Monday, August 4, 2014

Vacation time! Pack for sanity AND fun with these ten tips!

It's almost vacation time for our family of five. We will be traveling nearby to my family's cottage. It sounds quite elegant and extravagant doesn't it? It's definitely a family treasure, purchased by my great-grandparents in the late 1920s for the then-expensive $500, but it's not fancy. The walls are thin and there isn't hot water or consistent electricity, but we do have running water and limited solar power!

We will be there with both family and friends. In my head I see visions of three little girls loving sand, fishing, swimming and being together. Thankfully my head knows this isn't quite how things go, so here are some sanity-saving items I'm packing for kids who are most comfortable in their own environment.

1. Portable DVD player with a car adapter to plug into the solar power. We do limit screen time, but when the two year old needs quiet to make a mid day nap, or the kids need to take a break, a movie is sometimes the perfect solution.

2. Crayons and coloring books: I'm always amazed at how much the kids love to color when removed from the shiny toys of their daily life. It turns into a vacation ritual for us with K-Bear coloring her favorite My Little Pony pictures and taping them all over the wall in her room. This simple decorations make a strange place feel more like home almost instantly. I picked up some adorable coloring books with favorite characters for just $1 at Family Dollar and Five Below.

3. A new Kite: We live in the suburbs, where trees often trap any kite we may think of flying, but the beach offers a wide open terrain to get out and fly a kite!

4. Puzzles are a fantastic way to inspire thinking and planning. And they are also a fantastic hands-on activity to unite generations. My parents will sit with the girls and do puzzles for a long time.

5. The Backpack rule: Each girl is given one backpack to pack however they desire. They must be able to carry their own backpack and they are responsible for whatever items they put in it. It's amazing how well they plan what to bring when given a strict perimeter of a backpack!

6. Board Games. My hubby and the girls all love board games. Each year I purchase a new, inexpensive kids' board game to leave at the cottage, like Chutes & Ladders, Candyland and Trouble. This year I will add Doc McStuffin's Operation. In addition we bring some of the kid's favorite games from home: (Yes, we do like Disney!)

7. Decoration kit: I pack washable paint, washable markers, glue, foam stickers, and sequins in a little kit to decorate all the seashells and rocks we may find on our adventure walks. It keeps the girls engaged on the walk as they anticipate finding a treasure to decorate.

8. Outdoor games for young and old: We already have the standard volleyball net at the cottage, so this year we bought a croquet set for the backyard (to be just like Alice in Wonderland) and a pop-up Cornhole set.

9. Battery operated night lights. It gets dark at the cottage, especially if there isn't moonlight. Battery operated lights and flashlights helped the girls feel more at home. We bring night lights with us wherever we travel (even when we stay in hotel rooms), just in case.

10. iPads - these are a must, but with no wifi, I have to carefully select the best possible apps for the kids. Check out Sarah's list of road trip board games for some great ideas.

Remember to have fun, make memories and cherish every minute you have together. Whether you are taking a staycation in your living room or adventuring around the world - keep your sanity and you'll keep the fun!

Amanda will also admit to packing dark chocolate peanut M&Ms as her secret weapon to keep the sanity!

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