2017 NL: Ready for Takeoff!

It’s time to go! This is our third year traveling to Germany and then driving to the Netherlands, so we kind of have it down. Go through customs, get the bags, get the rental car keys, go to the bathroom, pick up a few drinks, get in the car, and go!

I have a couple of tricks for the car to make the 4-hour drive a little easier. In one of our suitcases, I pack two things: busy bags and snacks! As PER sets up the car seats (well, this year, we graduated to backless boosters, so that was much easier!!) and loads the suitcases into the back of the car, I first open up the suitcase with my “magic tricks” and set up the boys!


This is our smallest suitcase (carry-on sized). On the right is a car organizer filled with busy bags. There’s a diagonal divider, so I put the ones for Froggy on the right and the ones for Hippo on the left. I tried to color-code them, but alas! I didn’t have enough of the same colored bags 🙂

On the left side are three stainless steel food containers. (I had to order two sets of the 3 nesting containers, but I think they were worth it!) Two are for the boys, and one is for me 😉  They have an air-tight seal, which is great, but also makes them a little difficult for the kids to open. No one is very hungry when we land, after not getting much sleep on the plane. So the snacks for the road trip are important! Here’s what went into each of their boxes and how it all fit:

  • Homemade mini pumpkin muffins
  • Peanut butter crackers
  • Goldfish
  • A juice box
  • Raisins
  • Homemade blondies

I froze the juice boxes the night before!! So they should still be cold the next morning. I also put them in a zip-top bag, just in case there is too much condensation from them as they thaw. The first time we took this route, we tried getting drinks at the airport, but guess what? We could only find Apfelschorle – which has carbonation – but not plain apple juice (Apfelsaft). And of course, my kids aren’t going to drink that. So I’ve learned to pack a beverage, too. I also put their empty water bottles in their backpacks and fill those up with bottled water before we get off the plane.

And so, we’re all packed and ready to go!


After a relatively uneventful flight (except when Hippo spilled apple juice down his pajamas, so he had to sleep in his clothes!), we went through our usual steps, made it to the rental car, and headed on our way. This year, though, as we were about to take our first exit, Froggy all of a sudden announced he was going to be sick!! The one thing I forgot to pack was some extra bags! Yikes! I scrambled for a pastry bag (PER and I decided to get something extra at the bakery in the airport), but knew it wouldn’t be enough. Luckily, Froggy hadn’t really eaten anything on the plane, so there really was nothing to come up. Phew! Sweet little guy, though, was not feeling well. He fell asleep almost right away, as did Hippo. They slept almost half the way to Huizen. Then they weren’t too hungry, so they didn’t really eat anything from the snack boxes. And there was enough to see that they didn’t really need the busy bags! Well, the intentions were good! And on another trip, who knows?!

Notes for next time: pack a grocery bag or two … just in case! And some paper towels or napkins would have been a good idea, too … if they had eaten anything!

Under the Sea

School’s out! Time for some summer fun!

How about some sea life cards to play a small game of memory? Or practice numbers?

Print out the cards on card stock (so you can’t see through the paper when it’s turned over!) and laminate them for longer use. You can download them here:

I also found small objects from a craft store to go along with the six words. I popped them into a busy bag with the cards and made a matching game out of it.

Viel Spaß in den Sommerferien!

Traveling Abroad, Part I: On the Plane

Not only are we traveling by plane to Europe, but we have a 4 to 5-hour drive once we arrive. So I pack the kids’ backpacks with activities to keep them busy on the plane. And then I pack another set of things in one of the suitcases. It takes a lot of organization!

I try to sneak in German where I can. But there is a mix of English and German materials. I didn’t actually create any of the things below. But there are still some good resources!

Some of the things in the boys’ backpacks are the same:

  • a set of headphones in the backpack (We got these headphones that are meant for kids.)
  • a couple of snacks
  • a set of pajamas and nighttime diaper/pull-up
  • an extra set of clothes

But then they have different things to keep them busy. Here’s what’s in Hippo’s backpack:

  • a folder with coloring pages that I printed (some with Van Gogh images, since we might go to the museum in Amsterdam; some German ones I found here)
  • books – Hippo chose two (Bist du meine Mama? and Das kleine Glühwürmschen)
  • a drawing pad with plain paper
  • a foam giraffe sticker kit (from AC Moore)
  • an activity pad
  • 2 Dover Little Activity Books
  • 2 busy bags
  • box of crayons
  • pencil case with colored pencils (the case is personalized, but I wiped out the name on the picture)
  • a pencil case with a pencil, sharpener, and eraser

He has two busy bags:

  • a dinosaur puzzle (This is from the Melissa & Doug set that comes with 4 puzzles. I made a colored photocopy of the finished puzzle, so he would know what it was supposed to look like.)
  • stickers (I cut up some card stock and folded it, so he has something to put the stickers on. There are also several Dover Little Sticker Books.)

Froggy’s backpack is a bit bigger and so it is stuffed with a bit more!

  • a folder with coloring pages that I printed (some with Van Gogh images, since we might go to the museum in Amsterdam; some German ones I found here)
  • a drawing pad with plain paper
  • a foam giraffe sticker kit (from AC Moore)
  • 2 puzzles: alphabet & the US (in a 2-gallon Ziploc bag)
  • a magnetic game similar to Chutes & Ladders (also in a large Ziploc bag)
  • a sticker book – World Atlas
  • mini pinball game
  • 3 books (Mars, Planes, & Die kleine Raupe Nimmersatt)
  • Dover Little Activity Books
  • Carlsen Sticker-Malbücher (I found these at a bookstore in Frankfurt last year)
  • 2 busy bags
  • box of colored pencils
  • pencil case filled with markers (we had to really pare these down – he wanted to take every color!)

He also has 2 busy bags:

  • stickers (Again, I cut up some card stock and folded it, so he has something to put the stickers on.)
  • a set of strip puzzles – you have to first figure out which pieces go together, but they are color-coded and numbered at the bottom (I found them in the red dot section of Target)

Are you familiar with busy bags? Do a quick search on Google or Pintrest and you’ll find innumerable ideas from a whole variety of mommy blogs. Last year, I ordered a case of 24 pencil cases with mesh windows and zipper closures for about $29 on Amazon. (I had bought a bunch at a dollar store the year before, and the zippers broke almost immediately, so I thought this was a pretty good deal!) One activity goes into each busy bag to help keep things organized. I keep them in a small closet near the mud room, and we only use them on our travels.

Links to products are provided purely for your convenience. I receive no compensation for the mention of products.