I wanted to write this post before leaving Mt Prospect, but I never found the time. But hindsight gives me perspective: yep, I was right – I was over-prepared!

For the 12-day trip from Mt Prospect to Miami, I wanted to avoid allowing the kids to watch TV in the van. I knew that if they watched even a single 30-minute cartoon, that’s the only activity they’d want to do every time we were on the road. So I did some research on the web and talked to a few friends to get ideas to keep the kids busy.

My friend Karen Santelik had just returned from a trip to Ohio. She told me that they had visited the Jelly Belly factory and that every 30 minutes if the boys had behaved, they’d get a jelly bean. When I started my online research, I found printable tickets in red and yellow – perfect! Each kid could have his/her own set of tickets. I gave the kids enough tickets for each particular leg of the journey; they’d give me a ticket every 30 minutes in exchange for a small treat. If we stopped to eat or take a potty break, I’d pause the clock. For treats, I had a variety of small snacks, including animal crackers, fruit snacks, chocolate covered pretzels and the all-time favorite lollipops. This was my favorite “trick” because the kids would know we were getting closer as their number of tickets dwindled.

As for activities, I was definitely over-prepared. I knew going into the trip that we wouldn’t do everything, but I also knew that it was better to have options. I purchased “Do-a-Dot markers,” color-wonder books and markers (the pens only work on the color wonder books, so minimal mess), a book of hidden pictures for Spence and a Tag Reader pen for Saphira so that both kids would have one.  I also bought two travel trays for their carseats. The trays are soft so they’re safe in the event of a crash, but they provide a stable enough surface for coloring as well as pouches on the sides to hold the markers, tickets, Tag Reader pen, sippy cup, etc. It wasn’t a bad set up.

In addition to the “new activities” listed above, here’s a list of the other things I brought. I’m sure I’m forgetting some of them, but you get the idea. I had 3 bags of things (including snacks).

  • Dry erase boards and books
  • Find It bottles
  • Coloring books, crayons, stickers and workbooks
  • Printed Bingo cards (to use with the do-a-dot markers)
  • ABC Game (find the letters on signs, license plates, etc)
  • Aquadoodle
  • Magnadoodle
  • Magnet books (Wow was that one a disaster! Saphira threw the pieces on the floor.)

And we never even played these games:

  • ABC grocery game
  • 20 Questions: Animals (I’m thinking of an animal with a long neck)
  • Animal Sounds Game
  • Guess who: Occupations
  • License plate game (kids are too young still)
  • Felt board
  • Puppets

By far the most popular activities were simply listening to music while holding their favorite stuffed animals and blankets, the Tag Reader pens and books and the dry erase boards. Coloring was something they’d do when visiting friends and family, so it wasn’t as popular in the car. And twice Spence played the alphabet game with me while Saphira napped. He really enjoyed it.

While the kids were troopers, I realized along the way that they were going to be extremely tired by the time we were to start the Orlando-Miami trip. So I decided that for that final stretch they’d get to watch a movie. It was the one and only time in 12 days on the road…in the van, that is. What happened while we were guests at the houses of family and friends is another story altogether.

Yes, I was over-prepared; but it worked — we survived the trip! And it amazes me how every time they get in the van they still ask for a cartoon or video. They took 4 to 6 hour trips with no screen time yet they want to watch something for the short 20-minute ride to an outing. Really? But I guess the lure of the television is just too strong. But at least I know that the next long trip we make I’ll already have my list of non-TV-related activities!


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