So you have this colossal road trip coming up, and you haven't packed anything yet! Now is the time to prepare yourself and your kids so that they have fun, keep themselves entertained, and can get creative while they're in the backseat, riding along.
1. Plan the Time of Day for the Road Trip
Some parents prefer to do part of their road trip in the afternoon or evening, with the last leg of the journey at night, so that the kids can sleep away part of the journey. Some prefer to leave at 5 am before the sun comes up, so they can see the sunrise. Whatever time of day suits your preferences, be sure to leave promptly and be prepared! Pack everything the day before and double-check your packing list before you go to bed.
2. Pack Lunches and Snacks
- Sandwiches (peanut butter and jelly or ham, turkey, and cheese with mayonnaise)
- Chips, pretzels, or goldfish
- Fruit Juice, water, Gatorade
- String cheese, fresh fruit, sliced veggies (like carrots or celery), crackers
You will want to pack some lunches, snacks, and drinks for the kids. You can put their meals in small containers to keep them fresh! Going out to eat gets expensive, and you can save both time and money by packing some food and refreshments.
3. Pack a Bag of Toys and Games
You may want to bring your kids' favorite cuddly stuffed animals for therapeutic purposes. You can pack a drawing tablet with crayons, notebooks, pencils, or coloring books. Anything for your children to get creative and color, draw, or write during the trip.
You can purchase small versions of your favorite games like Trouble, which don't have too many pieces to get lost and work well for car trips. You can also bring Bingo, Uno, playing cards, Old Maid, Battleship, Guess Who, and other games. Try to limit your games to a few, or just what you can fit into one bag.
4. Pack a Portable DVD Player, MP3 Player, and Portable Game System
A portable DVD player (Make sure it's charged!) is great for watching a movie in the car after the sun starts to go down, or if you're trying to make the afternoon go by quicker. You can set it in the middle on the console or upfront so that everyone can see. Movies are great for passing the time. Consider buying a charger that hooks up to your car too.
An MP3 Player may be a good idea for passing the time as well. If you have several kids, limit the time they spend listening to music or podcasts, and make sure they share.
While one child is listening to music, the other may want to play a Nintendo Switch or classic Gameboy during the car ride. Keep an extra pair of batteries on hand, and again, make sure the kids share and limit their time playing.
5. Pack Some Books
Reading is an excellent method of passing the time. If your children are in the Summer Reading Club at their local library or have summer reading assignments for school, this is a great time to catch up on some reading and earn a ton of points for hours hitting the book. Encourage your children to read to each other or read out loud to everyone in the car! If they don't want to read, suggest an audiobook.
6. Bring Pillows and Blankets
Your kids may get too cold with the AC in the car, so it's always a good idea to bring some throw blankets and some neck pillows just in case. Encourage your kids to get comfortable (This will encourage sleeping for later too).
7. Pack Clothing That is Simple and Useful
If you're throwing your children's clothes around, wondering what you should pack, make it simple. Overalls for young kids work great. Pack some T-shirts, shorts, or pants (depending on the weather). Put in underwear, socks, a pair of sandals (again weather-dependent), sneakers, and one beautiful dress or boys' dress clothes with dress shoes in case you decide to go somewhere nice and need to look a little more elegant, like a church or a fancy restaurant. Try to pack bottoms that go with multiple shirts, and clothing you can wear a couple of different ways.
When you're packing, fold the clothes into seconds or thirds vertically, and roll them up into cylinders. This method helps you fit more items in the bag or suitcase, and the clothes will come out wrinkle-free! Be sure to keep your shoes in a separate area or bag.
8. Pack Medicines and First Aid Kit Essentials
Pack any medications you or the kids take. And be sure to bring a small first aid kit in the car. You can fill it with
- Medical tape
- Cotton balls
- Rubbing alcohol
- Flashlight with batteries
- Tummy-ache medicine
- Indigestion tablets
- Tablets for car sickness (motion sickness)
- Anything else you may need on the go
9. Road Map and Directions
GPS and phones are lovely, with directions and GPS and everything at your fingertips. But what if your phone dies and the charger inside the car is not charging fast enough? Your best bet is to print out a map with written directions just in case you can't rely on technology for the entire trip. It's good to know what businesses and locations to look for along the way. You can make your map with the highway and roads laid out, landmarks, estimated time on each street, and estimated mileage.
Map-drawing or map-making is also an excellent time to plan anywhere you may stop for gas, food, drinks, souvenirs, etc. Let your kids see the map if they feel scared about where you are headed and let them tell you where the route leads so they can participate. List some parks or places for walking if you'd like to allow the kids to play or stretch your legs at some point.
10. Bring Chewing Gum
Often when you are traveling in certain areas, your ears can pop from the environment just like they do on an airplane. Relieve your kids of ear pressure and help your kids out by giving them some peppermint chewing gum. The gum will help distract them from the popping and may also help curb their appetite if it's close to dinner, and they don't want snacks.
11. Bring an Extra Gas Can
You never know when you may run out of gas or not find a gas station for miles, it's always a good idea to have a full extra gas can in your trunk. You will be glad you set one aside for emergencies!
Well, this list should help prepare you for any kid-friendly road trips you have coming up. The most important thing is that you spend quality time together and that you have fun!