Pictures of vacation destinations and road trips filled my social media news feed over the summer. These posts highlighted the amazing places friends and family experienced, along with photos of families creating amazing memories together. With the cost of flights these days, complicated airport experiences, and just not wanting to fly with kids, the road trip scored the number one spot for family vacations this year.
I love the idea of everyone jumping in the car with minimal luggage that’s organized to perfection, fun car activities, amazing snacks ready to go, happy kids and content adults. So far, that’s not how it’s gone for my family. While I get overwhelmed at the thought of making this type of magic happen, I know two family road trip experts that use simple, yet brilliant techniques to make it easier on everyone. Thank you to Missy and Jessica for being the inspiration behind this post.
Every time I get ready for a trip I make two lists: “to do” and “to pack”. For me this means several categories listed on notebook paper with a lot of scratch outs and revisions. I recreate the lists for each trip which means I have to remember everything each time. This isn’t efficient and I always forget something. My to do list will always change depending on what’s going on in my life at the time, but my friend Jessica introduced me to her way of creating and managing a trip packing list that takes the stress out of it. She makes master lists using spread sheets for each type of trip (beach, camping, visiting grandparents…etc). Jessica lists the things she typically takes on each road trip. After returning from each trip she revisits the list and edits it to reflect things she wished she had taken, or to maybe take off things that didn’t work. She doesn’t waste time recreating it each time, or trying to jog her memory about what worked on the previous trip. I can’t wait to implement this new system before our next trip!
Missy suggests doing a trip to do list according to how your brain works and how you function. She makes a list which for her equals the plan, and adds a timeline that includes steps to execute that plan. I love how this idea allows you to make sure you have enough time to get everything accomplished. Feeling rushed is a sure fire way to make prepping for a trip more stressful.
Kid’s Clothes-Organizing them to Simplify Getting Dressed.
Step 1-Wash everything at least five days ahead of your road trip so everything you need to pack is clean and available.
Step 2-Pack in gallon Ziploc bags. Two daytime outfits, including underpants, go in each bag. Pack pajamas in separate bags including two sets in each bag. Missy suggests a separate bag for all socks.
Step 3-Pack two pairs of shoes per family member. Choose one nice pair and one that’s fine to get dirty. Pack all shoes in a plastic bin rather than suitcases, as this makes them easier to find and keeps clothes cleaner.
Step 4- Label all bags and bins with each person’s name.
I know I’m guilty of digging through a suitcase to find something and destroying everything in the process. I love the concept of packing in labeled gallon Ziploc bags to keep things organized and easy to find.
Medication and Toiletries
Pack a bin of all medications and supplements you might need. Think ahead to any possible things you might be exposed to on your trip and what you might need in case someone gets sick. This includes pain relievers, essential oils, elderberry syrup, vitamins, prescriptions as well as first aid items.
Purchase separate toiletries that you keep just for road trips rather than packing up items you use daily at home. Store the toiletries in a plastic bin that includes a small notepad. As you run out of stuff, jot the items down on the notepad, so when you return home you’ll have a list of items you need to replace.
Missy allows each of her kids to pack a backpack filled with whatever toys/items they want as long as it all fits. During the year she also keeps an eye out for things that she adds to her family’s travel entertainment stash. She only uses these for travel to keep them fresh and interesting. Examples include books, playing cards, games, and car appropriate craft items. Missy purchased sectioned trays for road trips to use for craft bins and snack trays. One idea I love is to stop by the library before a trip to stock up on books for the car. Just don’t let the kids read them before the trip! Also, be sure and save some books and activities for the ride home to keep the kids from getting bored. Missy recommends reserving electronics for emergencies so you’ll have something to use to save your sanity. One of my favorite ideas she shared is to have a secret “mama fun bag” of things to do when you start to lose your mind.
QUIET TIME-A LOW TECH SOLUTION
Jessica took a multi-week family road trip over the summer, and shared her new strategy for a quiet car ride. Finding activities that engage kids in the car without screen time isn’t easy, so when she told me how well her kids did on this trip, I was all in. She spent about $20 each for both of her older children to have their own portable CD player. I have to admit that I didn’t even know portable CD players still existed. She also provided them with a CD organizer full of music from home and audio books checked out from the library. They enjoyed the independence of each choosing what to listen to, and were engaged because of that. If you have older kids who are capable of managing an electronic device, all of this could be accomplished on a phone or tablet as well. Jessica and I are both low tech and realized putting music and audio books onto a media device like a smart phone would take us hours. A teenager could probably do it in two minutes though. Don’t forget to add the Happy Song to your playlist to keep babies and toddlers HAPPY!
Food and Drinks
Missy gives each child a pre-packed snack tray filled with a variety of yummy food items. This way they have ownership over their snacks and aren’t bugging her throughout the trip. She recommends balancing them between healthy items and treats. It is vacation after all. You can also pre-pack snacks in single serving bag to keep in a small cooler if you’d rather have more control over them. Then you can toss each kid a snack at the appropriate time. Missy suggests taking a big jug of water along to refill water bottles during stops for gas or bathroom breaks. She also provides small bins lined with grocery bags to use for trash collection. Don’t forget to pack a stash of special treats for mom and dad too! For a printable road trip snack ideas like the one below click here.
I’m so excited to use these tips and tricks for our next road trip. The days of me getting super stressed out during trip preparation are over! Do you have any road trip tips and tricks that save your sanity? I’d love to hear about them.