A family road trip can be a fun event that gives children and parents alike a chance to come together and create happy memories. It can also be a big mess, note the sad story of one Clark Griswold, fictional vacation master. A little planning, however, can help any family avoid a minor car trip disasters.
Especially on long trips, children are notorious for getting bored fast. Rather than packing everythig in the back, get a special bag specifically for important things. This should include entertaining toys, snacks, essentials, and possibly electronics if you see fit to pack them. This way, your children won’t be rooting through the trunk at every rest station, trying to find that pesky Nintendo.
Here are a few things to pack in your “Carry On” bag:
A change of clothes. This sounds silly, but there’s nothing worse than having to wait covered in juice or throw-up or pudding while Mommy or Daddy finds a place to pull over safely and digs through suitcases looking for a new shirt. Pack a set of sweats or summer clothes just in case something spills or someone gets sick.
Drinks and Snacks. I can remember many times in my youth when I, less then 10 minutes after stopping for lunch, decided I was hungry. Packing a few snacks will prevent constant stops or, worse, constant whining. What you pack depends on how much effort you want to put in and your family’s diet. Maybe Capri Sun and apple slices, maybe turkey on wheat and water. Make sure to pack things that everyone will eat and consider the temperature. If you’re driving through Arizona in the summer sun with no cooler, consider something that will beat the heat. (Anything with mayonnaise probably or won’t cut it here.)
Toys or Electronics. Pack something that will keep your children entertained for the drive. You may think you know enough car songs and road games to keep them busy, but after a six hour drive, you’ll all probably need a break. Pick your child’s favorite convenient toy (a massive stuffed animal is a little too much and might get in the way.) Electronics aren’t necessarily a bad thing, but make sure your child isn’t using it to escape the family. Remember, this is a family trip.
A Pillow/Small Blanket. A long road trip can be exhausting, and little ones will likely need a nap after a few hours of watching the lines on the road pass by. Pack a small, firm pillow for your child to rest on. (Believe me, leaning your head on the window isn’t much fun on a bumpy interstate.) A small blanket isn’t a bad idea, especially if your children are going to fight over the temperature in the vehicle.
Basic First Aid Kit. It’s always a good idea to pack a few medical supplies: Ace bandage, Band Aids, pain killers, etc. are in your standard kit, but keep your family in mind while packing. Does someone get carsick easily? Does your child have allergies? Make sure to consider the little things when packing up your medical supplies. It’s good to have things on hand, even though you won’t be using them, with any luck.
The most important thing to remember is that every family is different. Pack what you know you’ll need, even if it seems silly. Don’t assume everyone is going to be happy. Even if your headed to Disney Land, the trip there isn’t necessarily going to be perfect.