I have so much to share about our birthday trip to San Diego, so I will be doing a few different posts about what and how we did things, but what I want to share first is our road trip experience! This was the longest drive we’ve had with the kids (6+ hours if we drove straight through) and I wanted to make it as fun and low-stress as possible, even on the LA freeways! Knowing all of this, I did some Pinterest research and found tons of ideas. Here’s what worked and didn’t work as well for us!
My number one recommendation is taking a little time to make a Road Trip Countdown Activity Chain (see above picture). I made enough for a new activity around every thirty minutes. Then we were able to adjust as we had more or less time. If your kids are older, their attention spans may be longer, but as a high school teacher, I’m thinking 30 minutes is probably good for most ages. 😉 click the link above for the list of activities that I typed up to give you an idea and use if you like! This was a birthday trip for us, so we included small presents to keep them busy along the way. I was also very specific and used numbers because I had the activity/present box in the front seat with me and it helped me to stay organized. I cut out each strip and then glued it to strips of fun scrapbook paper that was beach-themed but any paper would do! Here is a step-by-step tutorial of how to construct a paper chain.A few notes on how I organized the activities: First, I knew that getting on the road is sometimes stressful for our family and that LA driving is ALWAYS STRESSFUL. I made sure to put activities that were quiet and self-guided first and around when we should be hitting LA. I also knew that there is a nice long stretch of freeway between Fresno and Bakersfield that is usually pretty mellow, so I filled this time with interactive activities for the family, like Would You Rather. We had such a laugh discussing these crazy options. Here is the Would You Rather list I found through Pinterest! Again, this was a birthday trip so I wrapped some of the new books and activities that I found for the kids in the Target dollar bins and from my book lady, Kristi Wilder with Usborne Books and More. The kids had lots of fun with their sticker and activity books. Here were our favorites: Build Your Own Superheroes, Build Your Own Dinosaur, and we received a couple of awesome Melissa & Doug gifts from a friend that I HIGHLY RECOMMEND! These Reusable & Refillable Water Paint Pads were AMAZING in the car and at restaurants! We lost the paint brush so I will be ordering more to keep in my purse at all times! And, these puffy stickers were in high demand from both kids the entire trip!When it comes to snacking, we generally monitor the kids fairly strictly in hopes of getting them to eat more at their meals, but we threw that out the window for the road trip. I made each kid a basket full of “healthy-ish” to-go snacks that they could eat whenever they wanted. This was also very helpful in keeping them content and the car peaceful on our long drive. Pinterest is full of homemade activities for road trips if you are looking for lots of ideas, but here are the few I used. Above, I bought two brownie pans at the Dollar Store, two packs of crayons, and printed these coloring sheets. Kel really enjoyed coloring. Bebe, less so… see below. I glued a magnet to the back of the crayon box and used a magnet clip for the coloring sheets. I think this is a great, inexpensive activity for ages 4 and up. These trays were also great for playing with magnets. We have a set of magnet tiles as well as other random magnets that I put into two baggies and gave to the kids with their trays. This activity was somewhat entertaining, but it also came toward the end of the trip and they were ready to be done. The other thing I used the trays for was a base to hold a bag of ringed cereal while they made snack necklaces. Again, it worked great for the four year old, but was a huge mess with the two year old. Takeaway: The possibilities are endless with these baking pan/trays, but its really a matter of trial and error to see what will hold the kids’ attention! 😉 And finally, when all else fails… get out, stretch your legs, and enjoy the journey! We were so ready for a break and a little exploring when we reached my Alma Mater, UC Irvine. Added two hours to our time, but was well worth it! Wishing you happy and safe travels this summer! Hope this helps make the journey a little less crazy and a lot more fun! 🙂