Road Trips: the adventures that make for the best memories, and many parents' worst nightmare. Maybe it’s just me, but I tend to come back from road trips feeling like I need another vacation… alone... with a drink. But, over the years I have found a few tricks that can help take some of that stress away and make way for more of what road trips are really about- HAVING FUN!
The first thing we want to stress is, it’s IMPOSSIBLE to be “over prepared.” When our kids were little, I was accused more than once of “over-packing” for road trips… but you know what? Not once did I regret having to lug all that (seemingly “extra”) stuff around. Because having everything I needed to keep my kids healthy, happy & entertained made the trip easier for EVERYONE. Sure, the extra stuff may make packing the car a bit more, shall we say, interesting. But, thank goodness our generation grew up playing games like Tetris & Jenga! Now is the time to utilize those long-forgotten skills, Mama! Here’s some of the stuff we think you *REALLY* need when packing for a road trip.
While the items classified as “essentials” may change slightly depending on the age of your child(ren), it goes without saying that some things are essential for any trip, no matter how long it will be. We won’t be going into every single thing you should be packing for your baby on this post; but these are a few things that *should* be obvious, but that we have definitely forgotten to pack... often more than once.
- Wipes. Yes, even if your kids mastered the “potty” years ago- wipes should be essential for all road trips. Kids have sticky hands? Wipes. Spilled something in the car? Wipes. You just woke up from a brief nap and now your mascara is looking more like raccoon face paint? WIPES.
- And, speaking of cleaning up, we usually stash a small bag with some cleaning supplies in the trunk, which we lovingly refer to as the Uh-Oh Bag. It doesn’t need much- just a trash bag (or two), a roll of paper towels & some wipes should do it. Sure, we’ve had a couple trips where it wasn’t needed; but we’ve also had PLENTY of times where that bag not only saved the day, but also our car’s resale value! Seriously, we swear by the Uh-Oh Bag.
- As far as health & wellness is concerned, it should go without saying that any medications your child takes should be packed and kept accessible in the car. But, where is the line drawn?! In my experience, I have a hard time stopping myself from packing every remedy in my home and making something resembling a chaotic travel pharmacy. While most places we travel have pharmacies readily available, I hate spending money on things I already own but forgot to bring- so instead I bring EVERYTHING. This is not the answer, y’all. Pack smarter! One thing that works for us is getting a travel pill dispenser and filling each compartment with essentials like pain relievers, allergy relief, nausea relief, etc. This cuts down on bottles taking up space in your bags, which will leave room for those ointments & bottles of liquid medications that can’t be transported in a pillbox. (You know… 75% of all kids medications!) I’ve also been known to stash a couple bandages and some antiseptic ointment in there, just in case. Best way to not need a bandaid, is to have some with you! The other big thing that I wanted to emphasize here because I have forgotten them *SO* many times, are diaper rash cream and/or baby powder. (Clearly, if your kids are out of diapers, this doesn’t apply to you, feel free to move onto the next section.) Yes, they’re little things and relatively inexpensive if a sudden need arises- but if I could have back all the dollars I’ve spent on diaper cream alone, I’d be rich. Just bring it with you and instead, spend those couple dollars on something more important- like a drink!
For more info on Essentials to pack for Kids Under 3, check out this helpful list we found by Allianz Travel Insurance!
Fun & Games
Even though we live in a marvelous time full of devices designed to entertain even the most distractible minds, you simply cannot rely on technology always being available when you need it most. So, yes! By all means, pack ALL the devices your heart desires! But, it’s also a good idea to pack a couple items to keep your littles ones entertained for those moments when they’re having a break from tech. Here’s a few ideas we think may help get your creative juices flowing.
- One book each. For trips longer than a day or two, I like to have everyone in the family pick a book (preferably one they haven’t read yet) to bring along with them for the trip. This is not only a great way to pass some time in the car, but will also come in handy for those uneasy moments we all have when trying to fall asleep in a new place.
- Picnic for the car! Pack a “lunch” for each kid, filled with car-friendly foods (keep the condiments to a minimum, unless you want to use those cleaning supplies!) & a refillable water bottle with a *good* seal. I like to announce that it’s “Picnic Time!” around that point in the journey where everyones just had a potty break but we still have a long way to go. If you time it right, this method also GREATLY increases your chances of them taking a nap- which I think we can all agree, is ideal for everybody!
- Paper & Crayons. The possibilities are literally endless with these classic childhood staples. A few years ago, I found these Behind the Seat Folding Storage Tables and our family has never looked back! Just stash some paper and a fresh pack of crayons before you leave home, and voila! Hours of entertainment. (For minimal mess, we opt for crayons so we don’t have to fuss with sharpeners or ink… but *BE CAREFUL* leaving crayons in hot cars as they do tend to melt!)
Speaking of Arts & Crafts, while researching for this blog post, we came across this excellent piece from the people at Make & Takes with 12 super easy (& FUN) activities that you can put together for your kids, even when you’re on a budget. From tips & simple crafts, to game ideas & scavenger hunt prompts- it has some seriously great ideas that we wish we’d seen sooner!
In closing, we have one last piece of wisdom we want to leave you with: TAKE BREAKS. That moment when your family has all been crammed in a car together for hours and you’re still not anywhere near your final destination but everyone ran out of patience about 20 minutes ago? Yeah… we’ve all been there and that moment sucks for everyone. In those moments, take a break. Find a safe spot to pull off the road and get out of the car. Even if you only walk around for a few minutes, or go to the bathroom- that break could make the difference between a tolerable rest of your journey & a very, VERY long day. I promise the couple moments you add to your drive time will be well worth it in the end.
Deep breaths, Mama. You’ve got this.
-A & C