Sunday, June 26, 2016

Year Of America: Less than a month!

We are less than a month away from our Year of America departure date, and plans are in full swing!

While I haven't been talking about it much lately, this trip takes up most of my daily thought. It is a slow going large project, which has its own designated folder on my computer desktop of ideas, camping hacks, packing lists, menus, itineraries for each state, and maps. I also have a Pinterest board of cool things to see and car trip ideas for kids. Slowly I have been sifting through these articles and picture posts to find exactly what will work best for our little family. :)

I now have road trip specific calendars hanging on our pantry door in the kitchen so that our whole family knows when we are leaving, and where we will be on each day. Together we made a paper chain link countdown so that we know visually how many days are left until the big road trip :D

cute, and mildly terrifying...

This week we also started a list of all the crafts and projects we want to make for our car ride to be more enjoyable. Starting any of these before now just seemed silly because a) I would need to store them somewhere, and b) I didn't want the kids to get REALLY excited 3 months ago and then lose interest by the time the road trip actually got here. So we spent most of the last few months making lists and gathering ideas, and now we are finally going out to purchase things and make stuff.

The whole point of making the Year of America our family theme for 2016 was so that we could spend time bonding together in a unique way, while seeing many parts of the country that we have never been to. The last thing I want is for this 3 week car experience to feel like torture, or have us rolling our eyes and wishing that we had thought of "this" or "that" because we are miserable and want to go home early. My ideal would be that we have a simple and stress-free vacation where everyone is comfortable, warm enough, cool enough, full of yummy food, hydrated, happy and entertained, loving each other, and that all of our supplies are easily accessible and nothing gets lost. :D Ahhh, that's the dream!

While Pinterest is full of LOTS of ideas, I wanted to be realistic about how much time and money I was spending to create hours of toddler-car-ride-entertainment, and I also wanted to create things that would entertain them repeatedly for long periods of time, not just a "once and now this bores me" type of situation. I also didn't want anything sticky or potentially melty, and the activities had to be age appropriate because my kids can't spell or read yet, and their imagination is great only within reason. (I didn't want Kate to get frustrated with having to stay in the lines, or reading coloring prompts when she basically just draws jellyfishes and scribbles on everything.) She also can't do bingo or alphabet challenges on her own, so hands-on, tactile, and snack oriented games definitely sounded more appealing.

Here is what we have planned so far to make our road trip enjoyable for everyone:

A prize box. Ahead of time I will be wrapping small prizes that we can open as we go. Some will be individual things (like play-doh or sidewalk chalk), and others will be family goodies (like giant bubble wands or U.S. Flash Cards). I found this great idea for DIY scratch off cards for the trip, so each day they will scratch off a picture of where we are going to go and when we get there and the kids "FIND" the landmark, we will open a prize!

I also found this Car Scavenger Hunt which is something we can do all together as a family, and whoever points out each item will get a snack. :D Once the whole sheet is full we will unlock a prize to open for the trip. (I am laminating all this stuff because I especially like activities that are reusable!)

Calming Bottles. I found lots of recipes for these online. They are bottles full of goo that you shake and then watch as they "calm down". We are planning to do a couple with glitter and one with alphabet beads or little toys to play "I Spy".

Personalized Plastic Tubs. This one is REALLY important to me. Each kid will have their own plastic tub with a lid on it to keep their own toys, snacks, stickers, and activities in. This way there is no fighting over what belongs to whom, the car stays less cluttered, and Kate and Wynn are responsible for their own clean up each day.

Snack Necklaces. The day before we go, the kids will get to make necklaces with pretzels and cheerios to eat and wear in the car :D I'm hoping this will help them be less messy without loose snacks everywhere ;) I can dream.

Binoculars. This week we will be making binoculars out of toilet paper rolls. The kids can look for things extra well with their own personalized spy goggles! Paint and stickers, here we come.

What types of activities and games do you play with your family on long car trips?

Thankfully we will only be on the road 3-4 hours each day, so nothing incredibly long at one time, but still. Being in the car and away from home every day is going to be a challenge. Tell me your ideas! :D