We spent last week driving through some of Europe - we were headed to Hamburg in Germany to visit some friends and decided to stop at a few places on the way. When DH and I talked about the visit initially, I assumed we would be flying so when he suggested we drive, I was quite reluctant. Although the kids are pretty good in the car generally, I didn't know how they would fare for long stretches at a time. Eventually, DH convinced me so I set about making up a travel pack for them each. Some things worked better than others but here are my ideas.
DS is obsessed with maps at the moment (must be a boy thing!) and is always asking to look at the map in the car so I thought I would make him his own one, customised to our journey. I plotted our journey using Google maps, with the overnight stops we were making marked on it, and printed it off. I folded it like a real map, concertina style, to add to the authenticity! He loved getting it out periodically and telling DH where to go next.
I got DS lacing cards but thought these may be a little tricky for DD so I got her a Wooden Threading Mouse & Cheese instead. I hoped this would keep them busy for a while at least and it had the added bonus of helping to improve their motor skills. The cards were one of the biggest hits, with both of the kids! Long periods of time went by in relative peace while they were busy working on these in the back - DS loved "sewing" like he's seen me do, and DD managed to thread some of them too. The cheese wedge was more of a fun distraction for them both but still good.
I Googled images of generic things I thought we would see on the way (road signs, coloured cars, state vehicles, etc.), not forgetting a clipboard & pencil so they could tick off things as they go! Remember to save some sheets for the return journey if you are making one.
I printed out a stack of free colouring sheets I found on the web, each tailored to their current obsession - Spiderman for DS and Peppa Pig for DD! I also made up a small pack of crayons & pencils for each of them too. Another use for those clipboards!
Felt Travel Mr & Mrs Potato Head
I'm quite proud of this one...as I made it myself (separate post on how to make it coming soon!) This didn't work in the car like I anticipated but it was a good distraction at restaurants when we were waiting for our meal.
Funny Faces Sticker Book
I liked the fact that this was reusable so my idea was that they could take turns with this one. After buying one on-line, a few days before our departure I found them for half price in a local toy shop so they ended up with one each...good job seeing as how DD stuck all the features onto one face and they ended up sticking to each other so they weren't reusable!
Magnetic Drawing Board
did pack colouring pencils and paper for them, I put these in as a
quick & easy scribbler for them...again tailored to their current
obsession! I picked them up in a local £ store & toy store.
Toy train & track
This was more for them to play with in the hotel rooms but it was still a goodie! If you have a small / packable thing they love that won't work in a moving car, take it anyway and buy yourself 10 minutes of peace while you are unpacking.
50 things to do in a plane
I bought this earlier in the year for our plane ride to Spain but didn't end up using it. I packed it in my bag for this journey rather than theirs, mainly due to the fact that it has a reusable marker that I could imagine would be used to draw all over the car! Most of the cards were too old for DS at 4 years but there were a few that kept him busy with supervision during our crossing on the Euro tunnel.
I also included some "pocket money" toys that I found in ELC and The Entertainer stores. These were some of the biggest hits with the kids - small robots with positionable arms & legs, erasers in the shape of snacks, and a tiny tea set inside a teapot the size of a walnut!
And of course not forgetting our passports!
We drove 1,494 miles in total from England to France, Belgium, through Holland and into Germany and I am surprised to hear myself now telling people it was painless but it really was! Each night, DH gathered up the contents of their bags from the car floor and I tidied and repacked them all so they had a fresh bag to start the next journey with. Before our longest stretch on the way home, I added some additional items (a magazine each, new colouring sheets, etc) so there was something new to hold their interest.
I would love to hear of any ideas you have to keep your kids entertained during long journeys!