Play and Go Bags: A Travel Must
We’ve spent most of our kid-raising life traveling back and forth across the U.S. to visit family and friends. Holidays, spring breaks, and summer vacations were mostly spent on the road. And while we love traveling in general, I must admit that being stuck in a car with 4 kids under 6 was not always amazing (shocking, I know).
I remember one particularly horrific trip where our youngest daughter screamed her way across the midwest. By the end of the 8 hour trip, I think most of us had cried at some point, and one person was laughing hysterically, most likely teetering on the edge of crazy. 🙂
Experience has been a good teacher, and so we’ve learned a few things along the way about making travel more fun and less stress. Because who wants to spend the first part of a trip arguing and frustrated with one another?
I present our best tips for sanity:
1. Wait patiently for the kids to get older.
Kids are kids, and as they get older, travel gets easier. Not only in the ride-in-the-car-part, but also in the preparations. While our kids’ ages aren’t something we can control, we can control our attitudes and expectations as parents. This is key to a good trip.
2. Teach the kids to pack their own suitcase.
We ask each kid to pick out a certain number of outfits, along with all the accessories (socks, shoes, hair bands, etc). They each create piles they want to bring, and we go through them, sometimes asking them to trade one of their outfits for a nicer one, or suggesting they bring an extra pair of pants. As the kids get more practice, we end up not needing to make as many adjustments to their suitcase. Ultimately this ends up making the travel prep simpler for Jake and I. And less travel prep for us means we are more patient for the on-the-road part. Win, win.
3. We ask the kids to pack their own extras.
For several years of our traveling, I would pack the kids’ in-the-car toys as well as their on-location toys. The goal was to minimize the amount of space the toys would take up in the trunk while maximizing the fun factor. Markers and paper, yes. Playdoh, no question about it. Magnatiles, yes yes.
As the kids have gotten older, I realized that perhaps they know more about what they want to do than I do. Now I give them a bag and tell them to pack whatever they want to play with, as long as it fits in the bag.
The first time I tried this, a couple of the kids packed poorly and it didn’t work out as well as I thought it would. But the NEXT TIME we traveled? The kids got smarter, asked more questions, and worked together: “Hey! How about you bring the markers and I’ll bring my dolls and we can just share?”
For this next trip, we have these fun Play & Go storage bags that I’m pretty stinkin’ excited about. These bags serve as both a storage bag and a play mat- perfect for travel AND play. We have a big one and a small one, and the plan is to just let the kids fill it up with the toys they want to bring, fold it up, and go!
We’ve been trying it out for the past couple weeks and we have been LOVING them. We’ve used the little one to tote around snacks to soccer practice, books to the park, and drawing supplies outside. The kids love this little one because it’s easy to carry anywhere. Plus, it has cool lightening bolts on it :).
The big one has been useful because it serves as a play mat too. The other day Ada had a dilemma– she wanted to carry her dolls and supplies from the upstairs to the downstairs, but she knew it was going to take her a LOT of trips. So, she decided to use her stow and go bag to easily transport them from one place to the next.
These are super sturdy, EASY to clean (because, seriously, no one has time for things that take special care), and stylish! They have a gazillion patterns to choose from and you really can’t go wrong.
My biggest question was regarding the ease of opening and closing of the bags– was it easy enough for kids to do by themselves? I took a quick video to show how it works:
You can get them at one of two places:
1.) Some local retail stores are starting to carry them– so be on the lookout at your neighborhood toy store. I’ve seen them at the Container Store in particular.
2.) If you’re looking for a certain color or just prefer to shop at 11:00pm like me, you can also find them on Amazon. Here’s the big one we have.
4. Say yes.
Say yes to an extra snack. Say yes to hitting repeat (again) on a favorite song. Say yes to stopping to go to the bathroom even though you just stopped an hour ago. Say yes to the things that you can reasonably say yes to. Your flexibility will surprise them and probably put them in a more positive mood as well.
5. Stock up on audiobooks.
Before a big trip, we make sure our ipod is loaded with a few favorite audiobooks and a few new audiobooks, depending on our mood on travel day. If you’re interested in some of the ones we enjoy, you can find a list from a couple of years ago here. The library is a great place to find ones your family might enjoy- take everyone to the audiobook section and have them each choose one!
What are your favorite tricks and tips to staying sane during family car trips?
A huge thanks to Play and Go Storage bags for letting us try out their bags! If you want to learn more, follow them on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. You can also order by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out all their styles at www.hotalingimports.com.