Tuesday, March 20, 2012

30 Miles Closer

Our family went on vacation to Branson, MO last week.  This is NOT the first, second, third or even 1000 place I ever would have chosen to go on vacation!  However, my in-laws have a timeshare through Wyndham and that was the only place left when my mother-in-law went to try to find a place for use to take a trip.  At first, my husband and I were like, Branson?  The place with all the cheesy shows?  BUT…when I sat down one day and started Googling things to do in Branson, I was actually blown away by how many fun things there were to do there – things the kids would love!  I started showing my husband and he quickly got on board as well.  Add in the fact that we’d be staying in a condo that was furnished with everything we’d need to make a lot of our meals, thus saving quite a bit of money, and the fact that we wouldn’t have to even pay for said place to stay – we decided to go for it.
I can honestly say, I am SO glad we did!  It was an amazingly fun place to go for a family.  Yes, there is some cheesiness to it but there is so much to do and the people are all so friendly.  We never went anywhere that the employees didn’t ask us where we were from and how we were enjoying our trip.  We went on a tour of a cave, a butterfly museum, an antique/craft mall, a neat open mall call Branson’s Landing, and a 50’s diner where the waiters and waitresses sing to you.  In fact, our waiter was in the top 20 of American Idol a few years ago – Jason Yeager.  He sang a Journey song and the whole restaurant was signing and clapping with him.  
The only real bad part of the trip was the drive.  With stops for bathroom and lunch it was about 8 hours – a long time for me much less my 3 kids who are 8, 6, and 4.  Leading up to the trip, I knew I’d better be prepared for this long time of imprisonment.  I wanted to share one really neat idea I found online.  It was supposed to be a cure to the dreaded question – are we there yet?  How long do we have?  Are we almost there?  What state are we in now?  Okay – dreaded questions.  Basically, you give the kids enough tickets for every 30 miles of the trip.  Every 30 miles or so you tell them to hand you a ticket.  The theory is that they can visually see the trip ticking down as their bag of tickets becomes depleted.  I’ll tell you how I made the tickets and then tell you how it worked.
I got out my bestest best friend, Cameo, and using the tickets shape I got at Valentine’s day, I added the text “30 Miles Closer to Branson”.  I looked up the mileage and figured they’d need to give me about 15 tickets.  Using the Print and Cut feature I cut the tickets out.  Here’s what they looked like.

I put each set in a baggie for the kids.

Okay - so how did it work?  Actually really well - although the question changed to "Is it ticket time yet".  And honestly, there were still a lot of those other questions as well but I think it probably cut them down a bit.  It did make our trip more fun though.  The kids were able to see their tickets going away and knew that meant Branson was getting closer and closer.  And since it seemed like 30 miles seemed to come so often it made the trip go by faster for me as well.  

Besides that, I made each kid their own pretty clipboard.  I just decoupaged scrapbook paper onto the clipboards.  My kids are all color coded - one likes green, one likes pink or purple and one likes blue (it makes life so much easier) - so the middle color told them whose was whose.

Then I printed out tons of coloring pages, word searches, dot to dots and such according to age and preferences.  For Big Bear I found a map that she could color each state as we saw that state's license plate on the road.  The biggest hit was a road trip scavenger hunt.  The printable is here.  It had pictures so even my 4 year old could be included - although, honestly, he just colored in every box whether he had seen the thing or not.  

I used my amazing laminator that I love, love, love to laminate them so they could use them on the way there and back. Here's the laminator I use:

I also laminated some of the dot to dot pages so they could do them over and over. 

I also got them each their own pencil case and used some letter stickers to personalize them.   
I put all of this stuff plus their own handheld devices - DS or Leapster or whatever in their own car bag.

The trip was still long and the kids still asked a lot of questions but all in all, it was a great trip and my husband and I were blown away at how well our kids did in the car.  We had an amazing time together all week -  much needed quality and down time.  I'm so glad we went and would HIGHLY recommend Branson for any family vacation.
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