The thought of a family road trip can evoke images of an '81 Ford Country Squire filled with a smiling family, taking in the changing surroundings from the window with awe and occasionally synchronizing their voices to the golden oldies on the radio.
A family road trip in reality can be quite different. Tense silences following disagreements over which exit ramp to take, a backseat divided by sibling conflict, and audible stomach groans without a single rest stop in sight. This is not the family road trip you planned on having.
So to ensure that you experience a familial highway expedition worth taking, we're going to share some of our suggestions on what to pack for a family road trip.
Firstly, you're going to want to have what we'll dub "survival snacks." Nothing can derail the mood of a family in transit like a case of unfulfilled hunger, and a disappointing meal at the first greasy fast food franchise that appears on the horizon will be of little consolation.
So instead, ensure that you've brought snacks along that will simultaneously ward away stomach pangs and deliver real satisfaction. Consider bringing along trail mix or granola, but check its nutritional information to make sure it doesn't include gobs of sugar and high fructose corn syrup. Processed snacks that come packed with sugar might deliver an energy boost in the short-term, but such saccharine fare won't contain the nutrients needed to stave off hunger in the long term.
In addition to lower-sugar trail mixes and granola, bring along some whole fruit like apples, bananas, and pears. To keep things organized, stash all of your survival snacks into a canvas tote by the center console.
Survival snacks may keep your kids from going hungry—but that doesn't mean they'll stay entertained. That's an entirely different job best left to books, electronic tablets, and games. To keep them within your kid's reach, assign each child a backpack of their own stuffed with entertaining distractions. While tablets can be a favorite of parents everywhere on long road trips, there are some great toys and games you can bust out if needed. Depending on ages, paint by sticker books, magic coloring markers, and reusable puffy stickers can all be favorites. And if you play your cards right, you might even be able to sneak in something educational. Oh! Also, consider keeping a few “secret boredom busters” in the seat by you. If your kids start to get tired of what’s in their backpacks, having a few secrets up your sleeve might give you more peace and quiet.
Once you've reached your destination, those backpacks may be repurposed to fit any other need your vacation requires, from hiking to a trip to the beach.
Another key factor in making your family road trip a success is clothing. In this category, one word is going to matter above all others: comfort.
Jeans are a great starting point. But make sure they're jeans you've already worn a great deal—nothing is so comfortable as a pair that's already been broken-in. Conversely, brand-new jeans can feel a little stiff: you'll want to leave them at home.
But that's not to say that jeans are the only game in town. Mom can bring along her best-loved yoga pants, and kids can feel comfortable in sweatpants. If they're particularly young, they may even get away with wearing pajamas for the duration.
If yoga pants aren’t your thing, consider some fashion leggings. They’re soft, warm, comfy, and you can wear them with so many things. You can also re-wear them once you get to your destination with almost any blouse. Don’t forget hoodies for everyone too. Sometimes you just want to snuggle up and go to sleep. So, putting on your hoodie and putting the hood up can help you get more cozy. Especially if the driver likes to blast the air conditioning.
Depending on where your road trip takes you, you'll want to be prepared for inclement weather and dropping temperatures. Don't think that you can skip on bringing a proper rain jacket just because you'll plan to be in the car for most of the duration. A proper downpour can soak clothing in the single minute needed to dash from the car to a rest stop bathroom, and the rest of the trip will be considerably less enjoyable if you have to spend it wet.
Likewise, a lack of clothing during the colder stretches of your trip can also test the patience of the whole family. Ward off the possibility of chills by bringing along easy layering pieces like fleece jackets, cotton sweaters and tunics.
A few other things that could be helpful on your road trip are a random array of items. Make sure you have a community trash bag to avoid junking up the car, for example. Bring extra plastic bags in case something gets dirty and needs to be contained to be washed at your destination. Bags can also come in handy if anyone happens to get sick.
Also pack beach towels where they are easily accessible. There are so many uses for towels on road trips. If someone spills, if you stop by a beach, etc. Beach towels can also be put underneath things to protect the car from spills and messes. There are so many uses that you won’t want to leave your beach towels at home ever again. Don’t forget to pack a few blankets and pillows too. You never know when someone will want to take a little snooze or just be comfy.
In truth, there are so many things you could pack for a road trip, but it comes down to preferences, your family, and how much room you have in your car. Make a list, before you leave, of where you’d like everything stored in the car so you can more easily find things. Most importantly, though, have fun!