Packing With Kids: Road Trip Survival

Every year at the beginning of August my family leaves our busy lives behind for a week and take a relaxing trip to the upper peninsula of Michigan. It is a beautiful place, and so worth all of the preparations that go into the trip the week before. The only downside is the eight hour car ride. The drive there and back always seems to take the most prep work of all. With a growing child and a new addition, every year has brought a new set of challenges that I have had to consider while packing for the trip.

Here are some tips I have learned along the way (sometimes by luck and sometime the hard way).

Must Haves:

The Mommy Survival Pack – I like to keep most of these items in the center console in our van, or in a bag that is reachable to both the driver and passenger.

  • Portable potty (this of course is for any child that is potty trained or almost there). A friend shared an awesome tip with me, put a diaper in the bottom of the potty and once they go toss the dirty diaper into a bag and seal. That way you can allow your children to go wherever they need to (and not like my parents who made me squat by the side of the road a few times… ahhh the good old days).
  • Baby wipes
  • Toilet paper
  • Clorox wipes/paper towels
  • Assortment of plastic bags (trash bag, grocery bags and a few gallon Ziploc bags)
  • The claw is perfect for grabbing dropped pacis and lost toys. Also if you have older children in the far back seats you can pass food back to them.  Every mom needs one of these!
  • Earplugs and Tylenol (just kidding… well sort of).

Road trip snacks – I highly suggest pre-packing snacks in sandwich or snack bags so they are quick to grab and disperse because you know when one person wants a snack, then everyone wants a snack. For the toddlers I really like the Munchkin snack cups.

  • String cheese
  • Grapes
  • Go-Gurt (or fruit pouches for the little ones)
  • Goldfish crackers
  • Pirate’s Booty
  • Baby carrots
  • Suckers
  • Granola bars
  • Cheerios (of course)
  • Water bottles
  • Juice boxes or pouches

Kid’s Survival Pack (ages 4 and up)

  • Books – I like to pick up a few new books for my six-year-old daughter, Ryleigh, before we go on a road trip. She loves the Pinkalicious series and anything girly. She also has a Leap Frog TAG Reading System and will spend hours looking at a new TAG book.
  • Coloring books and crayons – We have special coloring books that we bring out specifically for road trips, as well as a box of crayons (which you can normally get at big superstore for very cheap before school starts).
  • Little portable lap desk -  We bought our desk from Michaels when Ryleigh was three and have been using it for long trips in the car as well as activities around the house. They are especially great for road trips, though, because you can pack activities in both of the sides and it can double as a food tray also.
  • Movies – This year will be a first for us because we have never had a DVD player in a vehicle before, but in March we purchased our first minivan (or “mama mobile” as my husband likes to refer to it) complete with a DVD player.  I am excited to be able to use it this year.
  • Road trip games – While cruising for new ideas on Pinterest I came across a blog entry called  “The ‘Road Trip’ Date” by The Dating Divas. They have some awesome free printables and even a destination check off game that I know my kids will love. I will definitely be using these free printables for our next road trip.
  • The kids’ own toys – I let Ryleigh choose a couple of her toys to take with her. I am sure this year it’ll be a couple of Barbies since they are currently her favorite.
  • Nintendo DS or other handheld video games – I allow Ryleigh to play with her DS in small increments, but I do notice behavior changes if she’s at it too long.
  • Pillow or Pillow Pet and blanket – Maybe they will be too excited to sleep, but maybe not, and the last thing you want is a whining kid because he or she is too cold and uncomfortable.

Toddler’s Survival Pack (ages 1-3)

  • Attachment toys – Do not forget the blankie, lovie or teddy that your toddler holds dear!
  • Movies – Lilah loves the Baby Signing Time series, and when Ryleigh was a toddler she could not get enough of Backyardigans!
  • My Pal Violet (or Scout) is a great way to entertain a little one. It’s such a great toy. There is a lot more information about it in this review.
  • Browse Pinterest – You can find ideas such as no mess finger painting and a felt quiet book (like the one we found here) are great options at well!
  • Magna Doodle – It’s an excellent travel toy! There’s no mess and it come in all kinds of different shapes and sizes.  Both of my girls love the Magna Doodle!
  • Mirror for rear facing toddlers – Lilah is currently 16 months and rear facing. We do not have any intentions of having her forward facing right now, so having a mirror for her to see the driver and for the driver to keep an eye on her is a wonderful thing – especially on long car rides!
  • iPod or iPad – They can be great tools, even for little travelers. The Grasshopper Photo Touch apps are wonderful for keeping your little one’s attention, and they are educational as well!
  • Mini Pillow Pets – These can make a great friend for toddlers to snuggle with on road trips. Lilah has the little purple lady bug and she sleeps with it every night, so for us, that is a must!
  • Toy links – You can use toy links to creatively suspend a snack cup and a sippy in your toddler’s reach. This comes in handy on long road trips, especially if you have a little one that likes to throw their cups around like mine does.
  • Glow Worm – It’s a great toy for night time drives if your child has trouble with the dark. The glow is enough to soothe without distracting the driver. Plus, as an added bonus it has sweet lullabies it plays to (hopefully) put your sweetie to sleep.

Every road trip and child is different, and even for us every year has brought on new challenges. We try to do at least one of the trips (either there or on the way home) at night time so the kids will sleep. Also, do not expect to get to your destination in the amount of hours that your GPS tells you that it will take. Children mean more stops. It’s hard on them to be cramped up in those car seats for too long! Finally, relax. The idea of a long road trip with the kids can be so daunting, but the vacation that awaits you is TOTALLY worth it!

3 Responses to Packing With Kids: Road Trip Survival

  1. That portable potty with the diaper is an amazing idea! I would have never thought to do that but its a GREAT idea!

  2. We are about to embark on our first road trip (20+ hours, each way) with out 7 month old. Thanks for your tips!!

  3. Pingback: Ask the Mamas: Road Trips Mama Say What?! | Mama Say What?!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>