A few weeks ago we took our first road trip as a family of four and somehow we all survived. Barely. Our patience was tested, our exhaustion doubled, our shoulders slightly sunburned, but our kids loved every second of it. And of course it was a learning experience, we figured out some new tricks (that I’ll let you in on) so next time hopefully the struggle won’t be as bad.
My favorite part of our family vacations is planning and organizing it. Sounds weird but it’s the only part of the whole thing that’s not chaotic. Plus, I love surprising everyone with awesome snacks, cool activities, and fun games.
When I was a kid, road trips were our favorite family vacations. Mostly because my mom spent so much time planning and getting us super cool stuff to keep us busy. So if you want to be a cool mom, this is the list for you.
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The List ~
- clothes – I’m really bad about overpacking but this time our hotel has coin laundry so I’m going to try not to do that
- bathroom essentials – everyone needs toothbrushes, toothpaste, soaps, and whatever you know what you use
- chargers for everything – this is a survival guide so don’t forget the one thing you need most to survive
- USB car charger – why bring the chargers if you can’t use them
- tissues – because small children always have boogers
- sunscreen – wherever you go if you’re outside you’ll need sunscreen
- first aid kit – I bought one for my car because even if you never need it at least it’s there if you do
- outlet covers – we stayed overnight at a hotel last month and I didn’t even think of this until Mar went straight for the outlet after being in the room two seconds
- laundry bag/pop up hamper – those little bags they give you at the hotel hold like one pair or pants. Plus if you plan on doing laundry at the hotel you’ll need something to carry it around it
- beach gear – usually if we take a road trip we’re going to the beach but replace this with whatever for need for wherever you’re going. Camping gear, distractions from in-laws, whatever
For Mom’s Sanity
- headphones – if your kids aren’t annoying the crap out of you then your husband probably will be
- books – for those few moments of peace you may or may not get
- puzzle books – everyone has a favorite, mine’s sudoku and Jake likes crosswords. I really enjoyed having time to do some Sudoku while Mar slept and Oliver watched a movie
- coffee – do not pass on a coffee stop. I can’t tell you how many times I gave up stopping at Starbucks because I didn’t want to waste the time but I regretted it every time
- camera – you put a ton of time and energy into this vacation you’re going to want to remember it
Keep Kids Happy
- blankies & stuffed animal – each of my kids have a blanket and animal they can’t sleep without so don’t forget your kids or you won’t be sleeping either
- bath toys – I never bring bath toys so when Oliver asked he always ends up with the little bottles of soap that thankfully he can’t open yet
- bath cup – we always have to us the paper hotel cups to wash the kids and they always disintegrate within minutes
- kids activities – #1 priority is keep the small people calm and occupied. Here’s what worked for us:
- Reusable Color with Water Activity Pad ~ this was one of Oliver’s favorite things. He called it painting and it kept him busy for sooo long.
- Paw Patrol Look and Find Book ~ Oliver loves look and find books, especially when it’s his favorite characters. They also have Cars 3 Peppa Pig Disney Princesses and so many more!
- stickers ~ I bought a three ring binder, filled it with lined paper, and Oliver had a ball playing with the stickers. I was nervous about having them everywhere but he actually did really well with only sticking them on the paper.
- car sun shade – do you want to listen to your kids scream for hours because the sun is in their eyes?
- kids books – for quiet time in the car and bedtime stories
- ipad/tablet/kindle – we don’t let the kids play on our phones or my kindle but I did download a movie on my kindle for Oliver to watch when Mar was asleep. He got bored and wanted to do something else halfway through anyway
- snacks – this is obvious but can quiet a screaming child in mere seconds
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- keep a cooler in the back filled with water. I have something like this soft cooler and fill gallon sized ziplock bags with ice from the hotel ice machine
- bring bubbles or a soccer ball for pit stops so the kids can run around before getting back in the car
- use a cereal container with a plastic bag in it for a garbage can. We always only used a plastic bag but it would always spill out and end up all over anyways
- use suction cup shower caddies on the windows next to the kids for them to keep extra things in and you don’t have to constantly reach back to get things off the ground. We didn’t use them this time since the kids are too little to reach but definitely will when they’re bigger
- pack a jewelry box organizer with an assortment of snacks for the kids (or your husband)
- try Road Trip Bingo to keep the kids (and again your husband) busy for awhile. We got these from target but they’re also on Amazon
- get a travel toiletry bag and get travel sized shampoo, conditioner, and body wash. I never thought they were essential until I finally got one for this trip and it is sooo worth it!
- instead of packing everyone a different suitcase, use one or two and separate their clothes with packing cubes
- figure out what works best for sleeping arrangements. The first night we got a room with just two queen beds. I assumed Oliver and Mar were big enough to just sleep together. I assumed wrong and they just wanted to mess around and play. The rest of our trip we figured out the best way to tackle this issue. We would get a one bedroom suite, ask for a crib and put Mar to bed first in the crib in the bedroom. Then we would set Oliver up on the pull out sofa and when he was asleep would very carefully wheel Mar into the living room with him. Then Jake and I were able to stay up, watch a movie, and eat the good snacks without waking the kids up.
- pack your stuff, kids and husband in the car first then run back to the hotel to do a quick sweep to make sure you didn’t forget anything
- try to plan around nap times. If it works for you, great. If not that’s why you spent a ridiculous amount of time planning things for your kids to do
- we try to save money by only going out for dinner. If the hotel doesn’t offer free breakfast I bring instant oatmeal packets. Then just use the hot water from the coffee machine. For lunch we either make peanut butter sandwiches or cheese, crackers, and beef sticks
- if you have a baby still in diapers bring diaper bag dispenser so you don’t have to smell it for the rest of your stay
- pack one suitcase for a lay over night. We stopped halfway the first night and I packed everything we needed for that night in a separate suitcase. That way we had half as much to bring in and it was so much more organized
- get a Garmin GPS. I know you’re thinking “I’m just going to use maps on my phone”. That’s what we did and trust me we were wishing we had an actual GPS. I can’t tell you how many turns we missed because I was distracted by kids and forgot to tell my husband where to go. Plus maps on my phone always seems to take me stupid or longer ways
- if anyone gets motion sickness in the car pack dramamine or a motion sickness wristband. This is something I didn’t think of but wish I had for my husband. He gets sick when he has to turn around to help the kids, which he had to do whenever I was driving.