A family road trip can be so much fun – there's nothing like the adventure of exploring new places with your nearest and dearest. But if you're not prepared, it can turn into a nightmare of epic proportions! Make sure to pack everything needed for a good time and you'll avoid roadside meltdowns and panicked runs to the gas station convenience store.
The right clothing goes a long way toward keeping the troops happy during a long drive. Dress the kids in loose clothes, like a kids t-shirt and a pair of kids leggings that have some give; anything tight or restrictive will feel unbearable when they're sitting in the backseat all day. Don't forget yourself, though – something like comfy stretch jeans will help you relax and enjoy the ride. Casual clothes are also good for running around and letting off steam during pit stops.
And speaking of pit stops, bring some basic games and toys for everyone to enjoy during breaks. After all, you don't want the kids looking at their phones all day long! A frisbee is always fun and teens will love kicking a soccer ball around. Bring some badminton rackets and a shuttlecock for a mini family tournament, or take a kite for windy days.
Never leave home without a first-aid kit. It should contain all the essentials for dealing with an emergency, and you can buy a pre-made version or put one together yourself. Make sure it has band-aids in a few different sizes, along with gauze and medical tape. Latex gloves, tweezers, antiseptic and a thermometer are also important. Add basic medicines, like acetaminophen, ibuprofen and something for a cough and sore throat along with bug bite cream.
A few devices will help everyone keep their sanity during your travels. Load up a tablet with family-friendly movies and TV shows and don't forget the cell phones and chargers. You can also pack an MP3 player with audio books for everyone to enjoy. Keep things organized by placing all of your tech devices in a canvas tote bag with a waterproof base to protect against rain and splashes.
Easy access to snacks can make the difference between a pleasant family getaway and an odyssey of misery. Jerky is tasty, filling and easy to transport – make it yourself or buy a natural brand to avoid unhealthy additives. Protein bars, nuts and string cheese are always popular, and sliced fruit and veggies make for a satisfying snack. Skip the soda and fill reusable water bottles with H2O instead.
Things can get messy fast when you've got the entire clan packed into a single car, so always travel prepared. Take some garbage bags to hold the trash that will inevitably pile up, but try to recycle when you can. A packet of wet wipes can be used to clean sticky hands and paper towels always come in handy. And don't forget a stain-removing pen in case one of the kids spills food on dad's men's chinos.
Spending hours on the road with chattering kids and dad singing along to his favorite golden oldies can frazzle your nerves, so take some treats to help you chill out. Some nice chocolates and a mini bottle of wine will feel luxurious in your hotel room. Scented bath salts can turn an old tub into an oasis and a moisturizing sheet mask will help replenish your tired skin.
Always remember that your car can get sick, too. Never leave home without a spare tire, jack and wheel wrench. Add a flashlight, multipurpose tool and safety reflectors to make your car visible to passing vehicles. Some emergency food and water that's otherwise off-limits is a must, as is a fire extinguisher and a car charger for your phone. If it's cold out, make sure everyone has a winter coat to wear until help arrives.