Friday, July 5, 2013

Travel Fun Bag

On Monday we will be renting a minivan and loading up our bags.  We will travel 10 hours to Colorado the first night and stay with friends.  Then we will head to Salt Lake (8 more hours) and stay with friends for two nights.  After that we will go to Altamont, Utah (3 more hours) for a three-night family reunion.  Then on Sunday we will be driving 16 hours straight home.

Now you might think that I am worried about keeping Topher entertained in the car as we cross the stimulating state of Nebraska.

You would be right.

For the past 6 weeks or so I have been assembling a travel fun bag for Topher.  This is his first big road trip and we want to make it a wonderful experience.

And it all starts with a travel binder.

These are all over Pinterest, so I took the ideas I liked from each, added a few of my own, and customized this binder for Topher.

It starts with MAPS.  For every leg of the trip, Topher has a map of where we are going and how we will get there.  He has surprised me by asking to see these maps multiple times already and tracing the routes with his fingers, telling me all the stops along the way.  He definitely has some of my dad in him.

Next is a MAZE section. This is by far the fattest section of the binder. Topher LOVES mazes.  He loves to figure them out and he loves creating his own and then watching me "struggle" through them during church.  I started out by browsing the web and printing off a lot of free mazes.

Then I was at Target and I saw a maze book with 96 double-sided pages of mazes (all in full color) for $6.  So I bought it, tore out all the pages, and doubled them into sheet protectors.  When he does all the mazes he can see, I can just take them out, flip them all around, and he will have a whole new set to try.  I'm thinking I may need to do this on our looooooong trip home.  A few times.

**I should mention here that EVERYTHING in this binder is either laminated or in a sheet protector.  Either way, you can draw and erase on everything with dry-erase markers.  So the fun can be had again and again!!**

The next section of the binder is HIDDEN PICTURES.  Another favorite game for Topher.  I went to and printed out about 20 free pictures.  Again, which he can play over and over.

The next section is POM POM PICTURES.  Have you seen these?  You print out these color pictures (free ones all over the web) and then glue magnets onto colored pom poms and then your child puts the picture onto a cookie sheet and fills in all the circles with pom poms.  I found a whole printable alphabet with awesome pictures and had it printed out at our local copy shop for $8.  Then I laminated the sheets and 3-hole punched them to store in the binder.  
**If I could do this again, I would just put them into sheet protectors because the magnets stick better through sheet protectors than they do through lamination.  Still works either way, though.**

To go along with any magnetic games, I bought Topher a small cookie sheet from the dollar store.  I also cut a piece of grippy shelf liner to fit in it.  So if he's not playing magnetic games, he can line the cookie sheet and play his puzzles (or anything else he doesn't want shifting around).  On the underside of the cookie sheet, I just hot-glued a piece of batting and then a piece of felt so it's softer on his lap and won't slide around.

The last section of the binder is GAMES for lack of a better description.  This includes tic-tac-toe, a blank face to doodle on, a blank clock because he needs to learn how to tell time, some easy mad-libs to play, some additional car bingo games I found online, some Angry Bird math worksheets, and an  i-spy car trip game that Topher made with me of the things he wanted to find on our trip.  

 I made a surprise i-spy jar game I found on Pinterest.  It's really easy!  You just find some random things around the house (paperclips, pen caps, etc.) and toss them in a jar.  Then you fill the jar up with rice and let the kids shake the jar all around and find whatever you hid inside.  
**Before you lose all the object in the rice, lay them out and take a picture of them so your child knows what to look for!**

I also made a little mailbox for Topher to play with on the road.  It has lots of little envelopes to "mail" with little letters inside.  Each one is made out to a friend or family member and you can open them, read the letter, close them up, and drop them in the slot.

In the front pocket of the binder, I put a couple Lego magazines that Topher hasn't seen yet.  In the back pocket of the binder, I made a few games to play.  One is checkers because Topher recently discovered this game and seems to love it.  I couldn't find a printable checker board so I made one on Excel.  Then I bought button magnets and stuck some of those neon round stickers on them for pieces.

The other game I made is Chutes & Ladders.  This is a game we never go long without playing, and I wanted him to have it on the road.  So I got out his board, took a picture, cropped it down, and printed it out to fit a normal size piece of paper.  It turned out perfectly, just a tiny little version of his favorite game!  Then I laminated it and made magnetic pieces for it by gluing some Sesame Street pics on the button magnets.  Even I am excited to play this one in the car!  

**Instead of a spinner, I just put dice into a little Tupperware container so you can shake it up and "roll" without losing the dice.  As an alternative, I bought some giant foam dice at the dollar store that won't easily get lost in the car.**

And one other thing I HAD to add to the binder was a food order.  Now whenever we stop for food, Topher can use his dry-erase marker to fill in his order and pass it up to the front seat.  (Please ignore the lack of healthiness, it's a vacation!)

Okay, so that is the gist of the binder.  In hindsight, I should have bought a thicker binder because the 1" one is full to bursting.  With awesomeness.  Oh well, at least I thought to get one with the "easy open" ring tab so Topher can get things in and out of the binder by himself.

As for the rest of the fun bag, there are assorted things to keep busy.

Beads and pipe cleaners (so he can make bracelets or monsters or whatever he wants):

Some modeling compound that is hard to describe.  It is a lot of little foam balls in a sticky base that you can mold similar to clay, but it doesn't dry out and it doesn't grind into car seats or carpets.  The stickiness keeps the foam beads together, but it doesn't transfer to your hands.  I don't know, it's pretty cool stuff and Topher is excited to make "sand castles" out of it.  We grabbed three different colors at the dollar store and transferred them into Tupperware containers.

Some super-hero lacing cards that I made by printing out some pics, laminating them, and punching holes around the edges.  Then I just tied on some yarn from my knitting stash.

A pipe cleaner game that was inspired by Pinterest.  In my version, you feed the monsters "worms" in their same color.  (It's just an empty butter tub with some clipart monsters edited to match the colors of the pipe cleaners I had.  Then an X-shaped slit for each of their mouths.)

Jumbo craft stick puzzles.  I tore pages out of some old Lego magazines and cut them into 1" strips.  Then I glued them onto the sticks and put magnets on the back so he can put them back together on his cookie sheet.  It's kind of fun and more challenging than a normal puzzle.  I really like these.

Regular puzzles from the dollar store.  Each one is in a Ziploc bag to contain the pieces, just like they do at our library.

A cute car bingo game I found at Tuesday Morning for $5.  The pieces are all contained so you can't lose anything in the car.

Some magnetic numbers and letters from Michael's dollar bin.

New coloring books, crayons, notebooks, and I'll add some stickers too.  And a big bag of assorted dry-erase markers and erasers.  I will also throw in some hand towels and a water bottle to clean the pages.  And one thing of baby wipes, because that will be easier for Topher to grab and clean with.

A clipboard, in case he wants to take a sheet out of his binder and just work on it solo.

I think that's all for now!  What do you travel with?  The only thing I wish I could add would be a Leapfrog or kid tablet or something electronic, but it might be better this way.  We will have the DVD player and movies (and headphones) in case he just wants to chill.

How fun to have a little boy who is old enough to understand where we are going, and who can entertain himself along the way.  



P.S. If you want to make a travel binder too, here is a list of links I used for mine!

Mazes  (I got mine from all over by Googling “preschool printable mazes” and such but finally found this sight that had a great compilation of mazes to choose from)
Hidden Pictures  (The “check out more” tab at the bottom will take you to a page with many more!)
Road Trip Bingo (vehicle types):


  1. Every mother in America justed waved a white flag and bowed down before you in defeat.
    I have no words for your cleverness or dedication or thoughtfulness for your little boy...
    Too awesome!

  2. Haha. Not even close. But you are very kind. The real test will be if it keeps him entertained or not. If not, I give up and next time I will just buy him a video game like a normal parent. :)

  3. This is obviously beyond awesome. I've been planning on doing some stuff like this, but it will be so very pathetic in comparison. This will be our longest trip ever, like you I think. We're taking 2 tablets and I'm still worried!!