design black & white (or brown?), he's also been able to color it adding extra fun. It's size has also worked well as a small "desk" space to support small books for coloring.
Fabric Marble Maze
I made half a dozen of these for Dylan and his friends for Christmas 2 years ago. It's small and easy to tote anywhere - purse, diaper bag, etc. Details here.
Since he loves to color, we typically have our crayon roll with us when travel. Other fun ideas are Invisible Ink books and, our latest discovery, Crayola Color Wonder markers & books. When I wasn't able to find an Invisible Ink book late last week, I ended up buying the Color Wonder Stow & Go kit. It was a huge hit and kept him occupied most of the drive each way. We'll definitely be investing in additional books before future trips.
Another Pinterest idea found here. I quickly whipped up the button snake one afternoon with supplies in my house. I store it in a small fabric bag he got at a birthday party so all the pieces stay together. This simple eye/hand coordination project entertains him for a while. A lacing kit would also work.
Books & Magazines
We keep a few favorite small books in the car bag including our DIY I Spy book and a couple with digital music players (Elmo's Rockin' Road Trip). When I know we have a trip coming up, I'll often stash the latest issue of a magazine for him to enjoy on the ride.
Honestly, the last few trips we haven't even taken our DVD player with us! *gasp* We did try it at the start of our trip on Friday and quickly put it up. For whatever reason, it doesn't hold his attention for very long. Perhaps when he's older it will hold his attention again.
This is part of the reason we don't need the DVD player - Dylan's iPhone has a few TV shows installed as well as a number of kid friendly apps. Plus he can take photographs, make videos and listen to his own music. Since he doesn't use it the entire trip (and is limited other times), I don't feel too guilty handing it over for the ride.
Assortment of Small Toys
Think army men, matchbox cars, etc. Perhaps toys from a kids' meal or the dollar spot. Little things that your kids will find fun for imaginative play in the car and even the hotel room during your trip. But also items that you won't fret over if they get lost. Usually ours turn up under a car seat or in the pockets in the door though.
Have other ideas? Let me know. Even with the list above, we are still on the hunt for new ones.