Travel Binder for the Kids

My very old post about traveling with toddlers seems to be a big hit and it made me realize that it might be a good idea to share an other travel tip with you. Our son is about four and a half years old now and we were recently having a longer road trip with him again. Before the trip I started to collect ideas for his age: what should I prepare for him this time? I needed something age appropriate for him (and we were able to use the old tricks with his little brother from my previous post). After much consideration I made my son a TRAVEL BINDER!
This travel binder was full with stuff that he enjoys now but I think something very similar would work for older kids, as well.

DSC_2727Firs of all, I let him choose the binder itself and he instantly got excited about the hole thing and was looking forward the trip.

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As you can see on the picture above, I added a plastic pouch to keep the pencils etc. together with the binder. I just cut two holes with scissors and it was good to go. It worked out very well throughout the road trip.

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Beside the pencils I bought two non-permanent markers for this binder because I thought he could use those on the plastic and solve the mazes and other worksheets with them without taking each sheet out. He even tried it but his hand ended up all dirty from the ink, so he rather took out the pages from the plastic and worked on the paper itself.

The very first page in the binder was a map of our route. I even marked the three places where we would stop and stay overnight. My idea was that he won’t be asking all the time how far we are but he still managed it although to be honest he asked this question a lot less, so my plan worked. And he also enjoyed drawing on the map: he added a couple of large islands to Europe and some ships in the sea.

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Next I printed out some coloring pages. Most of them were knight and castle related, or Easter related, since we were traveling to see our relatives for Easter.

DSC_2730Then I printed out a couple of mazes which he enjoys lately a lot.

DSC_2731His other favorite worksheets are the ones where he has to find the (5-10) differences on the pictures. Great stuff for a 4/5 years old kid! You can find those online, as well and just print them out.

DSC_2732I also added a few pages with pictures of family members to doodle on them. Although I showed him how doodles work prior to our trip, he didn’t bother to try it on the trip. Maybe in a couple of years it will be more fun for him.

DSC_2736What he loved most were simply stickers. This one never gets old, I guess.

 

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I stored the stickers in a buttoned folder at the end of the binder. I added this folder by punching two holes into it with the normal paper puncher.

DSC_2734I also added two worksheets: one where he had to check the vehicles if he saw one on the road (tracks, helicopter, fire truck, bus, etc); the other one was a color match game, but the same method.

DSC_2737We also had some fun with scratch off pages that I found in our local dollar store.

The last thing in the binder was an other folder to keep the plain white papers in and it also doubled as a tiny desk for drawing.

DSC_2740Look, he drew himself on the top of the walnut tree! He was climbing that tree during our stay at the Grandparents’ every single day!

DSC_2741We spent about 4-6 hours in the car twice, and after the vacation two whole days in a row on the way back. I think our son enjoyed the travel binder very much, maybe a bit less then I hoped but I am convinced that it was a good idea and we definitely enjoyed some quiet time in the front seats. We are traveling this week again and although it will be just a short, two hours road trip, we’ll bring the binder again and try to finish it all!
I hope you like this idea and find it inspirational. Please, let me know how do you occupy your kids on a road trip! I would love to hear more tips!

 

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I pimped my car…

It’s probably not a very “christmasy” thing to talk about but I promised in a previous post so here it is. When we were planning our big trip to France this year I was thinking about how to get our car even more comfortable for a long road-trip and I figured out a couple of things.
First I renewed the cardboard arm-support thing that I made two years ago because it was a bit worn out. Taped extra support onto the top (it was also a bit lower than the perfect size, so I definitely had to make it slightly higher) and sewed a new cover. It also has a small pocket on the side for my cell-phone because I drop it sometimes and can’t find it for hours… The old cover was actually in excellent condition but I didn’t have more of that fabric and I wanted to match it with the new add-ons. DSC_0724

Then I burned a new CD which we do every year before starting a long road trip. I know: nowadays burning a CD is very old-fashioned but this works in our ten-years old car and we are fine with it. For all the CDs we collected over the years I sewed a very practical and also great-looking CD holder. I followed this tutorial for that.  This CD holder turned out very well and we love it! Easy to reach the CDs without opening the glove compartment and putting the whole family in danger. I can only recommend it!

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My other favorite thing is the trash-bag which hangs over the transmission handle. I found somewhere a tip how to make a bag water-tight from the insidewhich makes the trashbag washable. You have to melt a few layers of plastic bags together by covering them with a thin paper and ironing them until they melt.

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Then just use this plastic-sheet as a fabric. I have used this car-trash-bag since summer almost every day when I pick up my son from the kindergarten and it is so amazing I couldn’t live without anymore!

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Beside these things I also made a bigger bag to hang over the front seat and keep food in it for the long road trip but it wasn’t as successful as I hoped. It turned out a bit too big and without a cooler system it is just not  practical enough. At least not for food. But if you have a child on board who still wears diapers, then I would recommend to make something like this to keep diapers, wipes and extra cloths in it for an easy reach. We were always looking for the diaper bag when we stopped to change the baby, somehow it always hid somewhere… Or maybe use the bag for toys, raincoats etc.

Baby car-seat blanket with tutorial

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We are expecting our next baby and he is going to be born (hopefuly not before) January. My three-year-old son was born in September which means we still have lots of warm winter-clothes for the little one but slightly in a different size, meaning bigger. So I am collecting warm babyclothing in newborn-size now. Also, our daily life-style is different now: I have to get into the car and pick up my older son from the kindergarten every single day at the same time. This got me thinking: how am I going to manage this with a newborn? It is something that many parent can manage, so I will, too. But to make it just a little bit easier, I figured out to create a couple things, like this car-seat baby blanket. It will be useful because the temperature in the house, in the car and in the kindergarten will never be really cold but on the street it might be. Yes, we used regular blankets with my first son but we also lost a couple of them. And we mostly used the stroller anyway, not the car seat…

To make this blanket, I needed a warm but not too thick fabric, so I choose the combination of fleece and cotton. I bought a 130x170cm big fleece blanket. I could have bought it as fabric, but I just didn’t have time to head to the fabric store. This way was easier for me and it only costed 3€. The other two fabric were already on hand at home.

Then I was searching online for DIY ideas but I couldn’t find anything that I liked. Or if I found something interesting, then it had no tutorial. So I came up with my own idea, made it, it turned out exactly how I wanted and now I am sharing the tutorial with you.

What you will need for one blanket:

– fleece ca. 130x150cm

– a cotton fabric of your choice for the inner side ca. 130x120cm

– an other cotton fabric for the bag-part ca. 50x50cm

I drew a “sample” or “plan” for myself and it looked something like this:

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I decided to make the rounded top but if you want to make a hoody, then make the square-kind top and at the end attache three pair of magnetic buttons.

First I took out the cover from our baby seat (maxi cosi) and layed on top of my fleece. I traced the edges and the holes with a pencil to get some idea how big this thing should be.

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In the car seat there are two sets of holes for the seat belt. Mark them both and the one down in the middle, as well!

DSC_0328Then comes the tricky part: I  just drew the whole shape following my “plan”. I folded it in half, so both sides will be the same, and then cut it out.

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Note: I could have made the bottom a bit wilder… next time.

Then I layed the leftover fabric underneath and cut around the bottom. Don’t have to cut farther then 5 cm from the corners. (Shown on the next picture)

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Then I took off the blanket and folded the leftover-halfcut fabric into half. Marked wher the top should be and then cut it.

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Now I had the two pieces I needed.

DSC_0333As the next step, I cut out the same shape from the baige cotton fabric, and the smaller fabric with the elephant pattern. I just simply layed the fleece pieces onto the cotton fabrics and cut around them.

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When I was finished with the cutting, I layed the two smaller parts onto each other, facing the right sides and then sewed just the top together. Then I turned it inside out and sewed it along the edge again.

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After that I was making a fabric-sandwich: put the cotton fabric wrong side down, then the smaller pieces facing the pattern up, then the fleece facing your markings down.

Babaules-takaro1Pin all four layers together and sew. Don’t forget to leave a gap somewhere to turn the whole thing inside out later.

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Then I made an other seam around the edge from where the bag on the bottom starts to the other end of it. I forgot to take a picture of this step but hopefuly you understand what I am trying to say. The important thing is to close the gap once the blanket is turned inside out. The good news is that your blanket is basically done. The last thing to do is to make those button-holes that you marked at the beginning. But before you do that, make sure to check if your markings are at the right place. Mine were not! I put back the car-seat together and put the blanket on top, just as we would use it. Then took a look at the seatbelt and made new markings.

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Then I rememberd, that there is somewhere a newborn addition/extension to the car seat. I was able to find it and tried the blanket out with it. I noticed that I had to make a third marking for the seatbelt-hole because it had a completely different size now. Don’t forget to do this!

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Finally I sewed the button holes for the seatbelts but only after careful measuring! And voila! The blanket was done! I am so happy with the result!

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My model was the huge teddy-bear once again. It is much bigger then a newborn (about 70-80cm) but I think you get the idea how the blanket works and looks in use.

 

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For me it was very important to have a cotton fabric inside of the blanket because my older son’s skin is sensitive to anything that is not cotton, so I had to make sure, that the little one has also cotton touching his skin, if possible. Just in case, you know.

I made some other great projects for the car that I will present in the next post. Not much baby-related but very practical things if you use your car a lot.

And at the end I still had lot of left-over fabric. My evening-project was to make a hat(again, with cotton on the inside) and a scarf for my older son. We call it the “elf-hat” and he loves it! (And as a bonus for me, I don’t have to pay an other 8-10€ for a new set of hat and scarf!)

DSC_0358What do you think of this project? I am very happy with the price. I gave only 3€ out, but with the cotton fabrics the hole blanket costs no more than 6-10€. If you buy something like this in a store or even online, you will at least have to pay 15-20€, if not more… But probably more. This sewing project took me about three hours which is not bad, I think. But my favorite  thing about this project, that I made it especialy  for our son, and that is priceless.

 

UPDATE: The blanket has been in use for six weeks now and it is really great. Here is a picture with our son (and no more teddy bear):
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Toys for boys…

Last year, just a few weeks before Christmas I had a booth at a local craft fair which was an amazing experience for me and I learned a lot about this business. Of course I took a look at the competition and I realized something: when crafters sew for kids they usually have more stuff for the girls. It is understandable because it’s much easier to make cute clothes and accessories for girls. But I decided to look at this as a challenge and try to come up with ideas for boys. Well, it’s not easy, let me tell you this but not impossible.

The first thing was for me to buy a great boat-themed printed fabric and then I made a few things using this very nice fabric. I already presented once before the playing mat but my collection has more members, such as a portable changing mat…

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a toy storage…

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… a car seat organizer with a cup/bottle holder…

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and a notebook cover (for the book of medical records that every child has in Germany)

IMGP0290Which one is your favorite?

Besides this boat themed collection I also made two fort kit. No, it wasn’t my idea, I saw it somewhere and thought it would be a great present for a bigger boy!

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The fort kit contains a blanket, a flashlight, clothes pins, carabiners, wooden rings, kitchen towel clips, and clothes line in a great bag.

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The third idea came from this website and I had one of those typical moments: “Why did I not think of this before?” Pirate eye patch!

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The next idea came when I was making head bands for girls: Why not make feather head bands for boys? For the feathers I used my scrap-felt fabrics. I am officially out of felt now… I hand stitched the feathers first, made the bands and then attached the feathers by hand-stitching.

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Unfortunately my son didn’t like them, so I had to ask our teddy bear to be my model again.

The next idea is kind of old. Do you remember when I made car-garage that you can hang? In case if you don’t remember here is a picture from one of them:

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So when I made these last year I thought I should make some kind of portable car-storage or bag for boys and here is what I finally came up with:

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This car-bag has seven pockets: four smaller and three bigger. Also has a road and you can fold it and roll it up and it’s ready to go!

Finally I made a truck-themed drawing set, as well.

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So far these are my “toys for boys” ideas. How do you like them?

Busy like a bee

This time a didn’t create anything special or new, I just played a little bit with old projects like the envelope clutch or the car seat organizer. I can’t make the same thing over and over. No, it’s simply impossible for me. I have to at least use a different fabric or if needed, make the project better and better.

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I must admit that I still have difficulties with the envelope clutch but it is getting closer to perfection each time I make one.

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Which one is your favorite?

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I think my favorites are these two. I used some scarp-fabric for the outside, batting and a beautiful blue fabric for the inside. They are soft and very colorful for the summer days!Varras+Blog61 Varras+Blog62

With two more car seat organizers behind me I think I found the best solution for the cup holder which you can check out on the picture below. It’s the one on the left side with the elephants.

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Car Seat Organizer 2.0

As I mentioned in the previous post, I will work on more car seat organizer in the near future because I would like to sell them on the up-coming craft fair in Aachen. While working on the second piece, I realized that something important was missing from the first car-seat organizer: a cup-holder! I added one to the next organizer which wasn’t easy, so I will have to come up with an other design for the cup-holder. This one works perfectly but it took a bit longer time to make it and I can not afford this luxury. Check out the picture of the first and second car seat organizers!

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Which one do you like better?

And here is one picture of the second organizer with more details:

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I even added pencil-holders and made the upper hole better looking by hand-stitching it. I think it functions much better then the first one, but let the kids decide!

Craft Fair in Aachen

A couple of weeks ago I was accepted to a local craft fair which will take place in Aachen on the 14th of June. I was really happy and now that we got back home from Hungary, I can focus on the work and the products I will bring to that craft fair. In this spirit I made twelve more luggage tags and two small, but really soft and cozy baby blankets.

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Is anyone interested in a tutorial on the luggage tags? They are a little bit complicated but it’s a great project and worth making them because they are very fun gift ideas for people that love travelling.

IMGP0160Unfortunately I couldn’t take better pictures of this owl-themed blanket. Sorry. It is made using fleece and cotton fabrics. Very easy project and looks fun!

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Finally a car-themed blanket, my favorite. It is really soft and small-sized, so it fits perfectly to the trolley or into the car-seat.

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I also decided to make more car-seat organizer for the bigger kids. Especially in the summer-time, when families are traveling more, it’s a very useful thing to have in the car. So, probably you will see more of those in the near future but I have also new ideas! Let’s get back to work!

 

Car seat organizer for the kids

IMGP0029In two weeks we are heading to Hungary again: a two day long road trip with our kid. It’s a lot of work in terms of preparation. Not just getting the car ready (which seems to be also my responsibility since I use the car on a daily basis) but also to get creative again and collect lots of fun activities for our two-and-a-half-years old son. Not long ago I published a post on travel activities for toddlers and I will share my new ideas and how did they work out after our trip. Until then here is something else: a car seat organizer for bigger kids. Especially for those who can sit up a bit and reach for stuff around them.

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I made this organizer for my son, but unfortunately his seat-belt does not allow him to reach so far ahead just yet. He must wait and grow a bit more before he can use this otherwise pretty cool organizer.

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It is cool because the kids can bring along more toys, book etc; there is more storage in the car, it also keeps your seat cleaner. You can take off the organizer any time and throw it in the washing machine and it also looks very nice and beautiful.

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I made a pattern for this organizer after measuring our seat in our Opel Astra. I guess more or less it would fit in any car and I promise to make more and upload them to the web-shop as soon as I can. Until then let me know what do you think of this project and how would you use it? Or would you change anything on it?

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Tips on travelling with toddlers

I started to write this post almost a year ago but as the good weather is approaching, I feel like it’s time to finish it and give some tips to other parents who are planning a road trip with their toddlers.

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This post is not much about getting the car itself ready but preparing ourselves for traveling with a 21 month old toddler for at least 12 hours. And our son is quiet active, likes to run around and climb on things. No, he is not a girl who can sit and play quietly alone for twenty minutes… And we are totally against the electric baby toys, or giving our child an iPad, or letting him watch a movie or something on a screen. It feels wrong and unhealthy. Plus our last long trip with him was a disaster and we don’t want that happen again. We learned the lesson and this is why I prepare as many activities for him as possible. And I am pretty sure that there are many other families who happen to travel with toddlers and hopefully they will find this post very useful. My first advise would be to prepare everything in advanced (I started 2-3 weeks before traveling), do not think that these are last minutes projects! So here is my list:

1. I found many great posts and  tips online about the “travel tray”. Yes, it’s a real thing. You can buy one or make one, as you prefer.

2. The first thing on my list is BOOKS. Bring as many books as you possibly can. Beside running around reading books is the most beloved activity of my sons’. Before the road trip I bought a couple of new books, but also hid some of his favorite books a few weeks earlier. This way he will enjoy them more on the trip when he gets those back.

3. A few new and small toys. For example this wooden block puzzle seems very interesting because our son loves building and animals, as well. IMGP7204

Or these building blocks with buttons and small doors etc. On this picture you can also see the tray that we use: a plastic tray from IKEA called ANTILOP and costs about 4€. We cut the sides a bit shorter, made holes on both sides and added a belt, this way we are able to attach the tray to the seat. IMGP7272

4. Different kinds of drawing material. IMGP7212

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5. I read that many people use a baking sheet or some kind of a metal tray so the kids can play with magnetic toys. I wasn’t really convinced with the idea because in an accident a metallic try can be very dangerous for the little one. Instead we bring along our cake sheet and he can still play with magnets. And this one has a sheep on it and I think he will also like that. IMGP7195

Note: after our road trip I must say, this was our son’s favorite activity on the road. I would highly recommend it!

6. Crafting is also a good way to keep kids busy but at this age it might be a bit difficult. Still, there are options, like cutting out different shapes out of paper, color them and punch some holes in them. With colorful pipe cleaners and strings they can try to “sew” the papers. Our son loved the shoe shape and the shoe lace but he didn’t care much for the other ones. I think he did not understand why he should pull the wires through a flower or a sun. IMGP72007. Once again, I cut out a few animals out of paper and bought a bag of google eyes. We will stick the eyes onto the animals, or just create new “monsters”, as we go along. He liked this one also very much but I had to sit with him on the back seat and do this activity together. Still better then a board or crying kid. IMGP72038. Stickers. I think there is no explanation for this one. Only that it also requires some help. IMGP72069. Puzzles. We are going to visit relatives in Hungary, relatives that we haven’t seen for months. I thought my son would enjoy some puzzle games of his little cousins. And also fire tracks and ambulance car, since he is crazy about those. So I printed out a couple of pictures, glued them onto cart board and cut them in few pieces. Voila! But you can also buy or bring along puzzles, or if you have a metallic sheet, maybe use magnetic puzzles so the little pieces don’t get lost in the car!IMGP7196 10. Pompoms and a tube to stuck the pompoms into it. He loved it and still does although he is two and a half years old now. IMGP719811. CDs with children’s music and/or audio books. I read somewhere that you could also record your own voice reading a story, or ask grandma etc.

12. As I mentioned before our son is crazy about cars and the siren. He always wants to sit in front and pretend to drive. That’s why I decided to buy a toy steering wheel for him. It did not have batteries in when we bought it and as it turns out it plays not just car-noises, but also stupid children music. And it’s loud. So I am not sure about that but the little one loves it (of course). And it might be better to hear that for hours instead of crying. We will see… IMGP7214

Note: it wasn’t that bad because our son played with it for not longer than 20 minutes. I think his and our limit is set to the same… But if you can buy a steering wheel with a volume button.

13. Don’t forget to get ready for sleeping time. Bring everything what your child is used to sleep with. And maybe an extra blanket and a special pillow that is made for car-seats, like our one in the picture. IMGP720914. We do not like to play with puppets because our son loves it and he would demand on a show for hours which is exhausting. But we have puppets and lots of finger-puppets for traveling time. The finger-puppets don’t take up much place in your bag but if you have a bit of imagination they can provide hours of fun for your child. We also take them with us when we are flying. But to keep it real fun, we don’t play with them at home and it makes the whole game more fun on the road.

IMGP720715. Print out a sheet for toy cars and bring along a couple of smaller matchboxes.

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Pack up all the different activities in zip-lock bags and store them in a bag beside your child’s seat so he or she can reach in and seek for new adventures for him/herself.

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If you liked this post then you might find my other articles about “20 toddler activities for rainy days”  or “travel binder for the kids” interesting, too!

Getting the car ready for a road trip (Part 1.)

Finally the summer has arrived to Aachen, too and we are planning a trip to Hungary again, to visit our relatives. We will travel by car and the last few trips to Hungary taught us a couple of lessons. Our car (Opel Astra) is not 100% comfortable for long trips as it is, although we love our Opel and otherwise we are very satisfied with it. But a 12-14 hour long trip is a lot, especially with kids.

The first problem to solve was some kind of an arm-support for the driver. Mostly my husband drives on these long trips and after a few hours he usually has pain in his right shoulder/upper back because there was nothing to support his arm. And the pain stays with him for weeks after these long trips, which is a very bad way to start any vacation. So I searched on the internet for some kind of a solution and you can buy these parts for any car (sorry, I don’t know its official name if it has one), but they start about 34-45 Euros. Hmmm… Then my husband had an idea: try to make one out of scratch. This is how I ended up with the biggest puzzle in my life (so far). Take a look:

IMGP7172I measured the place between the two car seats including the space for the seat belts and the parking break. Then I took a shoe box and lots and lots of tape. After a couple of hours of taping and trying it out in the car this box was my final result. Looks crazy, right? I also cut out a circle for a plastic cup, that used to be a salad-cup, and our mug or a small bottle of water fits into it.

IMGP7173I stuffed the whole box with wrapping paper for more stability. Then I taped some betting (which I usually use in patchwork blankets) onto the front top of the box.

IMGP7177After that I measured a good piece of fabric (inside out!) for upholstering.

IMGP7178Then I cut out a hole for the plastic cup and just slid it into the hole.

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This way I can take out the plastic cap and wash it or the cover of the box any time I need to. Tada!

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IMGP7182Take a look how it fits into the car:

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IMGP7187Ok, I must admit, that I have doubts that it will fit perfectly but I thought we give it a try and if something goes wrong, we can still buy the professional-arm-support-thing. We will see and I promise to get back to you and tell, what happened on our road trip.

The other ting that I bought for the car is an organizer on the back of the seat.

IMGP7193I truly believe this will be very helpful on the road.

In my next post I will show you some ideas on surviving a long road trip with your kid(s).