busy bags & toddler travel

Yesterday was the day. The day we'd pile in a car for four hours and venture up to the middle of the state for a nearly week-long stay at my family's lake house. Nothing but wilderness and a relaxing Thanksgiving spent with family away from the bustling chaos of South Florida. This was only a daunting thought because Ethan doesn't travel well. Not on a six minute trip to the grocery store, not on a three minute trip to Grandma's house, not on a ten minute trip to the mall and certainly not on a four hour trip up to the middle of nowhere. We toyed around with many different travel plans before agreeing to make the trip during what should be Ethan's naptime -- typically around 1:00 in the afternoon. This was a risky move because Ethan can take or leave naps these days which could easily turn into four hours in the car with a screaming, tantruming toddler. We decided on this departure time because at least Ethan could arrive to our destination long enough to familiarize himself with his surroundings and feel comfortable with his new room before he had to sleep in it.

This ended up being a good thing, because he loved his room at the lake house and ended up going to sleep without so much as even a whine -- which is an improvement from bedtime at home, even. But as my gut feeling told me, he decided to not nap the entire drive up. This could have resulted in disaster but it didn't, thanks to the busy bags I'd prepared ahead of time.

I had heard of busy bags through a bunch of awesome tot school resources and I'd been meaning to create some for our tot school curriculum. Because they're typically stored in soft pencil pouches (which were shockingly hard to find at the end of November, apparently), I thought they could easily become car-friendly travel activities. Smartest thing I ever did.

I filled each bag with soft, light trinkets from a dollar store. His favorites were the flashcards, which came in boxes of 30-60 depending on the type (I picked Winnie the Pooh, animals and Sesame Street). Little pom-poms, spinning tops, sponges, bouncy balls, plastic dinosaurs and bugs, ribbon, finger skateboards. He'd take out each item and study it for a bit. I had thrown in some sheets of stickers and also some paint swatches for him to stick them on. Little things he could look at or creatively play with -- balancing the pom-poms on the finger skateboard, stacking the plastic dinosaurs onto the sponge -- that could keep his attention, which they did for most of the trip. Which isn't to say I'm in for a total nightmare trying to round up the tossed-to-the-side toys to recreate the busy bags for the drive home, but totally worth it.


  1. I love these bags! Such a great idea! Thanks for finding me through the hop! Following you back :)

  2. Your busy bags look great Lindsey, both my 2 and almost 5 year old would love those little bags. I need to plan ahead a bit more when we travel. I like that you included different textures too.

  3. What a great idea:) Thanks for sharing

  4. Oh I am in love with this post. What great ideas and we will be taking a 10 hour car trip in about a month, so these will come in handy! Love you ideas!


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