Sometime around Christmas or so we decided to take a big family trip this summer. We knew that Thumbelina would be leaving for college and that she could possibly be enrolled in summer semester, so we planned it for the first 3 weeks of the summer. We put it on the family calendar so that nothing else would be planned during that time and told the kids to start researching places they would like to go located east of Utah so they could put in requests for stops.
We traveled through each of the colored-in states above, starting in Utah and going in rainbow color order until you end up in Utah again. For the most part, what a fantastic vacation it was!
Before leaving we came up with an itinerary which included the distance and amount of time we would be on the road on traveling days.
Before leaving I made each of the kids a travel bag filled with things to keep them busy, along with a few treats and a pair of dollar store sunglasses. They got a blank copy of the map above so they could color in each state as we passed through it as well as one of various travel games that I printed off and laminated so they could write on them with dry-erase marker and then trade them with someone else once they were done. Each bag had a dry-erase board and a travel journal (thank you dollar store!) so that each of them could have a place to write things down either temporarily or permanently along the way.
As a family we completed the license plate game once by the time we got to New York (thank you random driver with Hawaii plates in Palmyra!) and all but finished it again by the time we got home (still searching for Hawaii plates to finish out round two).
One of the best ideas I got (shout out to my friends Jes and Anita!) was to have a mini-version of our van inside the van, moving along a string to show how close we were to our destination. The kids NEVER ONCE asked "Are we there yet?" The only thing they would say sometimes was, "Do you need to move the little van?" So I'd move it and they would all cheer and then they were content with having a visual reference of how much closer we were to arriving somewhere for the day.
The first picture is kind of like playing I-Spy, do you see our little van?
Here it is up close.
Once the van reached the end of the string we were done driving for the day. Totally brilliant.
Everyone's favorite game was what we called The List Game. I found simple picture lists online for the smaller kids (find certain road signs, a tree, a dog, a flag, etc.) and made a super long, challenging list for the oldest kids:
Thumbelina graduated on a Wednesday and we started our trip the next morning. This meant that everyone missed the last two days of school, which, as we all know, was no big deal.
Rather than make this a way-too-long post, I plan to give each destination its own page over the next couple of weeks.
Our first stop? South Dakota!