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Milk and Cookies

with Kristen

I'm a mother of five, a bargain hunter, a recreational comparison shopper, and always trying to make more time - for me and for you, too. On this blog I'm sharing my favorite tools and finds to help make your work-life juggle a bit easier.

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Long car trips: toys and other entertainments

Categories: Electronics, Entertainment, Managing stress, Toys, Travel


My friend Heather is moving across the entire country with children aged almost-3 and almost-5. If I were her I would say that as “ages 2 and 4,” to maximize the Pity Factor.

She is looking for ideas to keep the children entertained on the trip. If your first suggestion is “NO DON’T DO IT AT ALL! Fly instead!! With the children in animal crates!!” you can save your breath because I already tried it. They will be in the car at least six days, and that is final.

I suggest we see if we can make this easier for her in any way. Donations of prescription medications would be excellent too, but I was thinking more along the lines of travel tips and toy ideas.

My tip, based on taking two much-shorter trips (1.5-days in the car each trip) with a 2-year-old and a newborn, is to plan to stop at places that have a play area or a grassy run-around area, and include in estimated trip time the amount of time it would take for the kids to run/play/climb for 15 minutes or so at each stop. Plus assume triple the number of stops needed with adults. This makes the entire trip take much, much longer.

My second tip is to save some stuff aside and not bring out everything on the first day of travel, or else the children will play frantically with all the toys on the first day and be bored for the rest of the trip. (This is a pointless tip, because if it were me, I’d be desperate enough on the first day to bring out anything, ANYTHING I had.)

Now for things to buy:

1. Fresh TV/movies. Heather tells me that they already have a DVD player for the car, so I suggest buying several new DVDs. …This doesn’t seem like it’s brilliant enough to suggest, but that didn’t stop me from suggesting the kids could run around at rest stops. Blue’s Clues (photo from is one of the ones I got for the just-turned-2-year-old on my own trip, so it may be too young for the 2- and 4-year-olds—but anything, ANYTHING they would like that wouldn’t be intolerable for the adults.

2. Water-drawing thingie. The H-2 Whoa is the one we had. It’s two-sided, so by the time you finish drawing on the second side, the first side is mostly dry and ready to use again. But if I were buying now, I’d buy the travel-sized Aqua Doodle (photo from (In fact, I DID buy it, and we still keep it in our car. I like it less because it has pre-printed rainbows/grass on it, which can kind of ruin an outer space drawing. But it IS more sensibly compact.)
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