A Fun Tradition for Family Trips (and happier travels!)


family trips

Taking a vacation is always a very exciting time. As the weeks and days gradually bring you closer to the date to leave, you can feel the swell of anticipation in the air. The only problem is, that in order to reach the glorious vacation destination, you have to take a trip; and if you have children, you know that traveling can often be a bit of a stressful experience.

I mean, I get it! It’s hard to sit in a vehicle for hours upon hours (and to kids- an hour seems, I think, at least double what it does to an adult!) when you are already excited. All those emotions and antsy-ness, and small spaces are bound to create some…. “moments”.

So, in an effort to make the actual traveling time a little bit more fun for everyone, I began a little tradition.

Here’s where the inspiration came from: When I was about 15, I took a trip to Michigan with a good high school friend and her mom and brother. Obviously, from Virginia to Michigan by car was a pretty good haul. We drove through the night, and some of the next day. Mrs. Kelley had quite a few small, wrapped gifts in a bag, that my friend and I could choose from. We were allowed to pick 1 each at each new hour. Who doesn’t like presents!? Being teenage girls, she had things like lip gloss, lotions, soaps, candy, jewelry, etc. I thought that was the coolest idea! We waited in anticipation of another hour gone by so it would be time to open another little treasure- and that really seemed to make the time go by quicker! Instead of focusing on the long trip, it was more digestible by being broken up into one hour chunks. It helped to keep the trip fresh and exciting!

So- I have taken this idea and made it our own little traveling tradition, as well.  Our annual trip to the beach is around 6 hours, so I buy 6 small gifts for each child. Obviously, that could add up to be a little expensive when you have more than a couple kids, so I try to find things in a dollar bin or the dollar store, things on clearance and so on. I look for little gifts that they can use on the trip or that they can use when we reach the vacation spot.  Sometimes, I splurge a little and might spend a little more to buy a book they’ve been wanting or a special set of pens or an audiobook to enjoy on the trip, or something like that. Really, you can make it as expensive or inexpensive as you want. I’ve also printed out coloring pages or activities with a beach or summer theme for the kids to color as one of the gifts- and that didn’t cost me anything. Just get creative!

I like to wrap each gift because I think that makes it a little more fun still. At the beginning of each new hour, they get to open one. It really is fun! Then, they are happy to play with the new trinket or eat the candy, or color the picture, read the book, listen to the story, or whatever the case may be. I really do think it makes the time go by much quicker and I have a lot of fun with it, too! I love seeing their excitement and giving them their wrapped-up gifts.

Here’s some of the gifts I have done over time.

You can spend as little or as much as you want on each gift. Look in dollar bins at the store. Check amazon for used books. If you know you’re going to be doing this, you can buy little gifts on clearance as you see them throughout the year.

As vacation time approaches, my kids will often as me if “we will be doing gifts again this year”. I usually reply that “they will just have to wait and see”! 🙂

family trips

Kari Boyer

About Kari Boyer

Kari is married to Rick and Marilyn's son Tim. She is a stay-at-home mom and also homeschools her 4 children. She organizes the Character Concepts blog, sales and marketing. She loves being outside in the garden or helping her husband on the farm. She also loves cooking and fixing up their old farmhouse.

6 Replies to “A Fun Tradition for Family Trips (and happier travels!)”

  1. Thanks for the tips. I like the one about giving them some money to spend on something at a stop. With a couple teenagers,I might have to try that one.

    We will be taking a 26 hr. trip (driving time) this summer. Our 8 kids are great travelers and have learned to adjust to long trips. I do the gift idea, but I only give them one new gift a day. I try to make it some thing that i think will occupy them for a while. I also try to take travel crafts that I can pass out when everyone starts to get antsy. We’ve found that breaking our trip up with the anticipation of stopping somewhere along the way helps too (museum, park, early stopping at a hotel, so we have time to swim, etc.). We listen to lots of audio stories and let them have kindles or other screens for a short time each afternoon as well.

  2. http://www.thoughtsonchristianliving.org/audio-index-ok.html

    Speaking of free downloads. Here is a link to a series from retired missionary, Otto Koning. My older children really enjoyed the series, junior high to high school, maybe younger depending on maturity.

    He tells many stories of his life as a missionary and they’re filled with lessons God taught him. Great character lessons in here. And exciting, miraculous accounts, as well.

  3. My mom did this for my sister and me on a long trip from Nebraska to Texas, to visit relatives! Having fond memories of this strategy, I adapted it for a couple of long trips with my two little ones (now we have six and don’t usually take long trips!). Great list of ideas–some I had not heard of, so thank you for the links!

  4. Its a really great idea….for small families. With seven children it is not economical for us, however, I could do 3 each…..One an hour into the trip, one for our lunch or dinner stop (or halfway point) and one for when we are one hour outside our destination (or when we get there). Our trips tend to be 5, 8, or 10 hour trips. Thanks for the idea!

    • Yes- it’s a totally customize-able idea since there are many factors at play- like length of trip and number of children. When I started doing this, I had 2 children. Now I have 4- and that definitely made a difference as far as cost. But I wanted to keep doing it because I enjoy it so much. So, like I mentioned, you can also get creative and use free printables for games or coloring or be on the lookout for free audio downloads, etc. so that you don’t have to pay anything! I often take advantage of these for several of my gifts to keep the cost down lower. It’s the thought that counts, really. 🙂

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