My Essential Travel Items for A Road Trip with Children
Between visiting out-of-state family, moving to various duty stations, and taking road trips to many of the travel destinations on the east coast, I've traveled quite a bit and have picked up helpful travel tips along the way. The most basic tip is that you should pack quite differently depending on whether you're going to be flying or driving and whether or not you'll be traveling with children. Of the 43 million people expected to travel this Thanksgiving, a whopping 90% of them are expected to be traveling by car. I'm sure a large percentage of those people are traveling with children. A stress-free road trip with kids begins with a few essential travel items.
A Quick Look at My Essential Travel Items for A Road Trip with Kids
1. Zip-up, fold-down back seat organizer.
2. Large back seat organizer for between the seats.
3. Emergency Clean Up Kit: barf bag, paper towels, wet wipes, trash bag, hand sanitizer, etc.
4. DVD Player, mini Play Station, etc.
5. Hanging Toiletry Bag
6. Large plastic bags for separating and packing children's clothing.
7. Separate Tote Bag with supplies for last-minute outings like swimming or hiking.
8. An emergency trunk kit with warm blankets, extra water, etc.
The Zip-up, Fold-down Back Seat Organizer
I've been using this back-seat car organizer for years. It does have a few negative consumer reviews, mainly the fact that it doesn't always fold in a way that reaches the child's lap. However, I still love it and find it very helpful for several reasons. It attaches securely to the back of a front seat and is a great place to store craft supplies and extra snacks. Because it zips shut and out of the way, it can easily be left in permanently for short car trips as well. In addition to extra craft supplies, I like to keep a few small non-perishable snacks in mine too.
Large Back-Seat Organizer for Between Seats
This has to be my number one essential car organizer, especially during long drives with the kids. Most of these back seat organizers have adjustable dividers and side pockets for storing snacks, small toys, books, craft supplies, etc. What I love the most about mine is it zips shut on top and has a front strap, converting it into a small travel tote. It also comes in handy on short drives. I purchased mine at Target a very long time ago, so I'm sorry to say I can't provide a link to purchase that exact same kind.
Emergency Clean-Up Kit
Even if your children have yet to experience car sickness, there is a first time for everything. When traveling with kids, you really want to be prepared for any number of possible messes (and any number of bodily fluids). I use the storage pocket behind my driver's seat to permanently store extra trash bags, paper towels, wet wipes, sanitizing gel/wipes, an extra bottle of water, and a small box of baking soda. The baking soda is for deodorizing car seats that have been thrown up on; you don't want to spend hours in a car that smells like vomit!
Whether you have a portable DVD player, Nintendo DS, mini Play Station, or some other hand held electronic device; any and all of the above will keep your kids quiet and will keep you sane for a good amount of time, at least half an hour. Just remember that with electronics come batteries that need to be charged. Never leave for a road trip without a versatile car adaptor charger.
Hanging Toiletry Bag
I often use a hanging toiletry bag for myself, but I find it essential whenever I'm traveling with my children. Even if you're traveling by car, use small travel size toiletries so you can fit all of your and your children's bath & beauty items in it. Children tend to be intimidated by new places, so they're likely to follow mommy into the bathroom when it's time to primp or time to get ready for bead. It makes it easier to have all of your bath items in one bag rather than having to dig through suitcases for small items.
Extra-Large Plastic Bags or Pack-It Folders
When packing for children (especially little girls), it is so much easier to pack by outfit or event. I like to keep matching outfits and accessories separated to make getting ready easier and to keep clothes from getting wrinkled. I like using Pack-It folders for myself, but whenever I need to separate several outfits of my daughters', it's much cheaper and takes up less space to use extra-large plastic bags. It's also a great way to pack if you are making multiple stops and staying at more than one overnight location. If you want to keep all of your things and your children's things in one large piece of luggage but keep them separate from each other, try packing cubes.
Separate "Fun Tote" Filled with Items for Swimming, etc
This one depends on where you're traveling. The last time I went on a weekend trip, I knew that a trip out to a beach might be a possibility. I packed a large tote bag with my girls' swim suits, sunscreen, sunglasses, etc. When we decided at the last minute to make that side trip out to the beach, rather than having to dig through our suitcases, or not have the swim suits at all, I simply grabbed the beach bag from my trunk and had everything we needed all ready to go. For cold-weather travel during the holidays, you could pack a "Fun Tote" of snow suits and warm accessories just in case you get surprised with a snowfall while you're far from home. Then the kids don't have to miss out on a fun day of playing in the snow or some last-minute sledding.
Emergency Survival Kit
In case of car break downs or getting stuck in the snow, every car should be equipped with a permanent emergency kit, filled with bottled water, non-perishable snacks, blankets, flashlights, and anything else you think your family might need if stranded.
With just a little planning and organizing, and especially with the right travel accessories, you can make traveling in a car with children less stressful. With the right travel items, you can also make it easier to pack, unpack, and find everything you need while you're at your travel destination.