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Use this road trip checklist when you travel with your family this vacation season.
Road trip planning is everything.
I have been mothering for over 30 years. My family has taken many, many road trips and they have been great trips. Not perfect trips, mind you, but no out-of-control kids for hours at a time. No miserable days wishing we were anywhere but in the car together! We truly have some great memories from those times together.
I've been asked what are our family's secrets for a happy road trip. The real key lies in two distinct areas. Adequate planning and appropriate expectations. Without these two key areas, you'll find your vacation is more frustration than fun.
Stress less and enjoy your vacation more. Take advantage of preplanning and utilize a road trip check list.
Using a road trip checklist, get planning!
Ask yourself some simple questions about your upcoming road trip.
==> What are the dates of our road trip?
==> How far is this trip?
Are we talking hours or days here? Across town or across the country?
The longer the road trip the more activities a parent needs to plan and have on hand.
==> How much is our road trip costing us?
Do we have monies set aside for our trip? Do we need a monthly budget for our vacation?
==> How many stops are planned?
Bathroom breaks, eating breaks, stretch-our-legs-breaks are all
necessary when doing a road trip with a family. It can be fun for two
adults to see how long they can travel without actually getting out of
a car, but it's not a great idea with kids.
==> How are we traveling?
Road trip planning means taking a look at the space you will have available.
There is a huge difference between traveling in a small, compact car
with five people than traveling in a large, roomy van with five people.
I know because we've done both. Years ago we moved from Colorado to
Florida with five of us in a small sedan. We looked like cockroaches
scattering when we got to our destination! When we bought our van we
knew we were sacrificing things like gas mileage so that we could be
happier just going to the grocery store. Our kids have great memories
of traveling in that van (we had it for ten years).
What about you? On your road trip, will your family be
cramped? __ Have ample space? __
==>The bottom line is that if you are going very far and you must travel in quite cramped quarters you will have to plan even better. Look for a checklist of road trip activities below.
Road trip check list of things to take in your vehicle.
This seems obvious but you'd be surprised how many folks simply forget
about it. Travel with plenty of snack foods and drinks and you'll have
happier travelers no matter what their ages.
(Don't forget water.)
==> Road trip snack tips include...
* Choose less messy snacks over the sticky ones. The mess will spread like wildfire so why even go there.
* Choose healthier snacks over only taking junk food. Sure, include
your family's favorites, but tummy aches come from too many junky
snacks. Who needs a carsick kid? My family's travel favorites include...
* Choose foods you don't always give your family. Tell them plainly
this is a time for special treats. Then YOU choose the treats. Also, I
have always leveraged snack time on a trip by pointing out that snacks
are for those who are behaving and enjoying the ride...troublemakers
and whiners don't need snacks.
- fresh fruit
- popped corn
* As with the snacks, choose plenty of drinks, but minimize the sodas
and increase the waters (flavored and plain), juices, (boxed) milk.
Yes, lots of drinks equals more bathroom stops. But frequent, short
stops are good for everyone and will help younger kids travel better.
* You will save a lot of money taking your own snacks and drinks with
you as opposed to buying them in gas stations along your route.
Practical items to include in your road trip checklist.
__ Moist towelettes.
Don't skimp. Get a big bucket. You can use them for many, many things.
__ First-aid kit.
If you don't have one, you'll need one. Put in extra band-aids.
__ Extra clothes/underwear.
Kids + Confined Space + Time =
Messy. Especially if you have a newly-trained or still-training
potty-er with you, you'll be much happier with extra clothing.
__ Extra plastic bags.
Use for soiled clothing, trash, wet items, things that need to be cleaned, etc.
__ A sense of humor.
Include lots of this. And throw in some hugs, too.
You may like to use credit cards
and that's fine. But do yourself a favor and take along some cash.
We've found that a surprising amount of places - especially rural
areas - don't always
take credit cards.
Are you going to a friend's home
or a hotel at your destination? Don't forget the detailed directions as
well as phone numbers in case you have trouble getting there. (Yes, you may have GPS in your car or smart phone but what if those break down? I'm just saying it saves a lot of stress to be prepared for problems.)
__ Cell phones and chargers (auto-charger, too, if you have one).
Just plain handy in an emergency.
__ Emergency equipment.
(Don't overdo, just consider what you would need if you had to spend a night in your vehicle.)
- extra food or water.
- car manual.
__ A lot of patience.
It helps to remember the point of
most folk's vacations is simply to be together, NOT a particular
__ Camera/video camera.
Preserve those memories of your road trip.
__ Necessary phone numbers.
Not only do you want to have
phone numbers for the places you're going, but you'll want phone
numbers for someone back home in case you need to call and have
someone check on your home or deal with an emergency. Jot these numbers down on the back of your road trip packing list or double check to make sure they are already in your cell phone.
Road trip check list of things to do as the miles fly by.
__ Have a special bag for each child filled with fun activities they've
never seen before.
__ Compile a collection of travel games before you leave home. Make sure these are games you are willing to play and have a lot of them! Have all necessary pieces/info/printouts
__ Look online for interesting sights to see along the way. One of the
great joys of road trips is that you can learn about the places and
people along the way.
__ Movies/DVDs/music/radio programs.
If you have car players for these fun activities, great. Kids can pass
a lot of time watching a movie or two or listening to recorded radio
programs. Make sure these video/audio choices are family-friendly and
limit kids' usage of individual music or video games. This is supposed
to be a family vacation, remember?
__ Read stories, mysteries, jokes or brain teasers aloud. We have
solved many a riddle or teaser driving down the highway. However, a
word of caution. This tip is not good if someone gets carsick reading!
__ Tell stories of things you did as a kid on vacation...your kids will
love this (unless they're teenagers and have heard it all before, in
which case a road trip is a great time to talk about their future).
Add your own activities.
You need a sanity-section on your road trip checklist!
Make your road trip go smoother.
==> Insist on a rotating activity time, then quiet or rest time, then
eat time, then chat time. Customize this for your own family, but you
get the picture.
- Keep some structure for sanity.
==> Insist on keeping kids in car seats as much as possible.
Seriously, we have found that if parents model good behavior insofar as
seat belt usage during normal driving activities, this won't be a
problem. Babies and toddlers have the hardest time with this and a regular
stop schedule helps a lot.
==> Our kids knew that we expected everyone to do their part to make
our vacation FUN. You can do the same on your road trip. Another key is
to make the road trip part of the fun instead of suggesting that the
only fun will be at the destination. This will eliminate a lot of "are
we there yet?”
- Have a talk with the troops ahead of time...set expectations.
* Eat at restaurants.
- Do special things you only do on road trips.
* Eat special treats you've brought.
* Have different activities planned.
* Sing songs together.
* Plan your next vacation as a family.
* How much money will the family have to save each month?
- If people are truly unhappy with the trip, use the time to discuss what it will take to travel by air next vacation.
* What are they willing to give up in order to make it happen?
* This can be very eye-opening for children of all ages.
everyone a disposable camera and a small notebook. Explain they can
take pictures (their camera must last the entire vacation) but they
must make a matching entry into their notebook
for each picture. When you get home you'll only need to edit and
assemble your road trip scrapbook. This can be a great family weekend
activity that feels like part of the vacation even after the vacation
Add your own ideas.
Use a road trip checklist for vehicle preparation.
Is your vehicle in good condition for the trip?
Be sure and check the
__ fluids, etc. before you leave.
__ Get any scheduled or needed maintenance performed before you leave.
__ Don't forget to check the spare!
Add your own list.
Last minute road trip thoughts.
*What if someone gets sick?
*Don't expect too much out of small kids.
*Need travel games? Get a downloadable book filled with fun travel games.
*What do you want to get out of this trip?
*Pack ahead if possible.
*Don't try to do too much last minute.
*Need packing tips? Try my vacation packing checklist.
*Need vacation tips? Try my vacation checklist.
Add your own thoughts.
Your homelife can really benefit from a carefully planned family road
trip. Use this road trip packing list, get out the atlas and starting
planning your vacation today.
Great comments on this road trip checklist from other visitors.
"Wonderful stuff...I know it will help with me and my siblings."
"Thanks so much for the checklist. You just made my life easier!"
More comments on using this road trip packing list.
"This was a great list and very helpful for me and my 2 year old. Thank you!"
"You are a genious! This'll really help my bunch during our trip to Newbrunswick!!"
"We are going to Disney World on spring break and will be 1,150 miles. I have found the use of the moist towels or wet wipes as you have pointed out as invaluable! I use them when driving to keep refreshed and more alert during driving! Try it, it does help and like you said they have other numerous uses! Also we have found if you use a reward system for the kids you may find that they can be easier to control in the car. Rewards can vary depending on what you know they like and can be anything from small games, treats, etc. We have two younger boys and it did work on a number of times!"
"GREAT IDEAS!!!!! they are perfect and just right for me and my BEST FRIENDS!!!!!!:)"
" awesome list! Thank you!!"
"Very good list. Thank you for posting it very helpful"
" i havent flown in years. awesome checklist!! it is very handy."
Thanks for contributing to our page about using a road trip check list.
Colleen Langenfeld is a mother with over 29 years of parenting experience and helps other busy moms around the globe at www.paintedgold.com.
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