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One of my favorite things about road trips as a kid was getting to pull out my activity kit. It was super cool back in the day, filled with games and activities.
This was before iPads and other electronics started to distract our kids. I’ve gone through tons of stores trying to find something that would compare, and nothing has come close.
That’s when I decided to make my own custom road trip activity binder for my kids. Each one is customized to the vacation and their education level. Here is how I did it.
Materials Needed for a Road Trip Activity Binder
- 1” High Quality 3 Ring Binder with removable cover
- Section Dividers
- 3 Hole Punch
- Computer and Printer
- Writing or Coloring Utensils
- Pencil Pouch
You can pick up almost everything at the Dollar Store, including the Road Trip Activity Binder. Unfortunately, the binders found there are flimsy and don’t allow you to add your own cover.
They need to be sturdy enough to write and take a beating. I also found you need a better quality pencil case. I’ll get more into recommendations on that later.
With any good book, the cover is what really sells it. It also is what sets their book apart from their sibling’s book. The road trip activity binder cover should represent the trip. It can be as fancy or a simple as you want to do.
For preschoolers, I recommend filling the cover with images about the destination. Since you probably haven’t been there, find a few pictures online of the things you plan on doing. You can also add things they’ll see along the way.
For Kindergarteners and up, I like to use a map, to show them where they are going. I’m a firm believer that every kid needs to read a map. Why not show them where they are going based on the map. It doesn’t have to be overly complicated.
Take a snapshot of the driving directions from Google Maps, so they can follow along. If you want to add something extra special, throw a quick picture of their face on it too.
Making it look professional
Next up, add in your page dividers. This is a luxury and doesn’t have to be scientific or anything. With little fingers, it helps them to jump from activity to activity.
You can pick these up at the Dollar Store, Target, or any office supply store. You may even have some lying around the house. Labeling each of the sections isn’t necessary.
I found most kids are anxious to flip around and explore each section on their own.
This is where the real fun comes. A good activity book has a wide range of different things to do.
Coloring sheets related to their interest.
Sheets about the stuff on the trip.
Connect the Dots
Color by Number
Blank Pages for coloring
Tick Tack Toe
License Plate Game
Most of the things on the list are printable and found throughout the internet. To bring it up a level, stop at the Dollar Store and visit their Education and Toy Section.
They are a treasure trove of fun activities. I’ve gotten things like tick tac toe boards, travel bingo, Mad Libs, Educational Readers, and other fun things.
Pick up a book of word finds and add in a few pages. Just make sure you have a way to connect it to the binder. As long as it’s not too thick, it can probably be three-hole-punched. What can’t be punched, can be put in the pockets inside the binder.
Extra Storage Pockets
Add a State Map into the Road Trip Activity Binder to give them some more things to mess around with. You get free state maps if you know where to look. Kids can follow along the route and look where you are going. If they get destroyed, oh well.
Include some places for them to journal about their trip. Littler kids can draw pictures of their trip. If they can be trusted with a glue stick, you can also let them cut or rip up travel magazines to tell the story.
You can also request those free when you are getting your state map, or pick up brochures at your destination. This is a great way for them to become a visual storyteller.
Depending on what you filled your Road Trip Activity Binder with you may want a few different things in the pencil case. Make sure it can attach to the binder in someway.
I tested out a few versions and found that the flat cases tend to allow pencils and stuff to spill out. Last year I picked up backpack style ones that keep everything upright.
Dry Erase Markers
Any accessories or markers that go along with the games.
Things to watch out for
Stickers sound good at first until you find them all over the backset window and they do not come off. Consider getting reusable stickers. Or better yet, window clings.
Avoid things that roll away, like crayons. Consider bringing triangular-shaped crayons. Also, ditch the box and put everything right in the case. As they get older they may get to graduate to more items.
When to give them to your child?
I make these Road Trip Activity Binders on every big trip. Especially when we go from one state to the next, or if the trip lasts more than a few days in the car.
I like to keep the Road Trip Activity Binder a surprise for as long as possible. I’ve given it to them before got in the car, or even an hour into the trip.
This way they don’t start digging into it before the trip and lose enthusiasm. Most of the materials inside are reusable. I probably only spend $5-$10 on extra fun things added.