Shoestring Travel - Are We There Yet? Inexpensive ways to beat boredom on the road.

Are we there yet? Such a familiar phrase. As children we said it to our parents and as parents we hear it from our children. Living 30 some miles away from town, I'm often tempted to say it myself. For many families, summer is the time for car trip vacations. I recently saw a segment on a morning news show about toys to buy your kids to keep boredom at bay during long drives. The toys were bright, electronic and expensive. With gas going up again and a price of a hotel room and road food it's hard to imagine spending hundreds of dollars on toys that they may or may not play with.
Here's some time tested games and ideas for your next car trip that cost very little or, better yet, nothing at all:
These are games that my mother played with us when we traveled and are still a hit with kids:
I Packed My Grandmother's Trunk
This is a memory game base on the alphabet.
  • First person says, "I packed my grandmother's trunk with...(and then names something that starts with 'a' - apples, apes, apricots, anvils, etc.)
  • The next person says, "I packed my grandmother's trunk with... (whatever the first person said and then names something that starts with 'b')
  • The game continues on with each person naming the items that were said before them and then naming an item that starts with the next letter in the alphabet.
  • The goal is to be able to pack grandma's trunk with something from every letter in the alphabet by the end of the trip.
  • This is a real memory stretcher and the more that you play the better you get.

This game teaches counting by fives and is a great pre-multiplication skill builder.
Starting with one, each person counts the next number in order, until you get to the number 5 or a multiple of 5. For each multiple of 5 you say, "buzz".
So, it sounds like this - one, two, three, four, buzz, six, seven, eight, nine, buzz, ect.
Continue counting until someone misses. Then start over. The goal is to get to 100 with no mistakes.
To challenge older kids count by other numbers, 3's are fun and 9's are especially tricky.

Sing Rounds
Singing really does help pass the time. Start with an easy one like Row, Row, Row Your Boat then try some trickier rounds. Here's one of my favorites:
(second part starts after first part sings,"old gum tree")
Kookabura sits on the old gum tree,
Merry merry king of the bush is he.
Laugh Kookabura, laugh Kookabura
Gay your life must by.

Kookabura sits on the old gum tree,
Eating all the gum drops he can see.
Stop Kookabura, stop Kookabura
Save some gum for me!

Read a Favorite Book Together
When we were traveling from Arizona to Idaho one summer we read aloud all of Charlotte's Web. There's nothing like sharing one of your favorite books with your kids and a continuing story gives everone something to anticipate.

For more fun car trip games and activities check out 101 car travel games and ideas for kids. Laurel Smith has an amazing list of things to do on car trips. A few of my favorites on her list are Make a Trip Journal, Have Bubble Gum Blowing Contest, Counting Cows (I love this game!), and Aluminum Art.

So, what does your family do to beat the Are-we-there-yet blues?
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Summer Coffee Time - Cool Iced Coffee

I am a lover of hot coffee. Even when we lived in Phoenix and it was over 100 degrees, I would still crave a cup of rich dark hot coffee for afternoon Coffee-Time. When people would question my preference of hot over iced I would always say that hot coffee had a cooling effect. It's probably completely unscientific and people rarely believed me, but I thought that it worked.
Recently, though, I have come to appreciate a tall cool glass of iced coffee on a hot day. When you add a little sweet flavoring it is an inexpensive Coffee-Time treat. Here is my favorite way to make iced coffee. What's yours?

Woodsedge Iced Coffee-Time Coffee
  • One pot of strong dark coffee, cooled (strong is the key word here if you are a real coffee lover)
  • Half and Half
  • Torani syrup, flavor of your choice
  • Frozen coffee cubes (freeze double strength coffee in ice cube trays. Remove and store in freezer bags until ready to use.)
  • Tall chilled glasses

  1. Place 3 or 4 frozen coffee cubes in each glass
  2. Fill each glass about 2/3rds full of the cooled strong coffee
  3. Add half and half and your favorite Torani flavor to taste
  4. Give a quick stir
  5. If you want a sweeter treat, top with a dollop of whipped cream or cool whip

The key to this iced coffee treat is the frozen coffee cubes. They will chill your coffee without diluting it. If you want to cut down on calories, you can use a lower fat choice of dairy and a sugar free Torani. But really, it's Coffee-Time and Coffee-Time is meant for a little indulgence to help make you smile through the rest of your day.
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Shoestring Parenting - School's Out! Now What Do We Do?

School is officially out in my neighborhood. Is it in yours? Even though my kids are older and are quite independent in the summer with jobs and friends, I still find myself looking out for creative fun ways for families to spend time together and for kids to fill those empty summer hours.
Of course the down time after all those hectic school days is wonderful and necessary but it is still a good idea to have some plans to keep the boredoms away.
Here are a few great summer activities that will motivate creativity, sportsmanship, family and friend time.

For Families
  • Go Bowling: Bowling centers all over the country are offering a Kids Bowl Free summer program. When you register for the program at your participating bowling center you will be emailed coupons weekly that allow your children to bowl free for 2 games a day. That is a great deal! They also offer reasonably priced family passes for up to 4 adults so that you all can bowl together. Go to the website for a list of bowling centers near you and for more information on how to register.
  • Go To the Movies: Regal Entertainment Group is offering a Free Family Film Festival; nine weeks of family friendly movies for kids and parents to see together for free. The movies are shown on Tuesdays and Wednesdays starting June 16. You can buy the tickets at the box office of participating theaters on a first come first served basis. Some of the movies that will be showing are: The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything, Horton Hears a Who, Nims Island, Inkheart and Evan Almighty. For a list of all the movies and to find a participating theater in your area go to

For the Kids:
Drama Camp: Many community theaters offer summer drama camps and classes. Most are quite affordable and a few, like the one in my neighborhood, are free. Another local community theater in my area, The Pend Oreille Players Association, is offering a very affordable drama camp in August. If you are in North Idaho/Eastern Washington check out their website, and click on the newsletter for more information. Even if your kids aren't into acting, drama camp is a great place to grow creativity, build confidence and learn relational skills that they will use in school and all through their lives. Plus, it's Great Fun!

  • Sports Camps: Your local Parks and Recreation is the place to look for affordable sports activities. I also googled sports camps in Spokane Washington (or your city) and found a variety of camps available form different organizations. Professional teams often offer sports camps in the summer, so check out the website of your local professional team. Be sure that you check the ability level required for each camp. Some camps are geared toward kids with advanced skills while others are open to beginners. It's very important that you find a program that is a good fit for your child so that they have fun and don't get discouraged. Sports camps are a great way to get them involved in a new sport that they may want to play for years to come.
  • Visit Your Local Library: The library is one of my favorite summer places. It's cool, calm, full of great reads and information, movies and music. Best of all- it's free. Almost all libraries have summer story time and reading programs. They offer fun ways to encourage reading, get to know other kids and parents, make crafts, write stories and learn to love the library.
  • Go to VBS: The summer schedule is crammed with churches putting on Vacation Bible Schools. Most VBS's usually last a week and, if you're smart at scheduling, you can fit one or two VBS weeks a month into your summer list of things to do. A typical VBS day consists of energetic music, crafts, stories, games and snacks. Most churches will advertise their Vacation Bible Schools in the paper so keep your eyes open for this fun opportunity. Remember that most programs always need help so, if you can volunteer, give them a hand.
  • At the Y.M.C.A.: I grew up going to Day Camp at the Y. Fun memories! Swimming, crafts, field trips, new skills and lots of friends. To find a YMCA program near you go to

Do you have some free or reasonably priced summer activities to suggest? Share in the comments.
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