A little planning can make a family road trip run smoothly.
Research shows that nearly 100 million Americans will take a family vacation this year!
If you’re planning to get away with the family, remember that getting there is half the journey. While some people may be reluctant to get on an airplane at the moment, a family road trip avoids the crowds and will let you see a ton of different sites along your route.
Planning an epic family road trip might sound exhausting, but it doesn’t have to be. Today, we’re eliminating the guesswork and telling you everything you need to pack to make sure your vacation goes off without a hitch!
Put down the map, take a deep breath, and let’s get started.
We’ll get to the fun stuff, soon! But first, let’s get the basics out of the way.
Consider how many days you’ll be traveling, including the day you leave and the day you return. Start by setting out enough clothes so everyone has a clean outfit for every day. If you’re planning to use a laundry facility at any of your stops, you might not need to pack as many clothes.
As you pack, remember: It might be chilly in the Pacific Northwest, but if you’re driving across the country, it could be sweltering in Florida. Use a tool like Accuweather to get the daily forecast for everywhere you’re planning to visit. It’s often easiest to pack layers of different weights of clothing so you’re always prepared!
Other must-have essentials include:
- Cell phone and charger.
- Rain jackets.
- Accessories (jewelry, sunglasses, etc.).
Next, you’ll need to decide whether to use a paper map, a map app, or both!
While there’s something nostalgic about bringing along an old-fashioned atlas, modern navigation apps are packed with helpful features, including tools that show you the nearest gas station, fast food joint, or hotel. Still, you can’t guarantee that you’ll always be somewhere with great cell service.
That’s why it’s smart to go ahead and bring both along, if you can. If you don’t have a paper map, Google Maps and Maps.me allow you to download your map before you leave, so you can access it even when you’re offline.
Car Games and Toys
Nothing turns a pleasant family road trip sour like a back seat full of boredom.
To keep the kids entertained, be sure to pack plenty of age-appropriate games and toys that they can play with on the road. Yet, keep in mind that your car is basically your home away from home for the duration of your trip, so it doesn’t make sense to pack it full of knick-knacks.
Instead, keep it simple and bring along a frisbee or football. Take frequent stops and allow the kids to get out, stretch their legs, and play catch for a little while before loading back up. A few coloring books and a small pack of crayons are also great for tiny artists.
For those long stretches of highway that seem to never end, family travel games are always a hit! One insider tip? Look for magnetic games so you aren’t constantly retrieving tiny pieces from between the seat cushions. You can find magnetic sets that include a few different types of games in one, portable container.
While family car games can be a blast, there will inevitably be moments when everyone wants a little downtime. That’s why it’s a great idea to bring tablets and headphones along. This one move can save your sanity and help the entire trip go more smoothly.
Just be sure to bring enough pairs of headphones for everyone! The older children can listen to their music while the little ones can play a book on tape. You can even download movies onto their tablets before you leave!
Not a huge fan of your teen’s angsty rock phase? Invest in some noise-canceling headphones so everyone can enjoy the ride. Most children’s headphones come with volume control to protect their sensitive hearing.
Finally, think about the internet. If your crew might want to watch YouTube or scroll social media while you’re traveling, bring along a wireless hotspot so you’re always one click away from connecting. Don’t forget to take a portable battery pack with you to charge your devices when they’re getting low.
UV Window Shades
No one wants to ride for hours with the sun right in their eyes. Before you leave, buy a few UV window shades and keep them stashed in the car for quick access. Not only will this aid in safety and visibility, but it will also help keep your vehicle cooler!
Sure, it’s not the most exciting thing on this list; however, if you ever need it, you’ll be glad you brought a first-aid kit along. Resist the urge to pack the entire medicine cabinet and stick to the essentials. At the very least, you’ll need:
- Ice packs.
- Bite and sting ointment.
- Pain medicine.
Car Seat Organizers
When the car is loaded down for a family road trip, it doesn’t take long for it to go from pristine to a pig sty.
To make sure you can always access what you need, slip car seat organizers over the back of the driver’s seat, passenger’s seat and seats on the second row (if you have a third row). Use these to compartmentalize toys, water bottles, snacks, gadgets and more. This way, the kids can easily reach for what they need and your car stays neater, mile after mile.
Snacks, Snacks, Snacks
Finally, let’s talk road trip snacks!
Of course, we’re going to suggest that you stay away from the sweets to keep your teeth healthy, but there’s another reason why it’s best to pack healthy foods. When you load up with sugar and carbs, it can lead to driver fatigue and general attention issues.
While it’s easiest to stash potato chips, soft drinks, and cookies in your bag, reach for options that will fill you up without weighing your mind or body down. Stick to raw nuts, granola bars, fruit, and carrot sticks, and portion them out before you leave so everyone has an equal share.
Hit the road and enjoy your family road trip.
You’re about to embark on one of the most memorable experiences of your life. The moments you’ll share together on your family road trip are bound to bring a smile to your face for years to come.
Speaking of smiles, go ahead and visit your pediatric dentist before you leave! That way all of your appointments are taken care of and you can relax and enjoy your trip. Contact us today to schedule an appointment and we’ll send you off in style!