Family Life


Ultimate Vacation Guide for Families with Young Kids: Ideas for Surprising the Kids PLUS Free Printable for the Car Ride

Ultimate Vacation Guide for Families with Young Kids: Ideas for Surprising the Kids PLUS Free Printable for the Car Ride


Have a family trip in mind for your summer break? Make it amazing with these fun ways to surprise your kids and suggestions on keeping the enthusiasm your whole drive! Make sure to check out our Disney Travel Guide if you are taking a Disney trip!

I love surprises! And surprising the kids for an exciting trip is my favorite. About a year ago I had the bags pack while the kids slept the night before. The next afternoon we got everyone loaded up for a mystery trip. The kids loved asking questions about where we were going and what we were going to do. We got to a hotel late at night and while I was getting the kids ready for bed my oldest daughter who was 5 sounded out the word California on a brochure in the room. She said, “Are we in California?” I looked at her and smiled. She leaped off the bed and started doing a happy dance and shouting, “We're in California!” All the kids were wound up at this point and sleep came around midnight. Their smiles were priceless. We continued the surprises and we drove to each destination. You should have seen their faces the first time they ever saw the ocean and the road sign for Legoland.

SURPRISE, SURPRISE! More Ways to Celebrate your Upcoming Trip!


Special Delivery Mail– Make a letter from a favorite Disney character. Cover it in stickers and put it in the mail addressed to the kids. Send them out to check the mail!

Ears on the Mirror– Draw Mickey Mouse ears on the mirror at the height your kids stand when they look in the mirror. When they look at themselves they will be wearing Mickey Mouse ears!

Balloon Pop– Put a clue in each balloon to where you are going on your trip. Fill them with helium. Then tie a note to the balloon string – You must be bursting to find out where we are going on our trip? Give each a sharpened pencil to pop them. Or if you don't want to use helium to fill the balloon, put clue in and blow up with air then have the kids sit on them to pop them!2016-05-17_0006

Scavenger Hunt– Hide big letters that spell out the place you are going ( D I S N E Y L A N D) throughout the house, then when all are found unscramble them together. This is the best for New reader. They get so excited when the figure out the word.

String Them Up– This one is really fun. My mom surprised my sister this way with a pair of shoes she wanted. First, put a wrapped gift filled with a clue or announcement of your trip in your chosen location. Then, with a roll of string or yarn tie it to the gift. Then, loop the string back and forth through the rooms in your house, even go to the backyard. End your trail with tying it loosely to toe of your child. They will notice it right away. When they wake up have them follow the string and gather it up as they go. The excitement builds as the string piles in their arms. Then watch as they catch a glimpse of the gift and race to open it up. So much fun!


Teethy Grin– Note from Mickey on toothbrush the night before the trip. “I can't wait to see your smiling face tomorrow! Your Pal, Mickey Mouse.” They excitement of the next days adventures might keep them awake like Christmas eve!

Countdown Chain– Ask the kids to help make a paper chain. Use the same number of links as the amount of days until your trip. At hang on a wall. Place an envelope with the tickets to an amusement park or a clue to where you are going inside. Tape it above the very top link. Explain that each day one of the links will be removed and when they remove the last link they get to open the envelope and see where they are going.

↓↓↓↓↓More super fun ideas here!↓↓↓↓↓

♥ Don't Just survive your drive, THRIVE! Keep the Excitement the Whole Drive! ♥

My kids use to get in the car for a long trip and they would ask, “How much longer?” or “When will we get there?” after only being in the car for 20 minutes. So making the ride enjoyable for all of us was a challenge I took seriously. I tried everything. Some things worked, some things didn't but in all of our trips these are the things that consistently worked from trip to trip.

Here are other great ways to keep the smiles your whole journey!

  1. PREPARE– obviously there are things to prepare. But, when I say prepare I mean Prepare Yourself. Get the sleep you need to be happy and enthusiastic for the drive. Don't take naps on the drive (unless all the kids are sleeping! I don't know about you, but I have taken naps before and without fail a moment or two after I doze off there is crying, whining or someone dropped something, etc… So I wake from my two minutes of sleep and I am not as kind or patient as I would have been if I stayed awake. So get your rest! When mom's happy everyone is happy!
  1. MAKE A MAP– Ahead of time during the planning stages I like to make a map of where we are going. We travel from Arizona to Utah a lot. I made a map from here to there then laminated it. I draw the route we will be driving and put stars next to the cities we will be stopping. The kids would check off the cities we've passed by and they would see when we had a stop coming up. My kids love to know the route and follow along with the map. Even my 2-year-old loved to have me point where we were and where Grandma lives. He'd trace the route with his finger over and over. Ask the kids which city we should be drive through next or where the next stop is. They love being involved and they learn how a map works.2016-05-18_0001
  1. POTTY BREAKS & PARKS– When look at our map we think about where to have our lunch spots and potty breaks. We pick a town and location within to stop according to the area nearby. We try to stop at a gas station or restaurants that have a park or playground nearby. We try to make it 2-3 hours before stopping but when we finally do stop we get the essentials taken care of then let the kids get some wiggles out for 15-20 minutes. It makes all the difference in the world! Then we call them all in with a happy cheer that we are ready to hop back into the car and head to our destination!park break
  1. SNACK HEALTHY– How do you feel when you arrive to your destination and you have been eating junk the whole drive? Sluggish, right! After many trip of feeling this way we decided to stick to healthy or healthier snack. We eat fresh fruits and veggies that are not messy: baby carrots, celery, grapes, oranges, and apple slices. We also eat almonds, pretzels, string cheese, yogurt pouches, peanuts. It is also nice for avoiding the sugar highs that kids get so easily. But how and when should snacks be distributed? For most of our trips we explain to the kids that they will get a new small bag of snacks each 45 minutes. I bring a kitchen timer and fasten somewhere they can see it. Then they don't need to ask me when the next snack will be. Before each new snack they pass up the last plastic bag to avoid messes and in exchange get their new one. Works like a charm and because the snacks are healthy I don't feel bad feeding them often throughout the trip.
  1. KINDNESS REWARDS– When I have seen the kids putting an extra effort into being kind I send them back an envelope with a small treat and thank you note. It is a quiet gesture, but nearly every time it has increased the kindness and encourages them to keep up the good work.
  1. AWESOME ACTIVITIES– I found some small tote bags that I hang on the back of the seat in front of each of my kids so they can easily access the activities without cluttering the car floor. It has a small metal cookie sheet, magnets, favorite books, clipboard with paper, coloring book and crayons. You could add some activities that go along with the theme of your family trip. Books on CD are a fun way to spend time together in the car. Especially if you are the one driving.
  1. SCAVENGER HUNT– Help you children appreciate the beauty outside but having the observe what is outside of the car. Print the provided PDF and laminate or put into a plastic sleeve.

on the road scavenger hunt

Printable Below↓↓↓↓

on the road scavenger hunt

  1. SINGING & STORYTIME– Though movies are nice on occasion during a long drive, don't miss out on the Family time! We LOVE to tell stories. My kids love the classics. My husband and I take turns telling The Three Little Pigs, Three Billy Goats Gruff, Goldie Locks and the Three Bears, The Gingerbread Man, The Little Red Hen. We like to get really animated and silly. When the Big Bad Wolf knocks on the door, I knock loudly on the window. When the Billy goats cross the bridge we tap on the dashboard. It is a great way to pass the time. Encourage your kids to tell their favorite story too. When I had my first baby the radio and CD player were broken in my car. My kids have always loved singing the silly classic kid songs. Here is a printable from my car to yours!

kid ClassicsPrintable Below↓↓↓↓

Songs and stories for car trips

What do you do to make your car ride run smooth?

PIN IT FOR LATER!Ultimate vacation guide for families

Surprises for Vacation

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Disney. The opinions and text are all mine.





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