A Family Road Trip Packing List to Make Everyone Happy

Family Travel on 04.05.11
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Photo credit: John Morgan/Creative Commons

We've just returned from another seven-hour road trip with four kids ranging from nine months to nine years. Car trips can be a surprisingly fun routine-buster, especially if you have all your traveling supplies.

Car-Friendly Toys

Perhaps the most-challenging thing in the seatbelt era is entertainment. Think of drawing boards, magnetic games, oversized calculators, or stuffed animals. Sometimes the friendliest toys are the newest ones. A great peace-keeping tactic is to bring several new toys from the dollar store and dole them out periodically. Wrap them to up the special.

Juice It Up

Cell phones are as good as rocks if they're not charged up. Make sure your charger also makes it into the bags (and consider bringing the digital camera charger too, just in case).

Quench Thirst, but No More

To discourage too much drinking (and pit stops), we fill bottles and spill-proof cups with plain water.

Overstock the Dining Car

If we are going to grab a meal in a fast food joint, we crave healthy snacks like carrots, halved strawberries, apples, snap peas, nuts and cheese. However, it's also fun to bring new and even forbidden snacks. In the summer we like to bring a picnic for a grassy rest area.

For babies, teething biscuits or melt-in-your mouth snacks can provide a half an hour of happiness.

In-Flight Entertainment

With mandatory seatbelts, playing in the "way back" of the station wagon is a thing of the past. In the modern age, a portable DVD player is a gift of peace. If you've got a really long trip, consider getting an adapter so you can use the cigarette lighter for power.

Traveling Songs & Stories

We get a lot of mileage out of CDs full of music that my kids haven't heard in a while. When the little ones are older, I'm sure we'll be breaking out books on tape too.

Mess Will Happen

Without going into the gory details, we've had our share of wishing we had brought trash bags, rolls of paper towels, tons of wipes, and easily-accessible changes of clothing for each person. If your kids are at all prone to car sickness, invest in chewable Dramamine.

Car Games

Tired of I Spy? Tongue twisters (like my dad's favorite "six slippery snickers") will have everyone in stitches. For a whole slew of fun car games, check out MomsMinivan.

Navigational Devices

Of course no road trip would be complete without a map (talking or non), plus addresses and phone numbers of people and destinations. If you're traveling in the East coast, consider getting an EZ Pass so you can sail sleeping angels through toll booths.

Getting out the door can be harried -- who am I kidding? It's craziness! But hopefully this checklist will ease some of the worry. Have a great time and -- don't forget the kids!

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