Family road trips not your idea of a good time? I hope these 5 tips help you enjoy them a little bit more!
1. Little to no time restraints
Flexibility is the key to sanity on road trips! Personally, I start to have a mild panic attack inside when I feel like we’re on a time crunch or racing the clock. Although having a set schedule can feel like you’re trying to motivate yourself to get your shit together and get out the door, it really just puts extra strain on everyone if you’re rushing and barking orders after you slept through your alarm, your spouse forgot to set the coffee maker, and your kids can’t find their shoes or their favorite stuffed animal. Having an ETD and/or ETA is great to keep your family on track to hit the road asap, but sticking to self-imposed deadlines causes unnecessary stress during what’s supposed to be a fun-filled family trip. The “whenever” approaches takes a lot of pre-planning (ie. packing the car up as much as possible the night before) and avoiding making same-day commitments that are timed events whenever possible (no one wants to miss grandma’s birthday dinner after all). Of course, there are occasions when you don’t have the luxury of extra time, just try to give yourself as much of a buffer as you can to cut everyone some slack to keep the peace.
2. Organization = Happiness
Step one, clean the car out before you put a single item in it for your trip. No need for excess clutter in tight quarters. Next, consider how much you are packing. For some reason packing for a road trip is way different than packing for air travel. Maybe it’s the perception that you have the whole car instead of a single suitcase. But when the entire family has this perspective you will soon find yourself crammed in a car filled to the brim with kids fighting in the backseat over limited territory. To help maximize space and harmony, limit each individual to 1 suitcase. In some cases, you may even be able to pack for 2 in a single bag (although, it’s much easier for summer trips). You’ll also want to limit each person to a single activity bag no larger than a backpack, that way you don’t end up with 15 of little Emily’s stuffed animals and 4 novels you most definitely won’t read.
3. Keep a small emergency bag within reach
Your car is packed up and you’ve made your way partially down the road when you suddenly realize you need something that is packed at the bottom of the pile. #facepalm. In an attempt to avoid this scenario, pack a small bag or backpack of essential items that you can place at your feet or on top of the other luggage. Some items to consider: cell phone and tablet chargers, sunscreen, Tylenol (children’s and adult) and prescription medications, tissues, hand sanitizer, bandaids, and a change of clothes for little ones in case of accidents or spills. Having some baby wipes handy is also a great idea, for little (and sometimes big!) oopses. You may also want to pack a few trash bags and definitely don’t want to forget the dog poop bags if Rover is coming along for the ride.
4. Plan major stops ahead of time
As we all know “the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” However, having a rough idea of where you plan to stop along the way will help to break up the trip into smaller segments so the trip doesn’t seem never-ending and it will take the guesswork out of the best place to take a bio break, stretch your legs, and refuel your family and your vehicle. The last thing you want is to be in need of gasoline and a good meal with nowhere (safe) to stop. This is obviously much easier when traveling along a familiar route and may take a bit of research if it’s not a path you’ve taken before. I promise that a few minutes of planning ahead will be well worth it! If you are looking for dog-friendly pit stops, I recommend checking out Bring Fido to help you find restaurants, parks, and hotels where the whole family is welcome. They also have an app for iOS and Android for on the go convenience.
5. Healthy snacks
Everyone eats worse when they are on the road, it’s just a fact of life. Even though you and I both know you will likely have at least one burger and fries on the trek, it’s always helpful to have healthy snacks readily available so you and the kiddos don’t automatically gravitate to the candy and chip aisle at your next pit stop. Having a few things on hand aids in minimizing hangriness and unnecessary stops. I usually pack a large insulated bag (with an ice pack or 2) with a few water bottles, hummus and carrot sticks, applesauce or yogurt packs, z bars, nuts, and some fruit. Apples and clementines are usually a hit and require minimal cleanup. And don’t forget napkins! Lots and lots of napkins to stash in the center console, the glove compartment, and a stack in the back seat for easy access.
Do you have any road trip tips to add? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!