My honey and I are getting ready to load up our half dozen young'ns and head out on a road trip, an eight hour trip in fact. In honor of our expedition, I'm going to share with you my best road trip/traveling advice.
I pack each of the girls outfits in large Ziploc bags.
I put the outfit, socks, underwear, and hair accessory in the bag. If my husband is getting the girls dressed he doesn't have to figure out what matches or which hair bow they are supposed to wear.
Even though we are taking a 7 day trip I don't pack 7 outfits for each person. That would be 56 outfits! I do laundry while we are away. We are first visiting my sister in one city and then driving 2 hours to visit family in another city. No one will even know when we repeat an outfit, and that doesn't matter anyway! Everyone has one traveling outfit to wear on the trip up and the trip back. We make sure the travel day outfit is very comfortable.
ON THE ROAD. I pack a little kit for our trip that includes pain reliever (for children and adults), band aids, acid reducer, contact solution, hand sanitizer, wet wipes, and sick bags. By putting all of this together and keeping it with me we don't have to stop and dig out a toiletry bag and look for things we need. There is nothing worse than someone having a contact problem and having to stop, get suitcases out and dig around looking for contact solution. If your bags are easy to get to that's one thing, but in our case with the number of bags we have, they are usually wedged in pretty good. It would be a lot of hassle to get into one particular bag that happens to be buried.
We don't stop at fast food restaurants on long road trips. It is expensive - yes, and the food is unhealthy - yes, but those are not the reasons we don't stop for fast food. The reason is this - when you go into a restaurant you will expect your children to sit in their seats and be still and eat their food, right? That is more of the same of what they have been doing for several hours. Sitting. We pack a picnic lunch and find a rest-stop. While I am getting our lunch ready at the picnic table the kids can run and play. They throw Frisbee, chase each other, and spend their energy. We wouldn't want our kids running and screaming in McDonald's but it is perfectly fine for an outdoor picnic.
ARE WE THERE YET? Before the trip I wrap up little treats for each child. At certain mile markers along the way I hand them out. Before we set out on the road we tell the kids when they will receive their treats. It gives them something to look forward to and to watch for. I give things like lip gloss and magnets and bubbles to my little girls and things like mints, collector's cards and trail mix to my boys. I usually start picking up little treats weeks before the trip. Whenever I am out shopping if I see something that would make a good road trip treat I go ahead and buy it and hide it away until I need it.
We definitely pack road trip snacks but I'm pretty picky about what we take. Loading kids up on sugar and junk food is a very bad idea on long car trips. If junior is in the back seat chomping on a chocolate bar and gulping down Pepsi then you shouldn't be upset when he can't sit still and behave. I like to pack grapes, cheese, pretzels, homemade dried apple chips (I will post my recipe), bottled waters, raisins, cheerios, nuts, granola bars, and goldfish crackers. Sometimes I will bake oatmeal raisin cookies or peanut butter cookies to take with us. Chocolate is messy, especially when it gets warm.
GAMES AND SUCH. Most of the time you will not see our children watching movies on road trips. My husband said years ago that long car trips provide a wonderful opportunity for family time and I agree. We don't want to see our children zoned out watching a movie or with their ears plugged up listening to their individual music. We've actually had a lot of fun playing games and talking. We usually end up laughing about our crazy games we play every single time we travel. Sometimes my husband chooses a hymn and we learn it during the trip. An entire hymn can be learned and practiced over several hours in a car. We keep a list of all the states we see on license plates and try to see how many we find by the time we get back home. One child is in charge of writing them all down. I make road trip bingo cards for the younger children and that keeps them busy for a while. (I make them with the younger kids in mind but the older kids always end up wanting to play too.) I bring stickers to cover the spaces. We always, always bring books on CD. No one in our family is able to read while riding in a car. Everyone is very prone to car sickness. We bring books on CD and put one in when it is time for everyone to settle down and rest a little while. We bring enough for the ride up and the ride back home. We take a mixture of educational books and fun books. The boys have had to listen to a princess story on occasion.
THE RULES. We have assigned seats. Everyone knows where they sit and there is no fussing with trading and switching around. Each person is to consider others more important than themselves. Each older kid has a younger buddy and they are to make sure their buddy is buckled up correctly. We have a "two" rule. Each time we stop to go to the restroom or run into a gas station we travel in twos. None of our kids go into the restroom alone. Not even the oldest. Not even me actually. We've had some pretty scary encounters over the years so we've learned that no one should be alone. We never get in a hurry. Family fun is ruined when everyone is stressed out and in a rush. We certainly don't want to get a speeding ticket or be in an accident. We take our time and enjoy the trip. If we see something we want to stop and take a look at along the way, we do!
OTHER THINGS. There are some things I bring on road trips that many would consider odd. My husband and kids used to think so, but now they love it. I guess you could say they "get it" now. Allow me to explain.
Label Maker - I bring my label maker because sometimes friends and family members give the kids gifts and often they give them all the same thing. I can print out labels and stick them on, and we will all know who the item belongs to. I use the label maker to label water bottles in the car, the bingo cards, treat bags, or whatever else I need to label. I even print out CLEAN and DIRTY labels for clothing bags if I need to.
I always, always, always bring Clorox Wipes. I wipe off EVERYTHING. I clean door handles, sinks and faucets, commodes, counters, baby changing facilities...you name it! I bring the biggest container I can get my hands on and clean everything from our house to our destination and from there back to our house again.
Someone always looses a tooth (or even several) whenever we travel so I make sure we have the correct kind of change for Tooth Fairy money.
Have you noticed how stingy everyone is getting with their soap? Every public restroom I use I find this little poof of foam they are calling soap. I don't believe for one second that will really get hands clean so I bring my own. When we stop at a rest stop my daughters and I carry it into the restroom and use it to wash our hands then my husband and our sons use it. The airy foam stuff just doesn't cut it for me.
I take along any extra pictures of the kids I have. When we visit relatives and friends they are usually happy if I give them a picture of the kids.
We pick up Bibles at the dollar store before we leave and we make sure we have some tracts in the van. You never know who you will meet and talk to on a road-trip. The kids look forward to being able to give them away.
LAST BUT NOT LEAST. We pray before we head out. We hold hands and each one of us prays for our trip, the people we will be visiting, protection, our van, and anything else.