Remember the days when the biggest worry about traveling was forgetting your toothbrush or razor? Traveling light and with ease seems like it is one of those things that is only possible as a young adult or as a couple with no kids. These days, even a trip to the grocery store can seem a little daunting with all the little ones in tow. We’re here to tell you that it is doable, you still have aspirations, dreams, and places to see and though how and when you do them may change a little it is definitely still a possibility.
MAKE A LIST
As a big list maker, I’m convinced that a vacation just wouldn’t be complete without one. You can be as detailed or minimal as you’d like. I would even advise working on the list for a few days before you even start to pack, when you aren’t stressing about it all needing to be done. You wouldn’t think it matters how you write down a packing list, but one of the best ways to make this list is in sections or bags. As you pack you can cross off each item as it is put into the bag, BUT the trick is that you don’t cross off the bag until it physically makes it into the car. Not only does this help you make sure everything gets in the car, but I personally know it’s helped my husband because then he knows which items to take out to the car for me!
TAKE IT SLOW
In order to keep things as calm as possible, try to have the car packed and ready to go before you bring the kids out. The more it feels like an ordinary trip in the car, the higher the chance of having a peaceful start to your trip. Once you’re finally in the car and ready to go you may be tempted to start pulling out the snacks and activities you have prepped for the trip but our best advice is to hold off! Kids are bound to be the happiest when you first get in the car so you won’t want to break out your secret weapons (treats, snacks, games, etc) until they’re getting a little unsettled or grouchy.
Everyone loves a good road trip snack and I can safely say, that as a kid this was one of my favorite parts of helping prep for the trip. When we would go to the store, my mom would always let me pick two to three “trip” treats (you know the ones that are “special occasion” ones), these treats would make me SO excited for the drive. I knew that they were coming and that they would be delicious, but mom wouldn’t let me have them until the road trip was underway. You’ll be amazed at how this can help to build a little anticipation and create excitement for the actual car ride. While having a couple favorite treats is good, if you’re going on a particularly long car ride you’ll need more than that, so try to plan snacks that are healthy and not messy, eliminating sugar rushes and saving your seats.
BAG OF TREASURES
Fill this bag with the extra special trip snacks, easy crafts or activities, and any other items that might soothe a bored or anxious child. Coloring books, bracelet making supplies, a quiet book, favorite toys, stickers, and origami paper are all great things to have stashed in this bag. Many sites have awesome printable coloring sheets or road trip games. Road trip games can be fun for the whole family and can help keep the peace. There are many to choose from such as I Spy, Twenty Questions, License plate gameWhatever your game it’s sure to make time pass a little faster with less frustration. If you’re out in the country spotting animals is a sure way to capture the kiddos attention or in the city have them look for things that are their favorite color (how many red signs can we find?).
Being prepared is always important and you’ll want to be sure you’re ready for a roadside emergency with extra food, water, and blankets. But you’ll also want to think about other emergencies that may happen. Spills, accidents, and throwing up always seem to come at the most inconvenient time, which is why you’ll want to make sure you have extra napkins or wipes (lots if you have kids like mine!), large gallon baggies – these can be used in so many ways whether it be to hold soiled clothing, a barf bag, or a bathroom for a small child in extreme emergencies, extra socks for little ones (it never fails we always lose one!)
Many people, like myself, find that early (the earlier the better, IMO) travel works best for them, but no specific time seems to work for everyone. You may find that planning for the bulk of your car travel time at night is the most peaceful and efficient for you. Especially if you know your child struggles with long car rides or quickly gets bored and/or frustrated, then nighttime travel will be your best bet as it will leave you AND them in a better mood. One downside is that late night travel can be taxing on you as a parent (unless you're a night owl!), so it may be better to avoid night travel unless you know that it will be the most beneficial for you and your child. At the end of the day, only you know what you and your family need, so it's up to you to determine what works best for you and your family.