Packing up the family, loading the car, and trying to drive as far as we can without stopping seems like the theme for the months of November and December in our house. We are traveling and visiting and trying to cram in all the last-minute activities that were on our 2015 bucket list. And with all this traveling, things can get crazy. But I have a system for packing and traveling with kids that has helped keep everyone organized. I’m sharing my 6 tips for packing for a road trip with children!
Over the summer, I had a lot of my readers ask for tips for traveling with a toddler on a road trip. I am by no means an expert, but I have friends who are because they travel in the car with their kiddos quite a bit. They helped me generate this list of six tips to keep things running smoothly while traveling in a car with toddlers. These tips have helped keep my kids sane during the long road trips we are taking.
Once you have gathered up all the things you need to keep your kiddos occupied for the road trip, it’s time to think about packing and loading up the car.
I will be sharing my six tips for ways to pack and load up the car with kids, because sometimes life is just easier when you drive instead of fly!
1. Make Lists
As I’m sure you have guessed, I start by making lists of what each family member needs for our trip. I create an individual list for each family member, making sure to include what specific items they need for the trip. I include diapers, pony-tail holders, jewelry, shoes, SleepSacks, blankies, phone chargers…you name it, it is probably on my list of things to pack.
I learned my lesson about not including every little thing on my list. When we flew to Arizona for a vacation, I didn’t write that I needed the key to my parents’ house. Well, we get to their house, and guess what…the garage door code box was broken, so we couldn’t get into their house! It’s the middle of summer so it’s like a million degrees, and we have baby Eli. So moral of that story is to WRITE.DOWN.EVERYTHING!
I love using this free PDF downloadable printable checklist Packing Checklist for each family member I created a while ago. I print off four copies of the checklist, so that each one of our family members gets their own checklist. I find it easier to keep things organized by having each family member have their own list. I can make sure that we don’t forget something specific for each person.
2. Make Outfits For The Trip
Once my lists are made, I try to pull outfits for our trip. I do this for each person in the family so that I am not over-packing. I take my list for one family member, and pull out clothes for the day, pajamas, socks, shoes, etc. Then I make outfits. I don’t plan specific days for the outfits, but I do try to have them packed together, making it easier to remember what I had pulled while packing.
Also, when I make outfits, I have found that I rarely feel like I am missing something from my wardrobe at home. When I pack myself, I lay out my outfits with shoes, jewelry, and undergarments. I gave some helpful tips for packing your jewelry here!
3. Pack In Laundry Baskets
Whenever we go on a road trip, I always pack in laundry baskets. I especially love using the Rubbermaid Stack N’ Sort Nesting laundry baskets because I can stack two baskets on top of each other in the back of our car. And then I can get three baskets across the back of the trunk of the car.
I try to organize how I pack the clothes based on where each family member will be sleeping. The last time we went to my parents’ house, I ended up sleeping upstairs in my old room with Eli in my room. Then Ben slept in the basement with Adleigh in the crib. I ended up having to sort the clothes many times and some clothes didn’t get worn because they didn’t make it to the room where that family member was sleeping.
This time, I am packing each family member with their own laundry basket. This way I know everyone will get their own clothes, diapers, toiletries, etc. Then, I can use the laundry baskets to do laundry at my parents house. It really helps keep things organized while we are away from home.
I also love being able to pack in laundry baskets because it makes things so easy when we come home and I can just throw everything in the wash. I try to sort our clothing into baskets into dirty and clean clothes for when we make the trip back home. I can just take the dirty laundry basket and get started on laundry right away.
I try to pack my toiletries for a road trip the same as if I were flying. I do this because it really keeps down the amount of stuff we have to bring for a long drive. I hate feeling super crammed into a car for a long road trip, so I try to pack light.
Sometimes I prefer to bring my large-sized bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and face wash because it actually is more convenient. When I pack my regular-sized bottles, I am not loosing a lot of product during the transfer from the travel-size bottle back to the regular-sized bottle.
I make sure that I put everything I need for toiletries down on my list. I typically keep my make-up separate from my make-up brushes. I put my make-up and brushes in pouches I get from the make-up counter. Then my shampoo, face wash, contact solution, etc. goes into a plastic baggie if anything spills. This happens a lot to me when I travel. I have found it better just to pack it in baggies. Then, if I don’t spill anything in that baggie, I will store it in a pouch until the next time I travel.
5. Packing The Car
All your items are packed, so it is time to start packing the inside of the car. I always start with the putting in the important items first, such as the books, toys, and food. I have to recommend that you have the cooler and baggies with snacks packed close to the front of the car. It makes things so much easier when the kids need a snack.
I hang the kids backpacks filled with books and activities to the back of the driver and passenger’s chairs using sturdy clips like this one. This way, they can grab for activities while we are driving so they can stay occupied without me having to be sitting in the backseat to do so. I have horrible motion sickness, so that is just not a good idea!
I keep the diaper bag with diapers, wipes, and changing pad on my daughter’s side of the car, closest to the door. This way I can easily access the diaper bag when we make stops without having to take everything out of the car just to get to the bag. I recommend putting anything you will need for pit-stops in the diaper bag, making it easy to grab and run into a restaurant, play space, or rest stop.
Then I fill around or under the most important items for the car ride, with the remaining items we don’t need for the car ride. For example, I will put our computers and cameras under the diaper bag, because we don’t need them for the road trip, but the should stay inside the car instead of being stuck in the trunk.
6. Loading The Trunk
I put all five of our laundry baskets in the trunk of our Kia Sportage. They fit snuggle in the trunk, but I know that nothing with really move around back there as we are driving. Using the stacking handles of the laundry baskets, I stack them two-high and three-across.
When packing the laundry baskets, I try to put the fuller baskets on the bottom, and the baskets that don’t have as much stuff on the top. I have found that not as much stuff falls out when you pack the trunk this way. Since we only have five of the laundry baskets, we end up have one basket that is just a single basket, with no other basket to go on top of it. That is the basket we usually fill with the kids bedding, pillows, shoes, and other larger items that might overflow the basket. This way, we can pack it nice and high and it will stay in place because of the other two baskets.
So who is ready for some holiday travel now that you know my road trip packing tips? Remember to make lists using my Packing Checklist. Print off one checklist for each member of the family, write what they need, and check it off as you pack. Plan out your clothes based on outfits, including jewelry and shoes, so you won’t forget anything you might need. Pack in stackable laundry baskets, which make it easy to do laundry when you come home. Pack toiletries like you are flying on a plane to reduce the amount of stuff you are bringing on your road trip. Pack the inside of the car by starting with the most used items first, then filling in the space around and under with other items you don’t need for the drive. Finally, pack the laundry baskets in the trunk by putting the fuller laundry baskets on the bottom, and the rest of the baskets on top of them. This way it will hold down everything in the fuller laundry baskets.
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