I’ve been traveling A LOT over the past few months both for business and with my family. The first few trips were filled with too much luggage, dealing with a really anxious and restless 3 year old and a general feeling of exhaustion that seemed to set in before I had even left the house. All these things started me to think that I had better get a handle on being a better traveler soon or I was going to lose my mind (and maybe some zippers on my precious overstuffed luggage!)
So I started googling the best ways to pack, space saving tricks and even ways to help my little man be a better (or at least more entertained) traveler. So, in order to save you the time and trouble of all the research I had to do, I’ve condensed what I’ve learned over the summer about being a more organized, more compact, and at times more creative traveler into a few posts. Today, I’ll share about a quick countdown that made our road trip to the beach way more fun and tangible for our son to understand. Later I’ll share about how to pack a suitcase so that you can pack those extra pair of shoes and the “I just can’t decide” outfit and still not have to sit on it to make it shut. And finally, I’ll share some checklists to help make every trip you take a breeze for which to pack.
The most dreaded question on a road trip with kids has to be, “ARE WE THERE YET?” It seems to be uttered for the first time as the garage door closes and continues its shrill, taunting chant before we can even get the first DVD started. I knew this was coming, especially after our first road trip in the spring with our son that was only about 5 hours seemed to double with his constant insistence that we were almost there in “3 more minutes, right momma?” So as we approached the much longer drive to the beach vacation this summer I knew I had to find a way to give him a visual for how much longer it would be to our destination. I did some pinterest searching and quickly found a reasonable project that I could handle in the 24 hours before we left – in fact it took all of 30 minutes!
I made a paper chain numbered 1-9 (the number of hours our drive would be) and attached it to the headrest of the passenger’s seat so it was in front of his seat. Using Google maps I figured out where we’d be after an hour of driving, 2 hours of driving, etc. I kept this list with me in the front seat as a reference. You could easily take that part out of the project and just go by the hours on the clock, but this allowed for stops and rearranging of the schedule without running out of links in the chain. I also made a 2nd set of links to pack along with the stapler so that I could set up a chain for the ride home. I did the countdown backward that time (9, 8, 7…) so that he knew when we got to number 1 we were home. You could also throw in different colored links to indicate the hours or locations when you plan to stop for meals or other scheduled stops.
In my overachieving tendency, I made a map that corresponded to the stops. While my son was fascinated by this for about 2 minutes he didn’t really use it as a visual as much as the simple chain. This would be a great activity for a slightly older child to help with map reading and directions however.
My son absolutely LOVED the chain. It helped him see that we were getting closer but still had some time to drive. When we got down to 2 links, he said, “we’re so close, but not yet!” He did still ask several times if it was time to take another one off, but I would remind him that I would tell him when it was time and he’d say okay and keep playing. We will definitely be using this again on all future road trips!
Another way to use the chain would be to draw pictures (for those who can’t read yet) of errands or stops that have to be ran on a particular day. I know when we have a busy Saturday, my son likes to know the order of what’s going on, usually because we have to do some not so fun stuff (bank, post office, etc.) before we’re doing something more fun for him like going to the zoo or to lunch at a fun place. This would allow him to see what stops have to be made before we get to the part he wants the most and could possibly help him from melting down when I say we still have one more stop to make.