2 Apr
2015
Posted in: travel
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Essentials for Family Road Trips

SUV parked on a road in Cascades National Park

It’s spring break, and we’re staying home for the first time in years. We have an epic road trip planned this summer and vacation days are being stockpiled for the adventure. I’m antsy to hit the highways, Interstates and (sometimes) unpaved county roads to discover new places in the USA.

Even though we’re months away from our next major family road trip, I’ve already started packing in my head. I have lists tucked away in notebooks for items to pack. I’ve lost track of the number of family road trips we’ve taken, both long and short. I’ve become quite good at packing for vacations. There are several items we take with us regardless of whether we’re gone for a weekend or a week. Some items are in the vehicle on a daily basis.

Our vehicle has three rows and seats eight. The back two rows each sit two children with the middle seat left vacant in each row. The middle seat houses a bag or plastic bin that contains things the kids will need to easily reach while we’re driving. Each child also has a water bottle and sweatshirt near their seat. The following list are some of the items the kids will choose for their bins:

  1. Portable DVD player or tablet with all necessary cords
  2. A zippered DVD case for movies
  3. Headphones
  4. Reading books
  5. Workbooks with puzzles or brain games
  6. Paper and writing utensils
  7. Sticker books
  8. Small travel pillow

My husband is the designated driver for our adventures, so I keep a bag at my feet on the passenger side. My camera is always within reach, as well. I’m notorious for taking photos from the passenger side while we drive. My bag contains the following:

  1.  A small stash of snacks that are easy to pass back to the kids (nuts, granola bars, grapes, crackers, apples, etc.) — We travel with quite a bit of food on road trips, but most is kept in the cargo hold. I’ll restock snacks in the front as we use them.
  2.  A notebook and pen to keep notes along the way — I write down gas prices as we go or tally construction sites we pass through. I write down our starting odometer mileage on long trips, so we know the total amount of miles driven. I also use the notebook as a travel journal. I’ll make notes from each day of what we did and what our thoughts were. I keep the notes with other souvenirs from our trips.
  3. A folder with travel documents, notes on destinations, event tickets, and reservation documents.
  4. Chewing gum and mints.
  5. Audiobooks — We have a system when we travel on long road trips. The kids can choose to watch a movie or play games and then we listen to part of an audiobook. They know when we tell them to look out their windows that we’re (finally) somewhere worth viewing. Honestly, not all parts of a road trip are considered equal. We have driven many stretches of road that we’d never willingly choose again.
  6. Kindle — My husband is fantastic at driving in unfamiliar territory. I am not. I always make sure I have a book with me. On shorter trips, I’ll cart an actual book, but for longer trips I will opt for the Kindle.
  7. Quarters and pennies — We collect elongated or squished pennies while traveling. There are numerous places around the country that have machines. We always have a small stash of quarters and pennies in the vehicle just in case, but carry a bigger quantity on longer road trips. Elongated pennies are by far my favorite souvenir.
  8. Extra car keys.
  9. Both cell phones.

I’ve learned from hours and days and weeks traveling in a vehicle with six people what should be on-hand on a daily basis, just in case. The following items are stored in nooks and crannies in the vehicle or the cargo area. Sometimes if the cargo area is especially full, which it always is for long trips, I’ll put items in a bag at the top of the pile in the cargo area for easier access.

  1. Paper towels and plastic bags — I stuff plastic grocery bags into the middle of the roll. We’ve used the bags for general trash, wet clothes, muddy shoes, vomit, shell collecting, etc.
  2. Wet wipes — I can’t imagine a time when I won’t carry wet wipes in the vehicle.
  3. Baby powder — This cleans sand off skin like magic. Just rub a little baby powder on sand that seems impervious to wiping.
  4. Old towels — Lots of potential uses for these, including wiping off excess baby powder, drying off when caught in a rainstorm, or cleaning up vomit. I’ve used them for all three.
  5. Toilet paper — You never know.
  6. Hats — Stocking caps in the winter and baseball hats in the summer.
  7. First aid kit
  8. Sunglasses
  9. Sunscreen/bug spray
  10. Nail clippers
  11. Dental floss
  12. Road atlas and/or recreation map
  13. Picnic blanket
  14. Small football and Frisbee

Living with multiple Cub/Boy Scouts has taught me to be prepared. Keep in mind that we drive a SUV that has lots of places to store essentials. We’ve been caught unprepared before. Items have slowly been added over the years. What’s on your family road trip supply list?

 

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