With summer almost here (yay!) we’re looking forward to road trip season in which many families, like mine, are packing up our cars for short jaunts or long rides together. Of course if you’ve ever taken a road trip with kids, you know that even a quick hop to a nearby beach can be an ordeal.
Especially if you’re stuck alternating between driver, referee and food server the whole time.
Good news! I’ve taken lots of road trips with lots of kids (I have four myself) and I can firmly attest that small changes make a big difference on a road trip. And our latest sponsor good2grow certainly knows a lot about that too. Their juices are staples for us, because they never have any added sugars, artificial colors, flavors or preservatives.
(You can probably recognize their bottles, which feature those cool character tops. Seriously, my kids beg for them, because, Star Wars! Frozen!)
So, on their behalf, I’m sharing my 5 of my own very best road trip tips that are so simple, you’ll be amazed at how they really can make the car experience so much more enjoyable for all of you.
Don’t miss an awesome giveaway just for Cool Mom Picks readers. 5 of you will win!
– Details below –
1. Let the kids pack their own car bags or backpacks.
In my home, a car bag or backpack does not include essentials (suntan lotion, bug spray), but rather activities, games, books and other things to keep the kids busy and happy on a road trip.
While having kids pack their own can be a little risky, it’s definitely one less thing for you to worry about in those often frantic, pre-trip moments.
One way I’ve helped avoid the random keepsake music box (not kidding) from ending up in a car bag and making sure it’s packed with things that will be useful, is giving my kids a general list of what needs to be included. Like:
-Something to play with
-Something to read
-One stuffed animal
This way, the kids have some guidance, but they still maintain ownership over exactly what goes in the bag.
It’s super important to give them that autonomy, by the way. Because I have found that when you let them pack their own stuff, they’re much more inclined to keep track of it themselves. And for me, with four kids on a vacation, that’s almost a necessity.
At least, if we want to come home with the same items we left with.
2. A shoe organizer over the seat works for younger kids.
If your kids are too young to pack their own car bag or you don’t completely trust their choices (I hear you!), I love using a hanging shoe organizer over the back of the seat for all their stuff.
Just hook it over the seat, then pack the pouches full of whatever they need during the road trip, from snacks to activities and toys to wipes.
Not only does it give your kids a very specific place for everything, but a shoe bag is so accessible to them, they become self-sufficient enough not to have to ask you for everything. This way, the adults in the front seat — and especially the driver — can focus on keeping everyone safe on the road; not feeling around for a small snack bag of crackers that fell on the floor.
3. Load up on healthy snacks, because rest stop food. Need I say more?
Eating healthy on the road can be a huge challenge, but one way I’ve found I can circumvent this is to pack healthy snacks and drinks for my kids.
That said, I still have to ensure they’re not going to create a huge mess in my car. So, while I love fresh fruit and juice boxes in general, I don’t pack them on road trips because there’s no way I can deal with seeds, spills, and eight sticky hands while I’m driving.
I also try to pack foods loaded with protein, so our insulated food bag tends to be full of cheeses, yogurt pouches, and beef jerky. This way, my kids can fill up on healthy snacks so we don’t have to pull over and have an overpriced meal to stave off the munchies.
Or if we are on a longer trip, we have enough provisions that we wait until we find a good, not-so-fast food option.
As for drinks, well that’s where good2grow comes in — and has saved me, multiple times.
I like that their drinks include 100% fruit juice, fruit and vegetable blends, and they’ve even got bottled water flavored with organic juice that my older kids love.
But here’s the kicker: The bottles are spill-proof.
None of that oops, I squeezed my juice box Mom, and it all came out the straw. (Sigh.)
They’re also perfect for road trips because when we hit our destination, I can reuse the bottles throughout our entire vacation by refilling them. (Yay for dishwasher-safe!) I’ve found they’re also great as bedtime water bottles, because my kids love those characters (enough variety that they don’t fight over which one belongs to whom), and they’re small enough for their hands to grab in the middle of the night.
They happen to be recyclable too — but you’ll have to pry them from your kids’ hands first, and hey, I’d rather reuse ours as much as possible.
4. Always pack plenty of baby wipes and trash bags.
Regardless of what you pack — yes, even spill-proof juice bottles — if you’ve driven in a car with kids, then you know that some sort of mess is inevitable. And the only way to manage it is to be sure you’re prepared to clean it up.
In my experience, a pack of baby wipes is the most useful product for anything and everything you might encounter, whether it’s spilled yogurt or an emergency bathroom break. If your kids have outgrown the diaper bag stage like mine have, you probably aren’t still carrying around wipes every day, so definitely make sure to remember to stash some in the car.
Also, bring trash bags. And lots of them.
As much as I try to manage accumulating trash by using small paper bags or grocery bags from our snack runs, I’ve found that full-sized trash bags really work best. Bonus: If you’re staying in a hotel with a big family like mine, I find their trashcans are never big enough for us. Having a few of my own on hand has helped make our room neater too.
5. Ample car chargers and splitters for all devices are a must.
If you allow technology in the car, then I strongly suggest investing in a few small gadgets that will help you avoid the dread of discovering you have some dead mobile devices on hand.
First up, make sure you’ve got a good multi-gadget car charger, like my favorite, the Belkin Roadster, which features four USB ports. Just don’t forget a charging cable for each device, and you’ll always have plenty of juice. This is important even if your kids are screen-free, by the way. You definitely don’t want to be caught in a summer traffic jam, with Waze or Google Maps sucking your remaining power supply dry by the second.
Another helpful gadget for a family like mine is a headphone splitter, which comes in handy if you’ve got kids watching movies or listening to music in the back seat. After many years, the Belkin Rockstar remains our go-to splitter, and allows you to plug-in five sets of headphones to a single phone or tablet.
Just one more tip: These are all small gadgets, so I’d suggest collecting them all before you get out of the car, then stashing them in a separate pouch in the glove box when you’re not driving. This way, you know you’ll have them for the ride home too.
UPDATE: This giveaway is now closed. We’ve got a good2grow prize pack up for grabs for five (5!) winners. Each prize pack will consist of one 12-bottle case of good2grow juice AND one $10 Target gift card. Whoo!
Huge thanks to our sponsor good2grow for helping parents like me feed our kids healthier — and with less mess! — whether we’re on the road, or just hanging out at home. And I have to admit, these bottles are pretty fun to collect and reuse. Just ask my kids.