Dec 08 2009
It’s been almost a year since our 17-day, 3500-mile trip from Minnesota to Philadelphia. As I looked back on the trip–what went well, what went wrong, what we should have done differently–I came across one of the kids’ “vacation books” that I put together.
The idea behind the vacation book was to keep the kids involved in the trip. Instead of asking how far it was to the next town, they could use their maps to figure it out (and learn some map-reading and math skills along the way). They could see the things we planned to do on the itinerary, and read about them with anticipation on the web-site printouts I included. Reproducible activities regarding the states we visited were included for educational boredom-busters. (I used the Carole Marsh state series, coloring books for the younger kids and activity books for those in school.)
This is what I included in each child’s vacation book:
- Title page: Overall map of our trip, made with Microsoft Streets & Trips, and title: Child’s Name Vacation Book.
- Daily itinerary. Due to weather and illness, we didn’t follow it exactly, but the rough outline was there. I did the itinerary in Outlook and blocked off time for each activity. If we were driving, I included the distance and the time for that stretch. If seeing an attraction or staying at a hotel, I included the address so we could look it up on the GPS if necessary. Each day’s printout had a section for notes that the kids could use however they wanted.
- Daily map: Again, using Microsoft Streets & Trips, a map of the distance we’d be driving on that particular day.
- Information about attractions we’d be visiting. This helped to get the kids interested in the places we’d be visiting. They could read about Gravity Hill or the Please Touch Museum and know what it was about before we got there.
- A blank map of the United States, to keep track of the states we visited, license plates we saw, or anything else they could think of.
- Copies of the reproducible activities from the Carole Marsh books mentioned above.
After assembling the pages, I took them to a copy shop and had them spiral-bound with a semi-stiff backing and a clear cover.
In addition, I made a special copy of the book, without activity pages, that included the following additional information.
- Printouts of hotel confirmation e-mails
- Hotel fact sheets, including cancellation policies, breakfast, microwave/refrigerator info, etc.
- Directions and parking information for hotels and attractions
- Hours, admission fees, websites, and phone numbers of places we planned to visit
My copy of the book was always at my fingertips. I took it with me when checking into hotels, in case there was a problem with a reservation, and it was always near me in the car for its maps and information. I made a lot of notes in my copy, especially when plans changed, so that I had all the information I needed in one place.
It took some time and planning to put these books together, but I found that it was well worth it. The kids knew what to expect each day of our journey, and I had all the information I needed at my fingertips.
Perhaps my biggest surprise is that the kids have kept their books and have granted them a spot in their “special things” shelves or baskets. From time to time, they pull them out and reminisce or work on some of the activities they didn’t do the first time around.
The vacation books were a big success, and I’ll put them together again for future family roadtrips.
What things do you do to organize and get your kids involved in a family vacation?