“Are we there yet, Daddy?”
“How much longer, Mommy?”
“I’m bored. There’s nothing to do but sit here.”
Sound familiar? Making long trips by car can be nerve-wracking for adults, especially if they’re traveling with children. Sometimes by the time you reach your destination, you’re ready to pull out your hair.
My wife and I discovered a way to retain our sanity and to keep our daughters constructively occupied as they learned valuable geography lessons. We invented travel notebooks.
Because the outward appearance of the notebook can send a message to the child about its importance (or lack thereof!), we decided to make our notebooks look very attractive and formal. We purchased for each child a 9.5 x 11 inch, two-pocket, three-ring notebook (with a capacity of thirty to thirty-five pages). Each child chose her own unique notebook color to aid in rapid identification.
Next, I used my computer to create an attractive title page. Because our trip was to Florida to celebrate the Christmas holidays with my wife’s parents, I titled each notebook “Christmas in Florida: The Florida Vacation of the Peterson Family.” Beneath the title were the words as recorded by followed by the child’s name and the dates of the trip.
The “meat” of the notebook was a series of sections, shown in a table of contents.
The Route We Took
The first section was a regional map of the southeastern United States titled “The Route We Took.” It included state boundaries, major cities, and the highway routes on which we would travel. The children were to track our route in red as we progressed from point to point. Because they had the map in front of them and could tell by road signs where we were, we eliminated the inevitable questions: “Are we there yet?” “How much farther?”
The License Plates We Saw
Next we included a national map with state boundaries shown as dashed lines. Using this map, the children were to identify the home states of passing cars and then color each state according to a color-coded key that corresponded to ten geographic regions of the United States and Canada. We gave each child her own box of crayons for coloring.
This section proved to be the most enjoyable for the girls as they competed to see which of them would be the first to completely color each region. During the course of the four-day trip, they saw cars from all but six of the states. They also saw cars from Mexico and even South Korea. (I had failed to entertain the possibility of seeing cars from outside the United States.)
Next week, I’ll share the last two sections in the notebook. You might also be interested in finding out what the girls requested the next time we planned a family vacation.
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Dennis was a writer of secondary heritage studies materials at BJU Press for a number of years. Before that, he taught history in Christian schools and homeschooled his four daughters along with his wife.
What sections would you include in a travel notebook for kids?