One of the best ways to save money on your family vacation is to drive to your destination. Even if you have to rent a car, this is still the economical choice especially if you have a large family. Those miles stretching on can make you start to question the value once your kids start getting cranky and hungry an hour into the drive. Fancy DVD players and portable game systems can help but they won’t keep them fed. Additionally, do you really want them plugged in the whole trip? Instead, save your sanity and engage your kids with these DIY road trip survival bags.
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Choose Your Bag
Using what you have is the best way to save money. I recommend drawstring bags if it is an option. They are convenient, inexpensive, and most importantly incredibly easy to wash. Let’s face it: kids are messy! We used these Humana bags that I got for free at a crop I attended but here are some you can get if you don’t have any. One last thing to keep in mind when choosing your bag is the motor skills of your kids. Not all children can work zippers or buttons which is another reason I recommend drawstring bags.
Don’t just buy some individual packages to toss in the bags. Save money by purchasing full-size containers and dividing them among snack bags. Another great option for snacks is to make your own. Granola bars, dried fruit, and cucumber chips are all easy and healthy alternatives to store-bought.
To prevent kids from mindlessly munching during the trip, set an alarm on your phone for every hour or two of the trip. When the alarm goes off, kids choose 1 of their pre-portioned snacks to eat.
Activities will vary by your child’s age. Your child’s favorite small toys can be added such as cars, action figures, and dolls. Another great item to add is activity books and crayons. Interactive books are also fantastic for road trips. If you need some budget-friendly ideas, here are some great ones by age:
- Dot to Dot for Tiny Tots – “The ideal first activity book for toddlers, Dot to Dot for Tiny Tots is full of simple dot-to-dot exercises and maze puzzles, which help young children develop their fine motor and problem-solving skills, as well as number recognition. Printed on high quality paper with a die-cut carry handle.” – Book Outlet
- Noah’s Noisy Zoo – “From the time they first begin to speak, young children love making and identifying animal sounds. And there’s no better story that captures God’s creatures more than Noah’s Ark! Children will be led to tell Mom and Dad about each animal’s sound, an engaging activity that kids love to do. And this “fit-together” board book features bold, colorful cut-outs on each spread that showcase the animals on the ark in a fun, dynamic way. The cut-outs for each spread “fit” together when the book is closed, creating a fun surprise for kids on every page.” – Book Outlet
- Scratch and Reveal Guess Who – This is just as it sounds. You scratch off the coating to reveal the animal. This is such a fun and interactive idea for toddlers.
5 and Up:
All of these books are reusable sticker books but they are special because they are great for teaching kids about the world around them. You can pick ones that fit your child’s interests and expand their mind while they play.
- Eyelike Animals
- Eyelike Bugs
- Eyelike Colors
- Eyelike Sky
- Eyelike Baby Animals
- Eyelike Dinosaurs
- Eyelike Wild Animals
- Eyelike Space
7 and Up:
- Mr. Men, Little Miss, and Me – “Immerse yourself in the exciting world of Mr. Men and Little Miss in this fabulously fun journal. Takes quizzes to find out if you’re Little Miss Sunshine or Little Miss Bossy, Mr. Lazy or Mr. Busy; play games, complete puzzles, and answer questions about all the Mr. Men and Little Misses. You can even make up your own Mr. Men or Little Miss character!” – Book Outlet
- The Vacation Coloring Book – “Whether or not school’s really out for the summer, kids can travel the great, wide world with this vacation-themed coloring book. From tropical palm trees to towering skyscrapers, fantastic sand castles to grand sculptures, these cool illustrations will encourage children to have fun, use their imaginations, and be creative.” – Book Outlet
- Girl’s World Super Sticker Book – “Join the Girls’ World and read about all sorts of fun activities that you and your friends can share. With the help of the stickers and your imagination, you can also create original stories of your own. Inside this book, you will find over 200 reusable stickers to enjoy and collect.” – Book Outlet
- Star Wars Stickerscape Book – “Let your creativity run wild with Ultimate Sticker Collection: Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Stickerscapes. Containing more than 1,000 reusable stickers of new heroes, villains, and vehicles, Stickerscapes includes 14 amazing backgrounds for you to create your own Star Wars: The Force Awakens scenes!” – Book Outlet
- Angry Birds Transformers – “Everyone’s favorite bird heroes and those Bad Piggies have turned into Autobirds and Deceptihogs who can race and chase and turn into robots! Learn all about their talents and epic robot battles in DK’s exciting sticker collection. With engaging text and full-color reusable stickers, Ultimate Sticker Collection: Angry Birds™ Transformers™will keep children entertained for hours.” – Book Outlet
DIY Road Trip Survival Bag Extras
There are some extra items that will make the trip easier that you may not think of. You will definitely be glad you have them on the trip.
- Water Bottles – These are essential for hydration and are much better for your kids than pop or Kool-Aid.
- Towels – Small towels (or washcloths) are perfect for small spills and dirty fingers in the car.
- Wet Wipes – A travel container of these is perfect for just about any situation and a road trip is no exception.
- Sunglasses – You can’t predict where the sun will shine and sometimes tinted windows or sunshades just don’t cut it. Have a pair of sunglasses your kid can pull out will help ward off those mid-trip whines.
These DIY road trip survival bags will help you have a smooth road trip and not begrudge the money you’re saving. They also allow you to control what your kids snack on and what they play with. If you have an extremely long trip coming up you can also check out these Kids Car Activity Binders complete with free printable activity sheets and a trip tracking coloring page. Simply add them to your bags before you head out and you will have everything you need to make your road trip go more smoothly.