Sunday, June 5, 2011

1,700 Mile Road Trip, No DVD Player, How We Did It

We just made it home after a 1,700 mile road trip with our two boys, Owen 3 1/2 and Trey 9 months. You read that title right, we didn't have any electronic toys or DVD player and seriously, we didn't pull our hair out either! I'll let you in on a few of our secrets.
1. Pack new little toys
No need to spend a lot of money. Stash away McDonald's toys before they are played with or trinkets from birthday parties and pull them out slowly throughout the trip. The key here is to pack only things your kids haven't seen yet.

For pre-schoolers, think about bringing: coloring book, stickers, Highlights magazine, toy cars. For babies, think about bringing: baby toothbrush, ball, water bottle, chew toys, books with plastic pages.

Bring only one new toy out at a time, don't offer them all at once. When you control the amount of time each toy is played with you can stretch it out a lot longer.

2. Set up a work station
Give them a place to work or eat. I bought Owen this lap board at Target before we left. It was $9 and has a place for storage and a magnetic drawing board on top. It was great for snacking, drawing roads for his toy cars, he even used it as a pretend drum set!
3. Pack smart snacks
One thing you don't want to feed your kid when they are going to be stuck in the car for a while is a lot of sugar. Pack snacks that are easy to eat, but not messy. Drink water, not juice. Some examples of smart snacks might be: apple slices (that you cut up ahead of time), trail mix, goldfish crackers, and dried apricots. Don't forget to throw in a few small trash bags, wipes and napkins before you leave to clean up spills. (I love this idea for collecting trash!)

4. Set up a reward system
I created a ticket system for rewarding good behavior. Here's how it worked: When Kyle and I saw Owen have good behavior (being patient while Trey cried, sharing toys, saying "excuse me" when he wanted to talk to us, having a good attitude) we would give him a "ticket." Five tickets earned a special surprise for him. I chose a surprise for him out of my bag (a new matchbox car, bubble gum, a go-fish card game etc.) Again, not letting him see all of the other surprises to keep the element of suspense alive.

It took a while to earn 5 tickets and we had a rule that he wasn't allowed to ask for a ticket. This was a fun way of turning our focus towards the good behavior. The tickets were just small, laminated pieces of paper that said:

1. "Way to go! Ticket numero uno!"
2. "Look at you! Ticket number two!"
3. "Wow-wee, ticket number three!"
4. "Only one more, ticket number four!"
5. Owen's the man! Ticket number five! (OK, so the last one doesn't rhyme too well... whatevs.)
5. Stock up on books
I know I say it all the time and you're probably super sick of hearing me talk about how much I love my library (and have my 14-digit library card number memorized... a feat for me!!) but I have to say it one more time... I'm obsessed with my library! We go once a week. Before a big trip I stock up on books for Owen that have lots of interesting pictures and I make sure that they are hidden so that he sees them for the first time in the car. He'll flip through a book for a good 10 to 15 minutes! This time he "read" about electricity, race cars, trucks, trains, and space. The Eyewitness Books are our favorites and spur many interesting conversations.

6. Scheduling
Three hours of driving was our limit. Maybe yours is different, you'll just have to wait and see. Owen and Trey would hit a wall at three hours and we would need to take at least a 20 minute stop, get out, run around and play. We found that these breaks were so very important.

Try to keep your normal daily schedule like you would if you were home. (Meal times, nap time, snack time, bed time routine, etc.) A quick note here about lovies: I tried to keep the blankets and Trey's paci away from them until it was nap time, then we would try to soothe the boys with calmer music and quieter voices. Bringing out their blankets and Trey's paci then would usually do the trick to put them to sleep. Don't expect a normal nap in the car though!
7. Play games
Some of our favorite car games are:
  • I spy (To make the game a little more generic, we also say "I spy a circle" and Owen has to find anything that's a circle.)
  • Rhyming Game (I say a word and he has to say a word that rhymes with it and then we switch)
  • Color mixing game ("What two colors make purple?" or "How do you make green?")
  • Active listening game (we listen to music and try to tap to the drum beat or listen for the clapping or name the different instruments we hear)
There's a great road trip bingo and other printable games Owen enjoyed here. It also helped to have a map of our trip laminated so he could see where we were going and where we had been. I laminated a small map from our local AAA office that he loved to check.

So are you planning a road trip with the kids this summer? Don't be nervous, you can totally do it! It's really only as hard as you make it and I hope these few tips will help you out. Here are a couple of additional resources that might be helpful too:


Christina said...

Thanks for the great ideas. I am moving with my four kids from Las Vegas to Orlando next month and I don't have DVDs in the car either. These tips will definitely help me survive a week on the road.

Julie P said...

What great ideas! We will drive to Kentucky and fly to Oklahoma this year.

kristen said...

We do a lot of traveling with no DVD player, and kids get used to it. My piece of advice would be to plan well but don't be discouraged if it doesn't go well, it might the next time!

Also, check out Eye Wonder - DK's line of books aiming at 4-8 yos. Not very many in comparison to Eyewitness, but they are GREAT!

Christina said...

We love going on road trips (sometimes 2,000 miles or more), and we don't have electronic entertainment for the boys either. I love to see that other people enjoy travelling with their little ones too! : ) (We usually hit a wall at about 3 hours too...)

Kimberly said...

My family always went on LONG road trips when I was a kid (lots of family was 750 miles away). Still to this day I remember the little surprise toys we got to play with late in the day. My favorites being travel spirograph and window cling-ons. My mom reused the gifts each road trip and they were toys we never played with at home. As we grew older she invested in travel games of all kinds and taught us to read in the car. Sounds like you are on your way to making road trips fun for your kids, they will appreciate it for the rest of their lives! I know I do!

Debbie said...

Thanks for these ideas! We'll be moving in a few weeks, and the drive is at least ten hours, with four small kids.

Amy said...

This is awesome Sarah! What a cool opportunity for you guys to have time to engage with the kids and set the example of real interaction rather than electronic zone out!!

cursivearts said...

One of the games my husband and I like to play (we get bored driving) is the Alpahabet game. You start out saying "I'm going to a picnic and bringing apples..." and the next person says "I'm going to a picnic and bringing apples and bananas" and try to get all the way up to Z. But it doesn't have to be a picnic; it could be zoo and animals or whatever you can think of!

Suzanne said...

Thanks for sharing this - we're taking our 2 1/2 year old on a trip from Kansas City, MO to Columbus OH in August. We have a DVD player, but really our little man isn't that interested (thank goodness!). I'll definitely be making lots and lots use of your hints and tips.

rose said...

I use to do a lot of traveling when I was younger and we never had a DVD player. I try not to use one with my kids, but sometimes I have to if the ride is too long. I don't use a DVD player; I use my iPad so that I have games on there also for them and they watch TV instead of movies. With my employer DISH Network I have the Sling Adapter, so I can access all our subscription channels from anywhere. The kids can watch their favorite shows live instead of watching movie after movie. It’s at least more educational for them. I just had to buy the Sling Adapter for $99.00 and the app was free to download. Right now DISH is giving a $99 rebate back when you purchase the Adapter, so it’s basically free. Go to this link for all the details of the promotion.

Sarah said...

Thank you all for taking the time to write! I love hearing that something I've written is helpful to you. It's pretty time consuming to make a post like this, but it makes it SO worth it knowing that your family will benefit from what our family did! I appreciate you taking the time to let me know!