Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Pack-Up Tips - Road Trip Bags

So you've decided to bite the bullet and travel. Congrats! I, of course, am very excited for you and your kids as you go experience something different and new. I am also, however, keenly aware of the harrowing task that lay before you. No, I'm not talking about navigation, car sickness, or license plate games. I'm talking about packing.

We have taken many road trips with little kids of varying lengths and vehicle crowding, and there are a few consistent strategies to set you up for success. Or at least to take the edge off the imminent complaining.

First, start now.  Leaving in a few weeks? Great, start your travel bag prep. Which brings me to the best car ride strategy - Car Travel Packs. Each child needs to reach and manage some activities independently. So where should it be securely placed? A few options:
     1) A seat-back hanging organizer -  I love this idea for the kid right behind the driver in our big van. The series of small pockets keep their little treasures safe and *possibly* organized. All easy to reach and it's completely in his control, which is soothing to the Young General. A downside is that Young General has feet at the end of his growing legs, which have the habit of getting tangled in this hanging organizer. It takes a little attention and patience as they navigate those wiggling appendages.
     2) Book Bags - Sunshine (9) and Sass (10) are both old enough to be packing their own activity bags, after years of practice and experience, so they each have a book bag in which to stow their contraband. Upside: they are doing it mostly themselves and they are mostly bringing books which fit really well. In a book bag. Shocking. Downside: They are very hard for younger kids to manage. Younger kids can not see what's in there so they pull EVERYTHING out at once to look through before they decide what to use first and the rest of the supplies get lost making the kids cry and then float around your van until they are crushed forever changing the texture of your floor. *ahem* Lessons from experience.
     3) Basket/Bin - After much experimenting this method is my favorite for the toddler through young school-age traveler. Wide and secure and not too deep. Little young hands can flip through their treasures excitedly without emptying the darn thing, everything can *theoretically* be seen and dropped back in. Put one in between carseats for 2 siblings to share, which is especially helpful if One sibling can read to another and/or they enjoy similar activities. The downside is that it takes up valuable real estate if seat belts are already at a premium in your vehicle. If you can swing it, though, it makes all the difference. It probably saved my life on the 23 hr drive to New Orleans, for example.

So now secure your receptacles someplace where those darling little sticky fingers CAN NOT TOUCH until they are buckled in the car. I have a no-peek policy for about 2 weeks leading up to a big trip; this serves to both build anticipation and ensure that the treasures I'm collecting STAY PUT!

And what shall I put in the bags that I hide?

0-1: Your diaper bag at your feet since you're probably going to end up next to the little one anyway. Or in your diaper bag next to Big Sibling who will be highly motivated to keep Baby from crying for 6 hours. Teethers, bright shiny objects that jingle, and a softie. Don't overthink it.
1-2: TRICKY! Anything manipulative that they can not choke on -  Squishy moving toys, Small handles so they can hold it themselves but nothing that breaks apart. Small board books