Summer is a great time to disconnect from the family routine and hit the road! In our family, the summer months always provide an opportunity to travel. Recently we took our kids on a road trip to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and I found myself relying on some of the same “travel tools” we’ve used since our first child was born 13 years ago. Here are a few of our favorites:
- Pack a “car bag” to keep in the front of the car. Include garbage bags, wipes, hand sanitizer, water, and easy-to-eat-and-dole-out snacks — things like cereal (Apple Jacks are a favorite!), bagels, dried fruit, apples, lollipops. We also always pack plastic cups because they’re a great way to pass out snacks that aren’t packed individually and they can be reused for later snacks (plus, you can manage the portions). This is a great idea for plane or train rides, too!
- Clean out the car at every stop. It makes the arrival so much easier in terms of getting rid of trash and it keeps your car clean along the way.
- Pack headphones for each child. It allows the adults to listen to what they want to hear on the radio.
- Each child in our family gets their own small duffel bag that gets packed in the back of the car. I use the bag like a set of drawers once we are at our destination. It makes finding things super easy for each kid and it keeps each child’s clothes separated and organized.
- If any of your children have a special blanket, I suggest packing one in their duffel bag and keeping an extra one in the car so they can access it easily anytime you’re in the car.
- For the toddlers in our family, I always pack a small “surprise” backpack that I fill beforehand with dollar items from Target: a coloring book, crayons, a book or two, stickers, Play-Doh®, Slinky®, bag of plastic animals … anything cheap that I would be willing to throw out at the end of the trip and that will keep them interested and busy in the car and at our destination. These are also great to bring along to restaurants to keep the little ones seated and busy!
- Travel with cash. You never know when you’ll find a cool spot to stop at that doesn’t take debit/credit cards.
- Time your gas stops with an opportunity for everyone to use the bathroom, stretch their legs, and perhaps buy a treat snack at the convenience store. This often motivates our kids to push on for one more hour on long trips.
Over the years, I’ve learned not to focus too much on just getting there. Some of our best memories were made on an unexpected pit stop or during a car game that produced a funny chant that we still sing today. And while the destination certainly provides its own share of memories, try to remember to enjoy the ride too!
– Andree Palmgren is a parent volunteer with the Beaumont Parenting Program and mom of four kids ages 13, 11, 8 and 4.