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Road Trip Busy Boxes: Kid Travel

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While we are happy to have reached our destination (Ithaca is Gorges!) and to be settling into our new town, the journey here was our first ever legit road trip with the kids. Stretched over two days, it was a grand total of 11 approximate hours on the road, not counting breaks for meals and to stretch… and to shop at Ikea. Whew. I am as surprised as anyone that it was, for the most part, pleasant/quiet/fast.

As we began packing for the trip, I pulled out a little canvas bin for each kid and set it aside to be a “busy box” for on the road. We didn’t buy these special; just re-purposed them from where they usually live on their bookshelves. Each day I added some things to the boxes as I came across coloring books, toys, or snacks I thought would be a good fit. The boxes had some items in common and some special items for each kid – specific to their developmental age and interests.

Items included in both boxes (shown in pics below):

  • Activity, sticker, and coloring books from each kids collection of favs
  • Snacks that were relatively un-messy and at least on the reasonable side of healthy
  • Each kid’s tablet
  • A “play pack” from the dollar store we had hidden for awhile
  • Some un-scratched DVDs (our car has a built-in DVD player which I didn’t realize when buying it, and which has been kind of crazy useful… also, we kept these up in the front with us)

Special thanks to our fabulous babysitter Lisha for the amazing gift bags she brought for them before we left! Quite a few of the items we packed for them on the road came from her. We miss her so much!

Road Trip Busy Boxes - Kid Travel | Painting Sunny

Special items we packed in Diallo’s (3.5 years old) busy box:

  • Those DIY travel activities I wrote about including popsicle stick picture puzzles, a color matching game, the blue case full of felt scenes, and the paper towel roll number game. (Spoiler: he just stuck the number matching stickers all over his face. That did not work out.)
  • A few little play dough and bubble stuff things we had around the house
  • Some packs of stickers someone gave us awhile back and I had tucked away
  • A Mickey Mouse watch our friend Laura picked up for Lo, and which I thought might be a fun surprise
  • A wooden toy car

Road Trip Busy Boxes - Kid Travel | Painting Sunny

Special items we packed in Haven’s (6.5 years old) busy box:

  • Haven’s “quiet game” felt dress-up girl with clothes. It is so cool, and stored in a little pink pencil case. (Thanks Aunt Norma!)
  • SweetPea3 MP3 player and charger (We LOVE this thing, which is a gift from the Grandparents quite awhile ago and is one of my favorite kid items ever. So worth it. It is one of these. This post is not sponsored.)
  • Washable markers and crayons (I like the My First collection from Crayola). Both kids used them, I just stored them in the older kid’s box.
  • A “nail art” kit from Haven’s Aunt Judy (we love you Judy!) from a little bit back, that Haven was saving for a special occasion.
  • A Junie B. Jones book – Haven has started reading these and is officially addicted! She spent quite a bit of the trip reading, so it was awesome.

What I Wish I’d Added:

  • Actual books that I or Haven could have read out loud. I totally meant to! How did we accidentally pack them all?! Some quick and cheerful books on hand would have been great.
  • More snacks. These kids eat a lot, and by the end of the first day we had burned through most of them. They originally had five or so each including granola bars, peanut butter crackers, cheerios, goldfish snacks, and some fruit straws. Next time I will double-up for those moments you just can’t find a restaurant for the next 20 miles.
  • Kid-friendly headphones… I never managed to find them before we left, and they hate wearing adult iPhone ones.
  • More batteries. Another thing I was too enthusiastic to pack and should have kept more on hand.

Road Trip Busy Boxes - Kid Travel | Painting Sunny

What else?

We decided early on that we would break the trip up into two days, so stopped in Pittsburgh for the night. Finding a cat-friendly hotel can be a challenge, but the hotel Marriott there accepted them with a fee and was conveniently located right along the interstate we were driving on and just 2 miles away from the Ikea we planned to move into shop at the next morning. The best stay-over tips I have post-trip are:

  • Check the whole hotel room before settling in and putting kids to bed in it. Unfortunately, our bathroom wasn’t in great working order (shower head held together by a rubber band, which is super weird). We just didn’t feel up to changing rooms by that point.
  • It is very much a personal choice, but we did make our cat more comfortable with a light sedative as we traveled. It was approved and prescribed by her veterinarian. Paloma does NOT travel well (broke off three of her claws on the last trip to the vet) so this was merciful for her. She slept some of it, was drowsy other parts, but giving her the pills was easy by just slipping part of one into a soft cat treat.
  • We are super-strict bed-time people, but we had to let that go while traveling. In fact, by the time we were in our hotel room with the luggage in place, it was 9:30PM and their bedtime routine usually starts at 7:30PM. Oy. Anyway, I just decided to throw in the towel and take them to the hotel pool anyway, just so they could get out some of the pent-up energy from being stuck in the car. SO WORTH IT. They weren’t in bed until 11:00PM, but fell right asleep.
  • I have never been so grateful for PBJs! At least for the kids (and occasionally for us) having a few basic foods with us like peanut butter, jelly, bread, cheese singles, small things of milk, and bananas meant food the kids were happy enough to eat. It cut down on restaurant expenses and filled in gaps when restaurants were closed or far away.

If we ever feel up for a long road trip again with these guys, I would totally try out this DIY Travel Lap Tray  from Prudent Baby, and these Road Trip Pillow Cases from Amazing Mae . Genius ideas, and I think it would help to have some new things to make each trip more novel for the kids, especially if there were multiple trips in one summer.

What do you think about wrapping up the activities like presents first? I’ve heard a lot of people suggest it, but I felt with all those treats, toys, and activities they were getting enough stuff and didn’t want to make them feel any more entitled. I’ve also heard of giving each kid a roll of quarters (if they are old enough not to swallow any, of course) and if they behave well they can keep the quarters to buy snacks. Thoughts? New ideas?

PS: This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are my own, and I have not received compensation for anything written. Keepin’ it real.


Author: Dani @ Painting Sunny

Hi there! I'm Dani, and it's lovely to meet you. My little family just moved to the quaint little college-town of Ithaca, NY and are loving it. Come hang out with me and talk about food, books, art, and other odd little things.

One thought on “Road Trip Busy Boxes: Kid Travel

  1. Pingback: Moving & Shaking (Okay, mostly just moving) | painting sunny

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