Wednesday, August 10, 2011

17+ hour road trip with a 1 year old who hates the car…


and a 4 year old with an affinity for whining… begs the question: Why are we not flying this time?   I’ve been asking myself the same thing daily.

Eli may hate his car seat, but he also hates to sit still and be restrained.  We vowed after the last flight that it would be less stressful to deal with 17 hours of misery by ourselves than 3 hours of it with a plane full of testy strangers.

Before we embark on our northward journey,  I’ve been preparing some things for the kids in the car.  Last time we drove, I wrapped (2 year old) Lily a million little gifts to open along the way.  Not this time.

Can I just say that in all of the vastness of the interwebs… we are sorely lacking in traveling with toddler ideas.   Lily was not hard at all… but I found NO decent help for traveling with a one year old.

So I had to come up with some of my own …. I tried  to think of it as like a ‘road trip’ themed party to keep it less daunting for me.

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Mini car lap track:

materials: binder, textured stuff, packing tape


The idea is for a sturdy surface for E to drive his little cars  in his lap. Nice because the whole thing folds up and puts away nicely.  I made it a little more interesting with a toilet paper roll hill and a couple of straw rumble strips and streets made of tulle for the sound effects.


Cereal bracelets:

materials:  any round cereal (preferably Kellogg’s), pipe cleaners


Lily can work on patterns and dexterity while she slides the loops onto the pipe cleaners… then she can hand them to Eli, who will work on his fine motor skills while he pulls them off to eat them. 

See. Fun and learning for both ages, eh.  I work wonders with a pantry full of Kellogg’s samples.  We should be on a commercial.



Household items turned toys:


At 15 months, Eli loves to pull things apart, put things together, put things inside other things…. oh, and anything ball related.

so I came up with these free ideas:

*pulling ‘credit cards’ and money out of a wallet.

*toothbrush holder with straws in it to put together, take apart, dump out, and refill

*bristled hair curlers that fit inside each other

*to go cup with extra straw holes to pull out and put back in

*cool whip container turned ball receptacle

When these get old, or in a pinch, I have a brand new box of kleenex and baby wipes and will let him pull out every single one,  if need be.


Homemade picture books:


“Photo albums” filled with  people he knows and loves and another with cutouts of real animals.  Last time with Lily, I let her look through magazines and cut out pictures of babies and dogs (based on her interests and skill level at the time) and we filled the albums together.  Eli’s will be pre-made.


Do it yourself book illustrations:

Materials needed: scissors, glue, paper


Bug is way into Bindi Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter’s daughter, for some reason. We now own Free Willy 3 and she will most likely be receiving the dolls for Christmas. So I compiled a page of google images, printed out a blurb about her I found on a website ( one sentence per page), and will let Lily cut out the pictures and glue them on to illustrate her own book about Bindi.


Store bought sanity savers:

I was able to find a load of toys that have been in hiding that will seem like new, but some things had to be purchased .DSC_0019-3

I was trying to find things that fit Eli’s current interests and skill set at 15 months.

stuff with buttons to push…. toy remote , electric toothbrush(preferably equate brand… because the button makes a cool noise that could only come from a generic)

something to try to master… harmonica (<5$ at World Market)

stuff with funny noises… bead stick thing ($1 at WalMart), electric toothbrush, harmonica

dogs, animals, songs, books… board books and animal song dvd



For Lily… I had a blast picking out random girly movies that I thought she might like.  (like how I snuck in Troop Beverly Hills, one of my childhood faves.) I know she’s only 4… but she prefers live action movies about teenagers.  I have to  make sure that they they don’t have any subject matters that I don’t want to get stuck explaining to her first.  Praise Jesus that the Routan has 2 DIFFERENT dvd capabilities…  I ‘d go crazy with only Baby Genius sing a long movies…. teeny movies I can handle.



Mrs. Olson (recently discovered) money- saving travel tips:

#1= buying used dvds for as low as 25 cents (plus 3$ shipping) on The grand total for all of these was only like 25$… pretty much the cost of one new disney dvd.

#2= stocking up during school supply season.  Glue sticks, crayons, folders etc.  for a trip are so much more fun when they are cheap.

#3= setting back a few ‘car friendly’ items from the onslaught of gifts at a birthday party to reserve for a trip.  Lily will be psyched to remember the magnetic fairy set, Old Maid game, lift flap princess book, and 3D Taylor Swift tour book from hers that mysteriously ended up out of reach and view on the top shelf of her closet.

#4= Marshall’s or TJ Maxx  usually have a good selection of discounted books.  I found an awesome Tangled reusable peel sticker book for 6$ and 3$ board books.


I did the best I could…  but please pray for us anyway.

Any travel tips, non-messy snacks, car friendly crafts or games or things your kids like to do in the car? 

Please send them my way… QUICK!


amanda said...

This couldn't have come at a better time-well maybe two days ago :). Yesterday we traveled 12 hours with my 16 month old-should have been 8-9 but we made two long stops for meals and play. He did so much better than I anticipated, although we had a major baby Einstein marathon for the last third of the trip. I will definitely be making some of those contraptions for the trip home on Monday. My son enjoys the same things and we can definitely find some of those little supplies. Our highlander doesn't have a DVD so we have to use a portable one Monroe kept trying to get to the buttons and was successful a few times. For car snacks, we used snack traps with wheat bunnies and puffs-I like the pipe cleaner idea...make him work for them. Do u still rearface him? We do and I'm a little worried he'll poke his little eyes because i cant see him very well. I packed a little rest stop bag with a few pieces of sidewalk chalk, bubbles, and a deflated beach ball. They didnt take much room and promoted good activity. My son is a slow eater but likes to eat a lot. On the way home, we'll eat our meals in the car and use the rest stop exclusively to move around so we can drop our stops from 2 hours to 1. Another good non messy snack idea-babies r us has the happy baby organic babyhood pouches for a dollar right now. If you screw off the top, they can suck them like a straw-this is a great way to get some fruits and veggies in. We don't use babyfood anymore, but I think of the higher stage ones as toddler smoothies. Good luck!!!!!!

Shauna Lynn said...

thanks amanda... i will definitely try your ideas. deflated beach ball is genius!! p.s. I folded down and tightly twisted the sharp pipe cleaner ends... because eli has a history of eye poking.

Tom said...

Well, I am hoping that you don't use everything up the first hour. Very cute ideas! Hopefully you will be able to do some reinventing for the trip home. Have a great time! Love, Nana

The James Family said...

Wow you should get some sort of award for creativity and effort. I know Eli and Lily will enjoy all that stuff. You are a good mama. I hope you have fun in MN and get to really enjoy a respite from this hellish heat.

Ron and Cora said...

Can we just rename your blog The Olson's Rule and Everyone Else Sucks??? Or am I the only one who feels that way after each weekly installment? Love Ron...

Toby and Abbie said...

Don't forget to get earplugs for the parents :) (I would have to have ear plugs if I gave my kid a harmonica in the car) Great travel ideas :)

mfrost said...

Came across your post while searching Pinterest for ideas to use for my upcoming 15+ (who knows how long it will actually take us!?) hour car trip with just me and my almost-4-year-old and 14 month old from Tennessee to South Dakota. I am loving your ideas for the youngest - you're right, there's not much out there for the littlest travelers really, but your ideas are GREAT! Going to get busy putting some of these together with random stuff around the house - FREE is always awesome, too!

QuiverfullMama said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! We will soon be driving from Central California to Northern Idaho (1,000+ miles) with a barely 3yo and an 18mo! I plan on putting all of your great ideas to use! I'm so blessed to have found you on Pinterest!

Heidiski said...

These are great ideas! I'll save them for later. Right now I'm looking for things for my 6 month old. I'm a single mom who travels to grandparents 11 hours away. Last time the bambino cried half the way (which made me cry). He's just never cared for his car seat. Any ideas from past trips that helped any of you I look forward to hearing!
Thanks for your help and good luck to you!

Briana said...

Hi, great ideas thank you. We do 8 hour car trips often so I was in need of some supply revamping :) For a 2 year old I've poked holes in a yogurt tub big enough to shove pom poms in. My 3.5 year old loves stickers and coloring so she's an easy one. I've also used post-it notes or the tags that say "sign here" so she could stick them where ever and I wouldn't have to worry that they wouldn't come off. I got popsicle stick and put Velcro on either end...helps her to make and learn shapes (she's had those since about age 2...after the oral stage was over). I do wrap a few gifts/food treats that I get from the dollar store. I also wrap new coloring books (target sells them for $1) and small items like that just because I know she loves to unwrap items. This usually leads her to wrapping things up to give to me :)For my 16 month old son I've been wanting to make scarves that he can pull out of a diaper wipes case...we'll see if I get to that project before we leave in 2 weeks.

Daniel and Melissa Parlane said...

Thanks for the ideas. I'm doing a road trip this summer with my (upcoming) 4, 3, and nearly 2 year old. I agree with the beginning of your post- there's lots of ideas for the older kids but not many ideas for the young toddlers. Thanks again for the ideas.

Check out my blog if you have time:

Aimee Reeder said...

Your ideas are so great! We're gearing up for a 15 hour drive with a 14 mo old. Thank you so much!

Alyssa said...

I love the Kleenex idea... anything goes in order to keep your sanity! ;) Thanks for the great ideas! We're about to travel 16+ hours with a 4 & 1 1/2 year old!

Kindall said...

Hey! I came across your blog via Pinterest, as I am working up the courage to drive from Georgia to Kansas in less than a week to join my husband with our 5 year old, 1 year old and dog. I was looking at doing the millions of gifts along the way thing for the eldest daughter. Is there a reason that you decided not to do it this time around?