A few weeks ago my family packed up the mini-van for a trip to Florida. We spent hours upon hours on the road with our three young kids (ages 2, 3 and 4) in the back seats. The longest day of driving spanned 15 hours. There are some obvious tips for traveling with kids such as:
- Bring a portable DVD player and movies
- Pack a lot of snacks (freeze juice boxes to help keep things cold)
- Schedule your departure and arrival times to take advantage of sleeping kids
But there is one tip, passed down from my mother (who knows about traveling with a whole mess of kids) that kept the kiddos entertained and peace in the van for much of the trip. Here’s what you do (you’ll repeat these steps for each kid):
- Get some brown paper lunch bags. You will need one for each hour of your road time.
- Number (and name if you have multiple kids) each bag from 1 to the last hour of of your trip. A four hour trip gets four bags numbered 1 through 4.
- Now, go to the dollar store and get some cheap toys, craft items, etc. Then head to the grocery store for some healthy snacks like raisins, dried veggies (corn is great), and maybe a sweat treat or two.
- Fill your bags. Place one snack/treat and one toy or craft item in each bag.
- Pack your bags with the rest of your things and get on the road. After the first hour has passed on the road (or before if your kid is getting agitated) hand out the first bag. At the second hour mark, hand out another bag, rinse and repeat.
This trick worked wonders for us! The kids really enjoyed opening each bag to find something new to play with and snack on. Tantrums and whining were rare and it was a lot of fun. Here’s some ideas for your bags:
- Dried fruit
- Dried veggies
- Gelatin snack
- Fruit snacks
- Candy (in moderation)
- Pencil and paper for drawing
- Action figure or doll
- Toy cars
- Pipe cleaners (make things with them)
- Beads, string, yarn, etc.
- Childrens’ book
If you have any other ides or suggestions for what can go in these bags or if you have your own secret for keeping kids calm in the car, I’d love to hear it in the comments section!