The Tobin Family Trip

Anybody ever watched Daniel Tiger and the “Tiger Family Trip”?  Well, we have (about 197 times) and if you have too, that title up there goes pretty well with the theme song.  Hehe…  We sang it about a hundred times before and during our little Christmas road trip. 

Now, I know how exciting it is to read about other people’s vacations while sitting in the comfort of your own home…not on vacation, so let me spice up your present state and tell ya about ours.  ;)

Last summer, we got this fantastic idea to go to through Nebraska to Denver for Christmas…and by go to, I mean D R I V E.  With four little kids.  23.5 hours.  3300 miles.  Yep, like I said.  Fantastic.


Well, we were all gung ho and making plans when Thanksgiving rolled in and we drove to my sisters in Florida…a seven hour trip.  The drive was absolutely awful.  We’ve done it before and it’s never been the easiest thanks to some antsy pants in the backseat but this time was the worst.  Cecilia is a master road-tripper and will sit for hours on end with nary a complaint.  Seraphia always complains that her rear hurts about an hour into any drive and every hour after.  Sebastian asks the age-old question “Are we there yet?” about a thousand times an hour and Gianna just really doesn’t like to sit still for very long which leads to lots of strapped-in tantrums.  Fun, fun.

So as we tumbled, drive-worn, into our house at the end of the Thanksgiving trip to Florida, our feet got frostbite with the thought of doing a trip more than three times that long in a month.  Why would we put ourselves through that again?

Ha!  Family.  You know that saying that goes something like “When you love someone, you’ll do anything for them”?  Yep.  A few days removed from our trip, we realized that, with a little bit more planning, we could do almost 24 hours.  Our ambition might’ve been a little shaky but it was ambition nonetheless.  :)

The first thing I did was head to the Dollar Tree and Target’s Dollar Spot to grab any and every little tinkering toy and activity I could.  (Ya know, I did some Pinteresting and found lots of blog posts about how to make all these fun road trip activities for kids and I got so overwhelmed and discouraged because the thought of finding all these pieces and then putting them altogether was just daunting on top of packing and trip planning so I’m so thankful for the two stores above that let me keep my sanity by having everything I needed minus the DIY.)  I grabbed Color Wonder books, puzzles, tin activity trays, wood threading games, coloring books, cardboard building sets, and a daily vitamin holder for Gianna to play with.  Here it all is…our bag ‘o tricks:IMG_6498 
We also stocked our Kindle with a few more movies and games (the Sago Mini apps are awesome and a couple of them are free on Amazon Warehouse.  We also grabbed Minion Rush and this coloring app.)  We bought a refurbished Kindle several years ago that is still going strong, Anthony has an iPad for work, and we bought this Kindle plus this case this year for Christmas (the 16 gb was $50 when we bought it…hmmm…but I see they’re having a buy two for $99 sale!) so that all three of the older kids had a screen.  To watch movies en route, we hang a tablet from the sun roof of our vehicle using this handy-dandy hack I made a few years ago.  I downloaded a whole season of Baby Einstein (via Amazon Prime) for Gianna to watch and used this contraption to attach it to the seat she looks back at.  (This mount would’ve been better but we already had the iKross mount and so we went with what we had.)  

To ward off sore buns, I ran to JoAnn Fabrics the week before we left and grabbed a remnant of one-inch thick foam for $11. 

The girls have these boosters and as great as they are, I’ll admit, they’re not the friendliest things to the tush when that tush is sitting for hours on end.  So, I just cut some foam to the size of the seat, slipped it underneath the fabric of the booster, and we were good to go.IMG_6494
I did the same thing to Sebastian’s car seat only I had to make some extra cuts for the buckle and bottom of the straps.  For the buckle, I just cut a slit down the middle until I reached the point of the buckle (no measuring, just eye-balling...I left the perfectionism in the garage).  Then I cut a small slit across for it to slip right though…so basically I just cut a tall “T”.  At the back, where the straps went down into the seat, I cut two slits in from the sides and slipped them right in. IMG_6496Cushy tushies.  Thumbs up

One thing that made our drive 3957 times better was leaving super duper early in the morning.  Our first morning, we left at 4:00 AM and got a solid three+ hours in while the kids slept.


Sleeping kids = a smooth drive.  Obviously.  Watching the sun come up was a big perk too.  When the kids weren’t sleeping they were, well, not sleeping and apt to get antsy.  That’s when all of the activities came in.  We also ate most of our meals in the car to waste more time.  We typically don’t allow food in the car because we can think of a thousand other fun things to do besides vacuuming up stale goldfish but we make exceptions during road trips.  Playing backseat waitress during meal times keeps time flying for me and gives the kids 30-45 minutes of something to do.

We broke each way to Denver into three days.  The first night we made a pit stop in Branson, Missouri and stayed at the Welk Resort (it was awesome too!  We highly recommend!)  Since we left so early in the am, we got there mid-afternoon and took the kids swimming, went out to dinner, and then to a Christmas light show.  It gave us a good driving break and the next morning, we were rested and ready to go again.  The next night we stayed with family in Nebraska and the next day we had reached Denver with no hiccups.


We spent several days in Denver, including Christmas, and guess what?!  It snowed!  I know it’s not surprising that it snowed in Colorado since that’s what winters are made of there but you just never know what you’re gonna get weather-wise, ya know?  It was the biggest bonus we could’ve gotten out of the trip.  We don’t see snow much down here in the South so really, we loved it.  Except for the cold…we didn’t love that so much.  We actually dressed the kids head-to-toe in winter gear while we were in Denver and sent them outside and…they cried.  And then they got over it and played for awhile.  Haha!  Anyway, Christmas was awesome.
We spent lots of time with family and played lots and lots of Dutch Blitz.  If you haven’t played it and have a hankering for a pretty fast-paced, super fun card game, you’ve gotta play it.

The way back was pretty much the same…we stayed with family for a few days after the first leg and at a hotel with a pool in Tennessee before our last leg.

One of the best things about the whole, fantastic trip, was getting to see grandparents…great-grandparents to the kids.IMG_6580 


They are lucky to have every single one of their great-grandparents alive and well still.  Lots of spoiling went on, as I’m sure you can guess.  Disappointed smile


The takeways from this post?  1) When going on a road trip with toddlers and young kids, a) leave early-shmearly, b) bring LOADS of activities and movies, and c) break up a super long trip by staying with friends/family or hotels with pools (we found super awesome deals on both of our hotels on  2) Spend holidays with beloved family and/or friends.  It’ll make you a happier person.  :)

And 3)  How cute are my grandparents?  Right?  ;) 

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*affiliate links to products we purchased or similar to those we purchased are included in this post


  1. What a neat adventure! I don't have littles yet, but I want to remember these great tips before I attempt any kind of road trip in the future. :)

    1. Yes! Definitely! I wish I would've thought of this stuff/known this stuff long before kids! C'est la vie...some things we learn while in the throes and that's ok too. Hope you're having a fantastic new year Mandolyn!

  2. You are amazing and a total genius. Three cheers, Sheena!!!������