Take what you think you need, then cut it in half. Maybe in half again. Seriously.
Honestly, I know I packed way too much for my littles. I am sure the rest of us could have paired down too. For our younger ages (8,6,4,2) I assumed I would need to change them more because of getting dirty easily etc. We could have been just fine with 3 outfits each kid. Instead, I believe I had packed 7, worried I wouldn't get a chance to do laundry. We ended up doing laundry at every home we stayed at along the way. If we were staying at only hotels I would have washed a quick load of laundry at a local laundry mat. A few dollars would be worth saving space.
TIP #2 Get your Vehicle organized
Around the time we were planning our road trip we were also in the market for a van. The van needed to be able to fit all 9 of us plus some friends for future fun outings or everyday carpooling needs. We looked everywhere and finally found it. A 15 passenger that was perfect for our family road trip! We took the back seat out for the road trip so we could pack in the luggage.
Row organization... I purchased a shower caddy for each
row. Set it in the middle. It held crayons , coloring books, or notebooks, fun little toys the kids could easily enjoy in the car and even a drink. This was an awesome idea that I highly recommend. The kids rarely said they were bored.
I packed an emergency bin to go under the seat right behind the driver that was full of everything I could think of that we could possibly need while on the road. Including somethings that are survival items in case our vehicle was stranded somewhere for long period of time. Trust me , it came in handy. Thankfully we never had any big emergencies but there were many times I had to dig into that bin for something.
We had one bin that held extra snacks we would get at the grocery store and every now and then pull them out up front. Sandwich baggies are an easy way to distribute food. A smaller cooler was great for keeping drinks cold, string cheese, fruit, turkey etc. Fresh snacks help you not feel so yuck.
Tip #3 Skip dragging luggage
ONE BIN PER HOTEL ROOM. EASY PEASY.
If you have the space I highly recommend packing in your regular suitcases and then have one plastic bin with a lid for each hotel room you need. We use two hotel rooms. We added what we needed into the bin for who was assigned to that room. Their pajamas for the night, their outfit for the next day, toiletries, etc. When we arrived to our hotel late at night, all was sleepy, (hopefully you don't have freezing rain like we did one stop) we were able to grab the bins and go. no need to haul everyone's suitcases up. The next day we transferred the dirty clothes to my laundry bag and added what we needed for our next stop.
Tip # 4 Party Like its 1989
.... bring a paper road atlas.
No matter how great your cell service is, you may end up without it for a bit. Plus, it serves as a fun way to document the roads you take with a highlighter pencil/marker.
Tip #5 .. Plan your budget well, then plan for extra
Decide how much money you think you will spend and then plan it will be more than that. We had an idea of about how much our trip would cost. But with kids, things always pop up. Like when your free spirited 4 year old loses her shoes twice in the two weeks of the trip. Or when your 5 year old loses his bathing suit, or when your 4 year old pukes all over her outfit at a restaurant just before you are to arrive at a big family wedding festivities picnic and you have to go to the nearest store for a new outfit. yup. All of those things happened.Thankfully we had no major emergencies and everything went well but we definitely spent more than we thought we needed to. Stuff happens. Plan for extra.
Tip # 6 Be adventurous .. yes, even with kids.
We did have a strict timeline. Like many of you who will read this you probably don't have all the time you dreamed of for your trip. If we had more time we would have stopped in so many other places. We were on our way to a wedding and then had to make it back home for work, school, theater rehearsals etc. There just wasn't enough time to do everything I wanted. ( Little fact about me,.. I have a little obsession with making lists on google maps. I read about someplace I want to go see for myself, I go to my google maps and pin it as a place I want to go to and add it to a list. Subscribe and you will get a chance to peak at these lists. Only for my email subscribers. )
So about adventure... we tried to make things as fun as possible.Keep an eye out for interesting roadside attractions, monuments, etc. Let the kids go inside the welcome centers for the different states you cross into. They make for great places to stretch your legs and get the kids wiggles out. We had a great stop a little off road, down a very rocky road to see some random monument. The wind was crazy strong it was blowing our Little 4 year old Leela over. She stopped only half way around the monument and held on for dear life until someone went back to grab her. We all had a good laugh and the memories created made it worth driving a little off the beaten path to see something new, odd and unplanned.
We had a great road trip across country. We drove from Utah to Georgia for a family wedding and it was worth every penny and every minute. The kids all had a great time. We loved the trip and felt so blessed to be able to take them back to the good ol' south. (Where I grew up and where we lived only 8 short years ago)
Be sure to subscribe to my email list if you would like to see some of the awesome places you can visit on your road trips! Also, be sure to leave a comment if you have a favorite place you went to with your kids and any more tips you would give someone getting ready to do a big road trip with kids. As always, Thanks for stopping by!