Every-Hour Fun Bags! (Traveling with Toddlers)

Each bag has a book, a snack, and a toy... When the alarm clock beeps, it's time for a new one!

Goodbye, Illinois. Hello, Virginia!

Yep, we’re MOVING across country, buying our first home, and a bunch of other crazy things you’re supposed to do in your third trimester. 😉

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The good news is that we got our first home for a steal! It was a foreclosure with a few quirks, (mostly cosmetic and not structural).  Basically whoever lived there before us had a craaazy sense of style. For example, 4 different colors of carpet (including pink, green, and purple) in a 1,200 sq foot area. Um… And that tie-dye room border has GOT to go.

But in the words of my wise and ever-frugal husband…

“What’s the point in scrimping and saving all those pennies on coffee and cheap date nights, if we blow it all on an overpriced home?”

So we’re replacing the flooring, removing hideous wall paper, and hoping to create a home that’s both classy and comfortable while simultaneously, y’know, having baby #3 and adjusting to a new part of the country. At least our life is never boring!

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In between our new home and our old home, we have a few roads, mountains, and States in the way. 11 hours worth, to be precise.

Considering that most of our family remains in Illinois, we’re planning on making the trip there and back several times a year. That’s a lot of driving. And we have toddlers, which makes long hours in the car even MORE fun. *ominous chuckle*

We’ve been on our fair share of exhausting and failed roadtrips before, so I decided to put my organizationally obsessive mind to good use. Practice makes perfect, and we’re going to have a lot of opportunity for practice.

Here’s the Every-Hour Fun Bag method I concocted for our last trip to VA and back.

You’ll need some plastic baggies, one for each hour (minus one for naptime).

P1440768An alarm clock. (You can bring a physical one or just use the one on your phone)

And the usual toys, snacks, and books you’d bring along anyway.

The Set-Up:

In each bag, goes 1 toy, 1 book, and 1 snack. You could put several of each kind if you think that’d work better. We used one bag per child, but allowed and encouraged sharing between them (if both parties were willing).

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The alarm clock is set for 1 hour (you could do a shorter time if desired). During that hour, the kids are expected to enjoy their snack, flip through their books, and play with their toys quietly. Usually about a half-hour into it, the novelty will start to wear off and I’ll read them their books from the front seat. For the last fifteen or ten minutes, we’ll sing songs as a family or point out the sights we’re driving by. But just when the bored crankiness starts emerging…

The timer beeps! I make a big deal about how exciting that is, have them help me put all their toys and wrappers away, and dole out the new entertainment. This cycle was repeated about nine more times on our last trip, with an enforced ‘nap-hour’ during the middle of the day when it normally would happen.

We had a few set-backs (curvy roads, car sickness and Oreos aren’t always a great combination) but for the most part, this last trip was much easier. The previous problem hadn’t been a lack of toys or entertainment methods. The first several hours of travelling had always been smooth sailing. It was when they had flipped through all the books, dumped all the toys, and ate all the snacks that things started falling apart.

The new Bag-Per-Hour method helped retain the novelty of the toys, helps them focus on each toy at a time (and learn to be content with what they’re given), AND gives them something to look forward to.

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I should go on record as saying, we DO stop and exercise each time we get gas. We also have an Ipad for watching movies.

The problem for us is that there’s only ONE of those, so it usually causes more strife than it helps entertain. I used to sit in between the carseats in the back to hold it between them, but I’ve got a big pregnant belly these days that makes that difficult. Besides, my 1 year old still likes to push buttons all over the place and LOVES turning things off and on (much to my 4-year-old’s constant anguish).

So… If the movie thing and lots of stops works for you, go for it! This bag system is just another trick to add to your arsenal. After all, a mom can never have too many tricks up her sleeve, right?

Happy travels!

18 thoughts on “Every-Hour Fun Bags! (Traveling with Toddlers)

  1. debtgal says:

    I’ll definitely be trying this on our next road trip!!

  2. Kaylee Trammell says:

    Ooo….wow…I like this idea a lot!

  3. Oh, you’re leaving IL? We’ll miss you! Hope VA is lovely and treats you all well!

  4. Audrey DENIS says:

    Congratulations and all the best in your new home!

  5. Jody B. says:

    Will miss you in IL! Congrats on the new home! I love this idea. Putting in to use on your short trips too! The iPad only causes strife in the van between our 3 too.

  6. Linda S says:

    this is a terrific idea! What a smart mom you are! We made several cross-country moves, and I would often collect little toys and items from around the house, pick up a few fun things like hair barrettes and stickers at the dollar store, then wrap them in tissue paper, letting the children open one after each stop, when we crossed a new state border, or like you – each hour.

  7. Yvonne Vela says:

    Congratulations!! I haven’t had much time for blog reading these last few weeks but I wanted to pop in here and see how your pregnancy was coming along. You are wonderfully and abundantly blessed. I will be praying for your safe And happy delivery. Safe travels!

  8. Wendy R. says:

    Excited for your growing family!! God’s Blessings & Safe Travels from NC!!

  9. Veronica Lemon says:

    We did this on our recent car trip with a toddler AND a teenager. Worked great for both!!!

  10. Christy says:

    Hi Kelsey! I follow your blog, and know I’ve been thinking about you even though you haven’t been able to post frequently. As a mom of four kiddos age five and under, I can relate!! I hope you’re doing well. Anyway, we are planning our first long road trip (21 driving hours each way) and I want to use your every-hour-fun-bags idea. Just wanted to know how it’s continuing to work for you. Any tweaks or modifications that you have to share?

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