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Summer is the time of year families typically go on vacations. When it comes to vacationing each family has many choices. Think of vacations as the prize at the end of a maze. How one chooses to get to the prize is entirely up to each individual family. There’s the option of flying or driving. Eating out or packing food. Playing games or zoning out. Unless you want to be the rat that bangs its head at every turn, you must plan ahead! Enter moi. The expert road trip traveler. I will help you get to the cheese at the end of the maze.

The first decision has already been made if you are reading on for my tips. You have chosen to drive. Congratulations.

  • When traveling by car there is plenty of time to bond as a family. Plan for these beautiful moments by having an arsenal of road games and getting to know you discussion prompts. Magnetic games are fairly inexpensive and can be used later to play with on the fridge. Of course there’s always the classic games like alphabet license plate games and Twenty Questions.
  • Pack snacks. Regardless of your decision for or against eating out, road trip=snacks. And you don’t have to be all health conscious either. Unless there is a medical reason for healthy food, toss in some otherwise forbidden treats. Keep in mind that chocolate is not a great choice as it melts easily and can become quite messy.

A great way to handle snacks is to portion it out ahead of time. Give each traveler their own container of snacks and tell them it’s their responsibility. If they want to eat it all at once so be it. They will just be hungry the rest of the trip. Love and logic baby. Love and logic. Each traveler should also have their own beverage container. Juice and sodas are fine for little ones if that’s what you want but I would recommend water. It satisfies thirst better while lasting longer than addicting flavors. Please don’t give your children cups full of milk. That is just a recipe for food poisoning. If your child drinks their milk in a reasonable amount of time (less than two hours) then you run into the issue of refilling. If your child takes forever to drain a cup of milk then you have to worry about curdled milk and vomit is the last thing you want to deal with on a road trip.

  • However, should anyone get carsick or vomit for any other reason (weak stomach for something shown on the DVD system, weak stomach for the sight of blood from a coloring book paper cut, you get the idea) your vehicle should be fully stocked with plastic bags ahead of time. When the bagger at the grocery store asks me if I want paper or plastic I always choose plastic. I’m a mom. Kids puke. It’s in their job description so I plan for it. Being green and bringing my own canvas bags is a lovely idea in theory but I would rather chuck a bag full of tossed cookies than have to deal with laundering my save the planet bag. Just saying.

Oh yeah, and bring a large roll of paper towels. This helps in the vomit department, spill department, as well as a great way to deliver chloroform to an unruly child. Winking smile FYI: diapers soak up regurgitation better than anything.

  • Bring a vast array of movie choices. I can’t think of a single modern vehicle that does not come pre-equipped with a DVD system. Don’t tell me your little sedan doesn’t have one because I’m just wondering who in their right mind would go on a long road trip in a little car. That’s a lot of family togetherness and next to no storage space. And don’t tell me you don’t have children yet because then I have to wonder why you’re still reading my family road trip packing tips.

Family Fun Magazine may paint a pretty picture of a family cruising the middle of nowhere USA talking and laughing together. After a while though rest stops aren’t enough of a break from one another. A movie is a nice way of helping everyone to quietly chill.

  • Music is good too. I grew up on music road trips since rotting a child’s brain on movies in the car hadn’t been invented yet. Music, audio books and the like are a great way of filling the air when a parent has issued the shut up ultimatum. Conversation will ebb and flow on a road trip. Keep the music going the whole time. It may spark conversation and it doesn’t interfere with any conversation. As I said, it’s a great air filler when needed. It’s also the best way to get zombified kids to finally fall asleep. Nine times out of ten a movie will keep a child up. Music doesn’t come with visually over stimulating pictures and will soon get your little ones to peacefully drift off.
  • Books are an individual choice. See the above mentioned plastic bag vomit control.
  • In addition to frequent rest stops, gifts are a fun way to break up a long trip. We like to wrap up movies. Sometimes they’re movies we already own and sometimes it’s a movie the kids have been hoping desperately we would buy. The key is the element of surprise. Anything wrapped is exciting. Little toys and games are fun to wrap too. How about wrapping a Magna Doodle type toy? Think of how busy your little ones will stay while not making a mess, losing crayons, or heaving from the sight of paper cut carnage! Another fun idea is to wrap snacks and candy. As I said, it’s the thrill of opening something wrapped that creates the magic.
  • Sleeping bags are an awesome must bring on any road trip. They’re a great way for kids to sack out in a hotel room. No need to worry about the family members to bed ratio. No need to worry about bed hopping. And they generally come in handy when you get to your destination as well.

So I’ve given many clever tips for traveling. How do you prepare all this stuff? Well, you can park your kids in front of the TV when they can’t stop fighting as they play. You can give them something to think about for the upcoming trip. I made the mistake of describing what a cannon ball dive is. In my defense I didn’t know that the Olympic trials for the night would be diving. From across the house I could hear my dear husband yelling out in exasperation for the millionth time, “Nobody is going to do a cannon ball! So stop asking!”

The other option, and I highly recommend this one, is to send your kids to someone else for a couple hours. A different house will do them good. Getting away from frazzled, busy parents does everyone good. Getting away from the electric anticipatory buzz in the air also is good.

Even though the kids are out of the house you may find that packing your own food for picnics along the way isn’t nearly as glamorous as you once thought. Go ahead. Indulge in the idea of fast food. It’s quick and easy. If something embarrassing happens, or you look like you’ve been sitting in a car all day, it doesn’t matter because you’ll never see those people ever again. The best part is that someone else cleans up. No dishes to deal with, no leftovers to pack. It’s all on someone else. Just saying.

That’s it. I’m out of ideas. Enjoy your cheese! You deserve it after successfully navigating the road trip maze.