Thursday, April 24, 2014

Summer Vacations with Kids

Last summer we went on a really big family vacation.  The longest (and furthest from home) yet.  We were gone for 9 days and travelled a whopping 2000km (1242 miles), not including driving in and around cities and towns when we stopped through.  Pretty much we travelled from Vancouver to Winnipeg (or New York to Miami for an American perspective) in 9 days and we had a great time!  We took along a TON of stuff for the ride for the kids.  Dollar Store Toys, Colouring Books, Leapsters and even a DVD player which I can proudly say we used once.  For one hour.  That was it.

The trick was to split up the handout of the toys.  I bough something like 10 new toys for each of them from the Dollar Store and the plan was to hand one out a day when tensions were high - to keep them busy for a little while.  I only used 6 of those items, which I thought was great!

We also implemented a ticket system.  I bought the tickets from the Dollar Store and we had a stash with us in the front.  When the kids did something to be rewarded for (on the left of the binder), they would get a ticket.  They could save or spend their tickets (see the right side of the binder).

Behaviours We Watched For . . .
Hiking without whining
Finishing a BINGO sheet
Sleeping nicely in the tent/hotel
Helping around the campsite
Doing their homework
NO Crying
Being quiet in the car
Reading a book

And They Were Rewarded With . . .
Juice Box (otherwise it was water only)
Treats (otherwise it was healthy snacks only)
$1 (to spend at a gas station)
iPad time (which was cancelled once we learnt that the car would not charge the iPad.  We had to save our battery because it had all of our maps on it and we were camping with no electricity)

Every day the kids would get their pack of papers.  I organized each day inside a page protector.

The first page was always a map and at the bottom, I listed the highlights of that day.  We saved the best adventures for the end of our trip when we knew they would be sick of camping.  That was when the zoo, waterparks, county fairs and outdoor waterslides came in.

On Zoo day, there was a passport also tucked into their page protector.  I went to the zoo's website and found out what kinds of animals were at the zoo.  I then found Google Images of some of the animals, printed, taped and wrote down names.  As we walked through the zoo, the kids had to watch and check off (or in H's case, circle) all the animals they could find. 

Each day in the packet, both kids also had "homework".  They were just pages ripped out of old activity books or printed from online.  Super simple, a few pages to keep them busy at the beginning of each trip so mommy and daddy could figure out where we were headed.

Once they finished their 'homework', they worked on their BINGO sheets together.  By this time, mommy and daddy were on a highway and we were more able to help the kids with this task.  I made 9 different BINGO cards, putting in pictures of things that I knew we would see on that stretch of the trip.  For example, if you know you will be passing by a lake/river, find a picture of that and put it in.  There were some days we did NO highway driving, only city driving so those days had urban pictures.  There were some days we stayed two nights at a campsite, so I made a nature BINGO because we did NO driving.

Then at the end of the day, to calm everyone down (whether it was in the tent, at the picnic table or in the hotel room) the kids thought about their most favourite part of the day and they drew a journal entry.  I still have these and I can't wait to scrapbook them! 

And that was how I survived a REALLY long trip with my family.  No fighting.  No yelling.  No "I'M BORED" or "ARE WE THERE YET???"  Seriously.  I didn't hear it once.  I hope I have given you at least a little inspiration for your family vacation this summer!

Safe Travels!

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