DIY: Vacation Trip Tracker for Kids

On May 24, 2012 by Kelly

With Memorial Day looming large and vacation season about to take full swing, I thought I would share a recent DIY project I came up with to keep my two and three year old from going insane during our long road trip from Ohio to Florida. Perhaps you can whip up one for your travels this weekend or this summer. It started with the realization that my three year old LOVES receiving prizes. What kid doesn’t, right? Well, this kid seems to be a bit more bent that direction than others I know, like say, his sister. Our latest thing is to create brown bag prizes that he receives when he has had a great day, accomplished a big task or done some outstanding deed. I wanted to take that brown bag prize concept into action to figure out a way to give them prizes along our traveling route. Travel ActivityThe problem I was having was trying to figure out how to space the giving of the brown bags. Should I give them every so many hours? Every time we stopped for lunch/dinner/etc? When they behaved? Most of these ideas didn’t have a consistent variable to them or for me to estimate how many brown bags I would need.

Then I was flipping through the summer issue of Yum Food for Kids Magazine and they suggested having brown bag prizes for each STATE that you traveled to. This is when the wheels really started turning in my head. See my kids are two and three; not exactly informed on the geography of our great nation and really not even in touch with the concept of what a “state” is. So I knew I needed to come up with something more visual for them; otherwise, they would be asking every 5 minutes if it was time for another state bag. I headed to the craft store to get some inspiration.

Travel Activity I came up with cutting out miniature replicas of states from foam sheets (yes, I free-hand cut these using visual guides), a black strip of velcro, a toy car, velcro tabs for the bottom of the car, push pins and letter stickers for the brown paper lunch bags. And prizes of course. One prize for each bag x the number of kids. 😉 They absolutely loved it, they were perfectly spaced and our travel stayed sane. Read {No asking “Are we there yet?” (We did add another gift to Alabama since it was such a large state and we were stopping over for a nights stay). The prizes varied from toys I got in the $1 store to things I had found at garage sales and each contained a small book they could “read” to themselves. Some contained games and activities for them to do as well. You know, gifts that would be rewarding to the driver as well. 🙂 And yes, we did this on the return trip as well. Not as diligently and not with as many prizes but the kids really seemed to “get” how far we had left to go on our journey. Pretty impressive for just two and three years old! So here is how you can create one for yourself!


Assembly Directions:

Using a state’s template as your guide, cut out foam states for each state you will be traveling from, through and to. Use these foam cutouts to trace the shape of the state onto your brown paper bags. Place a letter sticker for each state on the foam cut out and on the brown bag. (We did this so that the kids could know what letter each state started with). Place your gifts inside each of your brown bags and staple or tape shut. (You may also want to write the child’s name on their bags if you have multiple children). Car Tracker ActivityLocate a light-weight toy car, like a matchbox, and affix two velcro dots on the underside. Using sewing push pins, secure your black velcro strip to a relatively undisturbed area of your car. (We found that the car ceiling above the driver and passenger seats worked best. (I did not use sticky back velcro as I was concerned that there could be leftover residue on the fabric of our car when we were through. Next, place your states in the order you will travel through them along your velcro “road”. Place the car at the starting state. As we traveled to each state, so did the toy car. When the car reached a new state the kids were each given their brown bag with the indicated state on it. They didn’t know states, but they can definitely locate shapes, so as we were headed into each state (if they were awake) we would have them look for the indicated shape. When they found the shape along the road we would cheer and gifts were passed out. It was just that easy. I hope what worked for us will work for you! Have fun and enjoy vacation!


Join the discussion
  1. I think this work for our 6 hour long ride to the U.P. from the very southern part of the lower pennisula of MI. I would use a large michigan cut out of paper a strip of velcro down the middle (I-75) and mark out larger cities along the route that they could then get the prizes when we pass them. Maybe only doing 3 or 4 bags and of course the Bridge would be one of the prize points.

  2. What a cute idea! I wish I had thought of something like this for a few 10-hour trips we’ve taken! Definitely a must for our next long trip. Thanks for sharing!

  3. You are amazing! =) We live 10 hours from all of our Grandparents, in two different directions, so we go on a lot of road trips that are actually more like 13 hours with a 1 & 3yo! This is just brilliant!

  4. This is a fabulous idea!! And I love Heather’s idea also because we too frequently drive from southwest MI to the UP. A nice 7 hr drive not including stops….and then there is the 7hr drive to St. Louis we also frequently make. Geez, I’ll have to start hitting the garage sales more to come up with bag prizes!

  5. What a great idea! We are driving from Delaware to Louisiana this summer with a nearly 6 year old and a 9 month old. This will be a great way of breaking up the trip a little!

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