Ahhhh, summer! Time for sunscreen, beach towels, and taking to the open road. Family road trips can be full of adventure and exploration - you have flexibility to discover places off the beaten path, you are able to see the landscape change as you drive, and you are able to observe the subtle details of the towns you drive through. Whether it’s a couple of days, or a couple of weeks, a family road trip can be the most memorable part of your summer!
Having several people living out of a small space, however, can make a mess of things quickly. Being organized during a road trip can save time and prevent lots of headaches. Before you pack up the kids and head off, we’ve got a few tips for staying organized on the road.
Packing: Assuming that all family members are old enough, we find it easiest if everyone has their own suitcase. Even young children are able to pull a rolling suitcase in and out of hotels. It’s also helpful if each person has their own backpack of “Extras” (books, stuffed animals, water bottles, etc.). With this set up, it’s easy for each family member to grab their respective bags and get moving.
Collapsible bins: We’ve said this before, but these bins are awesome. They spend all their time in our car, whether we’re at home or not… and they are especially helpful on a road trip. They stay small and stacked when not in use, and can be used for so many different things!
Food: Everyone is different when it comes to food planning. If you like eating out for every meal, you won’t need to plan and organize your space quite as much. We try to pack our own food for breakfasts, snacks, and some lunches, in order to stretch the dining budget and maximize flexibility. We stop at grocery stores as needed along the way, keeping our cooler and a collapsible bin easily accessible from the tailgate. Keeping snacks in a smaller bin in the second row for easy access, along with napkins and baby wipes for messy hands and faces is helpful. Take a little time to make a lunch food bin, supplied with a rolled up table cloth, napkins and baby wipes, a small cutting board and knife, utensils, plates, and non-cooler lunch food (ex: bread, chips, peanut butter, etc.). The lunch bin will have everything you need and is easy to grab when you stop for a picnic at a beautiful spot. Having a second food bin is also helpful, for storing all other non-cooler food that does not go in the lunch bin (ex: dry cereal, extra juice boxes, raisins, bagels, etc.). This keeps the lunch bin lighter and more mobile. If you are not planning on using disposable dishes/utensils, be sure to throw in a small sponge, drying towel, and a small bottle of dish detergent in a baggie in the bin for easy clean up. Thinking ahead for all the little things makes the entire trip easier and more time efficient.
Extra Backpacks: We mentioned “backpack of extras” at the beginning – this allows each child to pick a few items they want to take. These items can include toys, coloring supplies, books, and stuffed animals. It’s really helpful on road trips for each person to also have a second, lightweight, day pack. The day pack can be filled with only the items you would need for that day. For example, if you plan on stopping to get out and explore or take a hike, you might pack a hat, sunglasses, camera, water bottle, notebook, pencil, and travel guide. Each person can choose their own items, but has to carry their own bag!
Laundry: After lots of trial and error, we discovered an on-the-go laundry system that works for us…. We hope this might give you a few ideas! We keep a small drawstring laundry bag in a suitcase to use for dirty clothes each night. Each morning as we load the car, the contents of that small bag are put in a larger drawstring laundry bag kept in the car. We keep a gallon ziplock bag with our “laundry kit” in the bottom of the larger laundry bag. This kit contains several dryer sheets, laundry detergent pods, a stain stick, and a roll of quarters. This saves a lot of hassle (and money) when we get to a hotel laundry room or laundromat. A collapsible bin serves as a laundry basket for carrying clean, folded laundry back to suitcases. This system keeps everything contained, organized, and ready to go when we need to do laundry on the road.
Plastic bin for shoes: If your road trips involve hiking, exploring, and nature type activities, you will inevitably end up with dirty, wet, or muddy shoes. A plastic bin (the under the bed type), stored in the back of the car makes for an easy and contained dumping area for messy shoes. The lid can be put on, and other bins can be stacked on top to save space. The entire bin can easily be taken out of the car and used to clean the shoes, if needed. This saves the floorboards from getting too messy, and protects blankets, stuffed animals, and other items that end up by your feet.
Drying rope: Since exploring frequently involves pools, beaches, rain, or water, it usually means you will be back on the road before clothing items are dry. Tying a small rope across the back of the car (above the packed items), creates a place to drape these items. And speaking of being wet – a second under-the-bed type bin can be kept in the back (stacked neatly under all the other bins) with raincoats, umbrellas, and beach towels.
Kid’s Basket: “mom, do you have a napkin?” “Mom, my hands are sticky.” “Mom, can you throw this away?” “Mom, do you have a Kleenex?” :-) Before each road trip, take time to create a back seat basket, with a box of Kleenex, a roll of paper towels, a pouch of baby wipes, hand sanitizer, and a cereal Tupperware container (the kind with a pour lid that opens) lined with a grocery store bag to use as a garbage can. This allows the kids to be a bit more self-sufficient and gives them easy access to those much needed items.
Road Trippers App: Have you all seen this app? It’s so much fun! You can plan your entire trip on it; routes, stops, hotels… and you can share it with your family so everyone can follow along and participate. It also shows you “things to see” along the way, in case you’re passing by something you didn’t know was there but would be neat to see. It shows you popular places of interest, quick picnic areas, or restaurant and fuel stops. It can help plan for some interesting and fun places to stop – check it out!
Ziplock Baggies: Okay, this may sound a little crazy, but really – baggies are so useful! They come in handy for leftovers, toys, items collected along the way, a dry place to keep your cell phone when it’s raining… you name it! Trust us, ziplock baggies are essential on the road!
We hope these few suggestions are helpful as you set out on your road trips this summer. Stay tuned… our next blog post, ‘Summer Road Trips: Kid’s version’, will have tons of suggestions when traveling with kids. And please, if you have any suggestions that have been helpful for you on road trips, leave us a message. We’d love to hear what works for you!