It's vacation season! Before we had kids, it seemed like we could pack in an hour, throw some stuff in a backpack or small carry-on and go. Then we got a dog, and it was still pretty easy. Throw some dog food in a bag with her leash and bowls, drop her off and go. Now we have two kids and the dog. Packing is not quick or easy at this point. When the kids were little, packing was worse with the bottles, sippy cups, diapers, swim diapers, extra clothes, etc. As they get older, it became less baby stuff, but more toys and books to keep them entertained. We still need a water bottle and snacks. I always throw in a few extra shirts because I know there is no way my kids are going through the day without spilling something on themselves or each other. I also like to throw in small first aide kit because you never know when they might get hurt or get sick and you might not be close to a drug/grocery store.
Most of the time we drive to our vacation. It can be anywhere from 2 hours to 15 hours away. We make plans to stop along the way to make it more bearable for everyone (mostly the kids because they can't sit still that long), and normally stop every two to three hours for bathroom breaks and to run around. It can still be rough.
However, I did learn what to pack to keep the kids entertained on a long car trip (see below). I also learned that as they get older, the car trip is also part of the vacation. This year, we tried to stop at fun restaurants, rest areas, or even weird attractions along the way (check out Road Side America or Road Trippers for ideas). There are even fossil parks across the country (see list by state and other fossil parks) and the National Park Foundation offers a free Junior Ranger program where kids learn, answer a questions in a booklet and earn a badge.
CAR PACKING LIST:
This is only a very small part
of the mess. The rest fell out
and is on the pavement. It
happened every time we got
out of the car.
- TOYS. Toys are a must. We had a box of toys that sat between the kids on the seat so they could grab the ones they wanted.
- Coloring books, paper, and WASHABLE crayons/markers. Why washable crayons? Because you never know when the kids are going to get super bored and draw on each other or their car seats.
- Stickers. These might be better for older kids. When he was younger, Higgins tried to stick them to his car seat in one of his tantrums.
- Books. I packed a couple of their favorites and also packed a few new ones. If you have a Half-Priced Books (or other used book store) near you, it's a great way to buy a lot of books for pretty cheap.
- Games. If you have older kids, there are a lot of travel sized games out there. You could also play I Spy or a license plate Scavenger Hunt (see who can find the most states). I also have lots of Word Finds and Scavenger Hunts on the blog, including Car Bingo and a Car Ride Scavenger Hunt.
- iPad. Load up on some free apps or add on a few new games before leaving to help keep them entertained.
- DVD player and their favorite movies. We borrowed one from the in-laws and it turned out to be a lifesaver. These have gone down in price a lot over the past couple of years. You can find a decent one for around $100.
- Music. Ok, this one was mostly for me because I love listening to music. However, the kids also like it, so I have a Kids Playlist just for them.
- Paper towels and wet wipes or diaper wipes. After all, snacks can make for sticky messy kids.
- Snacks. We brought a small cooler and packed cheese sticks, peanut butter/jelly sandwiches, and cut up fruit. We also had pretzels, bags of plain popcorn, and trail mix. *This year, the Car Trip Snack Box got upgraded to a Rubbermaid container and a small cooler.
- Drinks. These were also in the cooler. We packed soda for us and water for the kids. It was a lot cheaper than stopping at a drive-thru every time someone got thirsty.
We have flown a few times. I learned a few more lessons, as flying with kids was a whole new experience.
PLANE PACKING LIST:
- Include a change of clothes (at least socks and underwear).
- $20-$25 (in different denominations).
- $3 or so in quarters (vending, emergency phone calls...).
- Coloring book/crayons/markers. There are a few sets that contain spots for the crayons/markers so they don't roll off the tray. Crayola has a few different kinds called Mini Coloring Pages.
- Book(s) to read.
- Some toys (no swords or guns on flights).
- Current family picture, in case they get separated from you.
- Snacks. Trust me on this; if you get stuck sitting on the runway or in the airport, you are going to want to have some snacks. You can usually bring in pre-packaged snacks. I brought granola bars, snack size bags of M&M's and pretzels, fruit snacks, fruit leathers, nuts, suckers, and some hard candy.
- Water bottle (will have to buy at the airport after pass through security, or bring a reusable one and fill at a water fountain after security).
- A card with peoples phone numbers. See my post on Picture Phone Cards For Kids.
- Games, iPad, Nook, Kindle.
- Gum. Our family tends to have ear pain during take off and landing. Chewing gum helps a lot. If you have little kids (like Higgins) who insist on swallowing the gum instead of chewing it, pack some jelly beans! I gave Higgins one jelly bean at a time; he could chew, swallow, and help his ears at the same time.
- EarPlanes Ear Plugs. These are ear plugs made for flying and they come in adult and child sizes. *Update*I tried these while flying to my sister's wedding with a bad cold. These helped so much!
For more vacation tips, check out my Vacation Time! post.
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