Of course you want to attend your cousin’s wedding in Nebraska, but you don’t really have the cash to fly your entire family out there, and driving seems, well….daunting. But you promised cousin Annie you’d be there, so road trip it is!
How to Survive the Family Road Trip:
The best way to ensure a drama-free road trip is to prepare; prepare to keep kids fed, comfortable, and entertained. We’ve done a loooooot of car travel since having kids, so here are my best tips for making sure your drive goes as smoothly as possible!
There’s nothing worse than hangry babies stuck in the car. Bust out your reusable snack bags (like these made by Itzy Ritzy, Smart Bottoms, or Planet Wise) filled with their favorite snacks, and cure their crankies while still putting miles behind you. Better yet, color/print coordinate them so you know which bag belongs to which kid in case they have different snack habits/preferences.
If you’ve got big kids, you can go whole hog and create a snack tower using these Re-Play Stacks. Oh, and we won’t tell if you pack your own grown-up snacks in something a little roomier like the Logan and Lenora clutch. Just don’t forget the napkins for cleaning messy faces and hands (and let’s face it, likely the car seats, too).
You really can’t expect your kids to sit quietly for long periods of time unless they have something to keep them entertained, but you don’t want to bring everything but the kitchen sink either because that’s a LOT to keep track of while away. Here’s what we do: each kid gets a wetbag. They can put 5-8 things in the wetbag (or whatever will fit IN the wetbag, but I don’t allow teeny tiny things I know will get lost) and that’s all they get to entertain themselves with while on the trip. Obviously, the younger the child, the more the parent needs to be involved in the choosing of items, but it’s nice giving them some autonomy over their choices. Coloring books, a small bundle of crayons (I keep my kids’ crayons in a mini-zip pouch), books that can’t be destroyed easily for toddlers, books that can be read back and forth with older kids, teethers and books they can’t chuck across the car or books that double as a teething toy for babies, toys that keep my bigger kids entertained for longer than half a second like these Joey or Julia character toys.
Organize ALLLLL the things
Before I cloth diapered and became crunchier/a more responsible consumer for the planet, I used to use a lot of space saver plastic roll tight bags and ziplocks to organize my things in my suitcase. Talk about a waste of plastic! Now, I know the glory of wet bags. Wet bags come in all shapes and sizes and can be used for organizing ALLLLL the things!
Why do this?
1. You know where everything is.
2. You can easily sort each kid’s stuff to be where each kid knows where it will be once you reach your destination.
3. It’s easy to put things back away when you get home.
Organize by kid, by topic, by day, whatever floats your boat. Varied colors and prints makes it easy when dad asks, “Where is Sam’s toothbrush?” you can say, “In the smaller wet bag along with his toothpaste inside the trains wet bag!” I usually put the travel days worth of diapers in one wet bag, pit-stop mealtime items in another wet bag, clothes for each kid in a wet bag-color coordinated by that kid’s favorite color so they’ll know which one is theirs, beach stuff in larger hanging wet bag, snacks in wet bags to keep in the car, and a wet bag for each kid with their toys for the trip (see above).
I also highly recommend making a packing list for each family member before you pack and sticking to it. This can help you organize your things as you pack, too!
Plan for breaks
You could create the most comfortable, entertaining vehicle space in the world, but even if you’ve given each kid his/her own Noggle, you’re going to have to take breaks: bathroom breaks, breaks to get out and stretch and run around, breaks to get your son out of his sister’s bubble for a good twenty minutes…breaks are good for the mind, the soul, and the body. Plan them into your drive so you don’t feel “behind” each time you “have to” stop.
Whether you’re a fast food family or a sit down meal kind of family (no judgement here!) be sure to have your littlest ones feeding utensils (infant spoons, bibs, EZPZ mini mat, sippy cups, etc) packed for the trip in one wet bag (remember which color/print!) so that meal time has a quick and easy set up and clean up.
Drive while they sleep
If you have a loooong way to go and can handle driving at night safely, then I can’t recommend this enough: drive while they sleep. It cuts down on the need for lots of entertainment, food, and rest stops.
If your trip is short, try to plan driving around nap time. If you’re driving at night, put the kids in jammies before you leave, and don’t forget to put the littlest ones in diapers ready for nighttime flow, and make sure each kid has his lovey, paci, and/or blankie (or blankies if your kid is like mine and has to have one for each hand…) to stay comforted as they sleep during the drive.