We take a LOT of road trips. I feel like I’ve learned from experience some tips I want to share with you. We have tried a lot of things. We have regretted some of them. We have traveled with babies, toddlers, and now school-age children. The best packing and activity tips I have found are compiled here.
1. Plan, plan, and plan some more.
Really, no trip should begin without a host of lists and notes. I write down the weather along with each day’s activities, so that I can plan what to pack. It’s nice to know that on Thursday it will be chilly in the morning (pack Uggs and sweatshirts) and we will be hiking (hiking boots!) and later on showering and eating out (a nice outfit). We plan where we will stop for food and gas on the drive as well.
2. Pack for the way you want to live
Do you like living out of a suitcase of jumbled up clothes? I don’t! We pack in plastic, interlocking lid bins from Home Depot. Each family member has a dedicated bin with his or her name on it. They are heavy-duty and stack uniformly and nicely. Because we are RV campers, I usually take my clothes straight into the closet of the trailer, leaving things on hangers and putting folded items in the drawers. For the kids, my favorite method is to pack each day in an extra-large ziploc bag. This limits rummaging and complaining, two of my least favorite things. 🙂 I save the bags to reuse over and over. I label them with my label maker, and those labels can be peeled off for future bag use. For a typical day I’ll pack the kids layers: undies and socks, pants, shorts, a t-shirt and sweatshirt, and pajamas. That way, whatever the day brings, they have things that match. I recommend packing cubes for adults, and I usually pack like items together: all pajamas in one cube, all undergarments in another. My clothes don’t fit in the ziploc bags, plus I do know how to match things. Hehe.
3. What rides in the car with you?
If your kids are like mine, they’ll want fifty random things with them in the car. Usually a blanket, pillow, some toys, books, and a lot of snacks. Josh really can’t handle this. I try to keep our in-car activities (which will also double as trip activities) and snacks in one structured basket. This one collapses when not in use.
4. Lap trays are your friends.
I have two repurposed cookie sheets that I bring along for the kids on road trips. They are lined with bright contact paper (totally unnecessary) and serve as lap desks and tables. The raised edges keep crayons from rolling away, and they are perfect for eating a meal on the road. They are easy to wipe down and sanitize, then get back to fun. As a bonus, magnetic cookie sheets can be fun with magnetic letters or other magnets.
5. Options are good
If you know kids, you know that their attention spans can be quite short. This basket looks like total overkill, but sometimes they will do one activity for two minutes and move on. I have a plastic drawer thingie (technical term) where i keep all kinds of things so that i can change it up and provide fresh, new activities for different trips.
Some things i like to bring;
- Road games (you can spot a wooden memory game; also car scavenger hunts, eye spy bags, and things without parts that can be lost, like a Rubik’s cube, are fun to have.)
- Coloring and activity books
- Highlights and Hive Five magazines
- Reusable sticker books
- Magnetic letters
- Drawing paper
- Stamping markers
- Chapter books
- Felt activities (I have a build-a-pizza set I made)
- Inexpensive lined notebooks
- Magic ink markers and books
- Dry erase pockets and pens
6. Mother-in-law hack
My MIL came up with a great activity: she packs a baggie of Cheerios or fruit loops along with a piece of string with a washer tied to one end. The kids can happily load the cereal onto the string, eventually making a necklace which they can then eat!
7. Don’t forget refreshments
Here i packed snacks in a ziploc bag with 2-3 plastic trash can liners. These are small but hold a lot, and great for banana peels! I bring small cups in case we have something shareable (like trail mix or pretzels). We usually have lidded containers for water with a jug to refill them—of course you don’t want to drink too much water on the road! And of course, napkins and wipes are a necessity if you’ll be eating any more than snacks on the road.
Enjoy making happy memories on the road!