Thursday, July 22, 2010
Travel Kits E-book Review
Today's post is a review of an e-book I have recently read entitled, "Travel Kits; A Simple Way to Bless Others", written by Donna Rees. This e-book contains 14 chapters contained neatly in 93 pages & also includes some very nice "Bonus Features"...and let's be honest, EVERY homeschool mom likes "Bonus Features"!!
The topic of this e-book struck a chord with me, probably due to the fact that our large family drives pretty much everywhere we go; but also because I remember receiving a lovely gift from some dear friends a few years ago. Reading Donna's heartfelt words and seeing the pictures of some of her travel kit ideas brought back memories of the special "travel kit" we were blessed to receive. So, my review may be tainted with some personal bias as I can honestly say, it truly is a simple way to bless someone!
In the introduction, Donna discusses the advent of her travel kits: "Car Time"! Homeschool families really do spend a lot of time together - and some of that time is spent in the car. I TOTALLY understand why she came up with this idea! Beyond simply blessing the kids during "car time", the driver of the car will also be blessed. However, Donna did not stop by thinking only of herself and her family; she found ways to bless others with travel kits. She has a short list of reasons to give travel kits as gifts - end of the school year; a family leaving on vacation; birthdays; or simply just to bless another family.
Chapter 1 - "The Basics"
This chapter is an overview. She clearly states that you can read only this chapter and then "skim" over the rest of the e-book and be ready to create some wonderful gifts. As a very busy homeschooling mother of 5 children, I really appreciate having this option! I have been known to dread reading a book or using a curriculum that doesn't allow me to "skim read" if I need to. (I'm pretty sure that a few other homeschool mamas feel the same way!)
"The Basics" chapter covers the Who, What, When, Where, How, and Why of preparing travel kits.
Some highlights include:
*Each item should be wrapped; all items go into a container that is able to fit in the recipient's vehicle.
*Travel kits can be used for regular drives (orthodontist appointments or while waiting for bis sister at piano lessons) OR for longer drives (vacations, trips to visit relatives or to visit a sibling at college)
Chapter 3 - "The Plan"
One of the key things I learned in this chapter is that the size of the car matters when it comes to travel kits. Don't give "big" travel kits to a family driving in a "small" car. This will only lead to frustration, which defeats the purpose of blessing another family.
I also learned Donna's travel kit philosophy in Chapter 3 - "The less costly the gifts are the more I can buy; and the more gifts there are to open, the happier the children will be!" She also has ideas for stretching your dollars in order to stretch the blessing, such as buying in bulk, utilizing the local dollar store, and wrapping the gifts in leftover fabric from sewing projects. And she lists some of her favorite "toys" - like the Travel Doodle (a mini version of the Magna Doodle) and Fisher Price toys, which are typically durable, portable and often educational.
Further travel kit ideas include kits for Mom and Dad; specific ideas for boys versus girls; unique suggestions for teenagers; she even includes the family pet! Donna also has wonderful ways to build a travel kit around a library book - the end result is both entertaining and inexpensive.
Chapter 4 - "The Presentation and Distribution"
Here I learned how and when to hand out the gifts. Now, before you roll your eyes and think, "How hard can it be to hand out the gifts? You just hand them out, DUH!" let me inform you that Donna has some truly fun and creative ideas for this. I'm not going to tell you everything that's in the e-book, of course, but trust me on this one - she has thought of EVERYTHING to make these kits the biggest and best blessing possible.
One key is to WRAP! every single gift. That is a huge part of the fun...the anticipation...knowing someone wrapped this gift so beautifully just for you...and finally you get to open it! It's exciting just imagining it, right? So the wrapping is important. (Her wrapping ideas are pretty cool, BTW)
And of course she reminds her readers to remember the purpose of the kit is to bless the family. So, feel free to give ideas as to how to distribute the gifts, but leave plenty of room for the family to use the travel kit as they choose. I'm sure I'm the only homeschooling mom that ever comes across as a bit pushy, something of a know-it-all, maybe a wee bit overbearing as I try to "help"...
Chapter 5 - "The Package"
Wrapping in fabric can be more cost efficient than gift wrap - look in the clearance bins and you can find fabric for $1/yard. And some crafty moms may be able to use the fabric for something else in the future.
Donna also talks quite a bit about making travel kits count when there isn't a lot of room in the car. She says that pill boxes are often free at pharmacies and grocery stores - and she has several fun ways to use them. I never would have thought of this - but I can see myself using this idea in the future.
Chapter 6 - "The Presents"
Lots and lots of pictures in this chapter. She shows us several of her completed travel kits and has a pretty comprehensive list of gift ideas, including snack suggestions and ideas for holding the gifts. The travel kit doesn't have to come in a gift bag - in fact, I didn't see one single gift bag in any of the pictures. Donna's ideas are a lot more fun than an average gift bag.
Chapter 7 - "A Little More Detail About Edible Gifts"
A much more exhaustive source of information about food. She has wise advice about food allergies, checking with parents first when it comes to snack foods, and she has a great tip about food and drinks in the car. Some families don't eat in the car, even when they travel. And in newer or rented vehicles, mom and dad might not appreciate food and drinks as travel kit gifts. Donna also reminds gift givers to include a garbage sack for all the trash - whether it's food wrappers or wrapping paper.
Chapter 8 - "A Lot More Detail About Books and Stories"
Now, for a homeschool mom, this chapter is full of useful info and tips. It's all about books, books, and more books!! What could be better than books?!
Donna gives websites for downloadable, free recordings (see LibriVox.com). And she includes ideas for using coloring books, Mad Libs, sticker books, sketch pads, college brochures and catalogs in the travel kits. The J. Peterman catalog is even mentioned! If you have never heard of it, give it a look - reading the product descriptions in the J. Peterman catalog is a great way to pass the time. There are Department of Tourism resources mentioned here, along with links and historical information. Donna thought of it all!
Chapter 9 - "A Little More About Games"
Just a few words about this chapter: scavenger hunts, post cards, Donna's "Simple Fun" section - you have to read this chapter because you really will use these ideas when you travel.
Chapter 10 - "More Inspirations"
This chapter discusses where to find good buys on travel kit items, master list ideas, and products to look for (such as gift cards & Crayola).
Chapter 12 - "Variations on a Theme"
Here she includes gift ideas hat are similar to travel kits - she has great ideas for teens that I know would be a hit in my house. There are wonderful ways to make the gifts personal by using Bible verses specifically chosen for the recipient - which really is one of the most touching and lasting gifts one can give. Missionaries, short or long term, would be blessed to receive a gift like the ones mentioned in this chapter.
She also gives samples from a gift box she made for her teenage daughter. Donna placed a daily message in an envelope - one for each day of her daughter's trip. The gift was something special from home on a daily basis. Is that a great idea or what?! I LOVE it!!!
Chapter 13 - "Helpful Websites for Traveling Families"
The title of this chapter says it all. This is a smorgasbord of websites regarding travel and tourism for every state in the Union. I'm from Kansas - our website is www.travelks.com - check it out and see if there's more to Kansas than Dorothy and Toto :)
The U.S. Territories are also listed with web resources. Don't know what all the Territories are? Well, any good homeschooler can turn that into a lesson! Have the kids figure out what they are - here's a hint: There Are Five U.S. Territories.
All in all, this book went far beyond what I expected. It's very thorough and I felt as if I could bless others with travel kits without much expense or time commitment. Donna's writing is engaging and informative, and her personal touch drew me in as I read. I will refer to this resource again and again.
And one of the best parts of the book? The "Bonus Features" at the end of the book! There are several pages of recipes, helpful hints and travel tips sent to Donna by readers of "The Homeschool Minute". (The Homeschool Minute is a weekly newsletter sent straight from The Old Schoolhouse Magazine to your inbox - check it out if you don't already subscribe to it.)
Last but certainly not least, Donna has included a "Recommended Books" list, divided into age groups. Again with the books - I love this homeschooling woman!! No matter what, I always make time to read book lists. Can I say that again, just in case I didn't make myself clear? I really, really love books! And this e-book by Donna Rees, available in The Old Schoolhouse Store, ($12.45) is one book I am sure to enjoy for years to come.
Lord bless you & happy travel kit making!
Day 34 done :)
Jan L. Burt