I’ve traveled more than 16,000 miles in the past 3 years on road trips with my family. I go into more detail about our travels and these tips in my radio show, but here are some of my favorite family road trip survival tips for surviving hundreds of miles in the car with kids, husband, and a trunk full of suitcases!
- Write out a packing list for each family member. Include one for any pets you’ll be taking. Once kids are around 8 years old, maybe even younger, they can use the list to pack their own suitcases. Be sure to go through the suitcases once they’re finished packing — you never know what else they might have managed to squeeze in there!
- Use these lists for re-packing at the end of your vacation so nothing gets left behind. Bathing suits and phone chargers are at the top of my list of things that get left behind. I’ve started carrying the Jackery, a high-powered battery pack, with me on trips, specifically for times when we leave a charger somewhere and need one of our small electronics.
- Store these lists on your computer so you can adjust them for different seasons (cold vs. warm weather) and as your kids get older (no more stuffed animals or Cheerios now that my kids are teens!).
- Individual toiletry bags are a huge help. Even large zip-locs, labeled with the names of each family member, are extremely useful, especially if you’ll be camping and using community showers. Everyone has their own bag of necessities, such as a washcloth, soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, etc.
- Decide beforehand on rotating systems for anything that might cause a fight during the time on the road. For example, seat rotation, picking the next DVD, choosing the next snack, etc.
- Begin making a master To Do list long before you leave on your trip. Determine when each item on the list should be done and write it on a calendar.
- Include a list of things that have to be done or packed the morning that you leave, such as packing the ice chest, prescription medications, cell phone chargers, etc. Although my Last Minute Packing List is intended for emergency evacuations, it might give you some good ideas of what should go on your own vacation list.
- For the long trip itself, having some sort of routine may help the time go faster. You might want to schedule singalong time, naps, snacks, read alouds/books on CD, exercise stops, and car games. This gives everyone something to look forward to, “…in just a few minutes!”
- If you’ll be stopping to spend the night at hotels or other places en route to your destination, pack a single, small suitcase that will serve as a sort of overnight bag for the whole family. It should contain whatever each person will need to see them through the night and into the next morning: pajamas, a change of underwear, a clean shirt, toiletry items, etc. pack this bag into your vehicle last, so it will be easy to reach each night. This is far easier than emptying out the entire vehicle and lugging everything in to a hotel each and every night.
- Healthy food is a huge plus, since inactivity is a reality of car travel. Pack fresh vegetables, cheese and crackers, fruit, healthy snack mixes, and lots of water bottles.
- Stuff a handful of plastic grocery bags somewhere handy to use for trash, damp clothes, and yes, a vomit bag if someone gets carsick!
- Pack smaller, cozy blankets and favorite pillows to encourage drive-time naps as well as something familiar in strange hotel rooms.
- Our family’s favorite pit-stops are Costco (for the cheaper gas and even cheaper hot dog meals!), Starbucks (dependable wi-fi connection and mom’s favorite green tea!) and Trader Joe’s (love their huge selection of salads!).
Road trips are also about family time. A number of great life lessons can be learned on these trips.
- Take the bad with the good.
- Life is an adventure.
- You never know what amazing thing could be around the next corner.
- America is a beautiful country and part of our heritage.
- Our family is a team.
- A shared burden is always lighter.
Enjoy your next road trip!