This Is How We Do It: Family Vacation

I am so excited for another This Is How We Do It link up with my friend, Lori from the Boutelle Family blog! I have found so many great tips and tricks for everyday things! If you haven’t yet, you should check out the other This Is How We Do It link ups: Grocery Shopping, Me Time, and Dinner Time. Seriously so many amazing tips from other incredible bloggers.

image2Okay, on to vacations. I love vacations. And road trips. A lot. And now that the kids are getting older, we are doing them a lot more! I love getting to experience new things with them and revisit favorite places. It makes my heart smile when my kids claim Florida as their favorite place. Only because it has been our family vacation spot for the last 5 years and they are creating memories. But even more, they are treasuring those memories.

Because we have four littles, we drive everywhere. Even Florida. From Illinois. Yes, it gets slightly crazy. And yes, we are very crazy. But we save a ton of money, and like I said, I kind of love road trips. So it’s kind of a win.


1. LIST MAKING: The prep work for a road trip for a family of six starts at least a week before our trip. I make lists upon lists. Shopping lists, to pack lists, lists of things to pack at the last minute…it’s a little crazy. But the lists help to keep me sane through it all. The lists are a work in progress and are constantly being edited and updated. I try to keep them on the kitchen counter so I can jot down more items as I go about daily life (which usually reminds me of all the things I need for daily life). I literally write every single thing I need to pack. I live in reality, and reality is that I will remember nothing.

2. BEGIN PACKING: After the main list making, I actually start assembling the piles and bags. I pull only the things we don’t use on a daily basis (think: beach towels, swimwear, extra diapers/wipes…). I also try to put aside a few outfits for the kids. I know the condo we stay in had a washer/dryer so I only pack 4 shirts and 3 shorts/child. This means I have to do laundry, but it also means that we can pack all 4 kids clothes in one duffel bag! And for a road trip, space is important! It also means that the kids still have clothes to wear before we leave (with 4 kids, we have decided to have everyone keep a more limited wardrobe. This is a topic for another time, but with 11 t-shirts per child, if I pack for a full week, it limits our options for the current week and can make the last few days at home pretty stressful (you know doing tons of laundry while I’m trying to pack for a family trip)).

3. CONTINUE PACKING: As the vacation gets closer I continue to pack more and more bags. I begin to assemble my clothes (I let my husband pack himself), extra toiletries, my car bag (with books and yarn), beach toys, bags of snacks, pack-‘n-plays… All the stuff that I don’t need in those last few (crazy) days before you leave for a family vacation. I also begin packing our overnight bag. We never know if we will drive through the night or stop mid-way, so I pack a separate backpack with pajamas, clothes for the next day, toiletries, and a few diapers. This way we only have to bring in 2 pack and plays, 4 children and one backpack when if we stop in the middle of the night. The morning we leave, I finish packing our overnight bag and a bag of toiletries.

The final list of bags is:

* 1 duffel bag for all 4 children’s clothing

* 1 duffel bag for swimwear (goggles, floaties, swim diapers, sunglasses, hats…)

* 1 duffel bag for diapers and wipes. The joys of 2 diapered children on a road trips (the bonus: they don’t have to stop to go potty. Except when they do. Like our drive to Florida this year).

* 1 duffel bag for adult’s clothing

* 1 backpack for overnight stops (includes: pajamas and change of clothes for each person, toiletries, and diapers/wipes)

* 2 pack-‘n-plays

* 1 backpack of toys/games/books/crafts/lovies per child for the car and the condo stay. This is mostly made up of items we already own, but I do add a few $1 toys and this year, 1 extra special toy that was on super sale.

* 1 bag for myself. Filled with books, Bible, journal, and of course – yarn. I also put tablets, phone cords, cameras… in this bag.

* 2 food bags: 1 for snacks for the drive (I bring plastic cups as well to hold their snacks), ziploc bags, paper towels, and wipes. 1 bag of lunch items. Since we drive, we stop at different rest stops along the way for lunch.

* 1 bag of games. Remember, my husband and I love board games.

* 1 bag of sand toys. Basically this includes 4 of every sand toy made. It’s great.

* Large cooler for those lunch stops and milk for the littles.

* Pillows and blankets for everyone. We may not stop in the middle of the night and even if we do, it won’t be until after bedtime. So we pack pillows and blankets so everyone can get some rest before we finally stop.

* Double stroller. Obviously.

* 1 bag of toiletries in ziploc bags.

* DVDs. Our van has a DVD player that we only use for trips. And for these drives, we watch a lot of movies. This year, our favorite was The Lego Movie.
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4. PACK THE CAR: We pack the car the night before. Or as much as possible. Since we bring a cooler with us, it makes it more difficult to really pack the car the night before. But we pack as much as possible and leave the rest in the garage.

5. THE MORNING OF: We pack the last bags, fill the cooler, and get the kids ready. Remind everyone to go potty one last time. Fill water bottles (because clearly, we hope to stop every hour to go pee.) We shut off everything at our house, make sure the cat has enough food/water. And we are off!

6. THE DRIVE: This year, we switched up the kids seating positions. Traditionally, the 2 youngest are in the middle row, so they are easily accessible to a grown up. But this year, we put a littlest with a bigger and it seemed to work pretty well. There were rough moments (like when a treasured toy fell as we were driving through the mountains with no where to get off), but all in all, the plan worked great!

We try to wait a few hours before playing movies, so we give the kids their bags and let them play/complain for a little bit. Usually they are pretty excited to begin. It gets harder when we get into Indiana, have nothing to see, and the excitement has worn off. That’s usually when we stop, a lot, and watch movies.

7. STOPS: We stop as little as possible. Which, with 4 littles, means all.the.time. Our 18 hour drive to Florida ended up taking us 25 hours this year. We stop for potty breaks. We stop for more potty breaks. And we stop to eat. And go potty. We stop at rest stops along the way, and eat lunch there. My favorite rest stops are in Kentucky. They are beautiful and clean. My least favorite, Georgia. I’m sorry to anyone that lives in Georgia, but your state drives me crazy. We use the rest stops to let the kids run and blow off some energy. It’s usually a lot of fun. Unless we are stopped in Georgia. I think it’s too close to Florida, but still too far away. So no one is happy. There are bugs. So no one is happy. And we aren’t in Florida. So no one is happy.

For dinner, we stop for fast food. It’s usually crazy, because we have been cooped up in a car Everyone is tired, hungry, crabby, loud…so we are those annoying people from out of town, bothering a small town Wendy’s. Ordering way too much food, and then needing to order more. Sorry, if you’ve been disturbed by us. There was nothing I could do to stop the shouts and screams coming from my children. And thank you to the kind people that just chuckled and said they’d been there too.

Anytime we do stop at a hotel, we try to find ones in those coupon books at rest stops. It makes it so much more affordable. The downfall, you can’t make a reservation with those books. So they might get completely booked, even if you’ve been calling to make sure they had space available. (Not that I’m speaking from experience.) So during busy seasons (ie: driving to Florida when most people are out of school), don’t use that coupon book and just pay the little extra to book a room somewhere.

8. THE END: And then. When you think you cannot drive, with four kids in the car, any longer. It is over. You arrive. And it is beautiful. And was totally worth it. Even the 25 hour drive.

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You can read more about our recent Florida Family Vacation, here.

So how do you do vacations? I would love to hear your tips and tricks in the comments below, or if you have a blog, link up with Lori and I!


Love this link up as much as I do? Here are my previous This Is How We Do It posts:

Grocery Shopping

Me Time

Dinner Time

And some Link Up Information:

1. Fill out form, by clicking blue button below.

2. Be sure to link back to me, Grace Mountain Diaries, and Lori, The Boutelle Family, somewhere in your post.

3. Etiquette: You can use a post written recently, ie: the last week or so, but please link back. If you forget, you will get a nice email, but if you don’t link back your post may be removed from the link up. Also, please only link up 1 post about the topic we are discussing. Anything outside of the discussion will be removed.

3. If you use social media, feel free to use #ThisIsHowWeDoIt and tag me on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. I will check it and will share as many as I can throughout the week!

4. This link up is open all week!

36 thoughts on “This Is How We Do It: Family Vacation

  1. This is SO great!! You are amazing! When we do our first family road trip, you’re definitely going to have to come help me 🙂 I love hosting this link up with you, friend!


  2. You are so brave and organized when it comes to trips! A 25 hour road trip is a big-undertaking even without children! I will keep these tips in the back of my mind for when we do have children and a long road trip ahead!


  3. Ahh!! Loved your thoughts!! AND love knowing that there are others that make VERY long car trips too!! Thanks so much again for hosting this link up! It is always so fun to connect with everyone!!
    Blessings, Rebecca 🙂


  4. Haha to the part about Georgia (I live there)! But I love this! I only have one toddler and I was petrified going from Georgia to Florida this year. You make road tripping seem so much fun! Thanks for sharing!


  5. Love the way you separate out the TYPES of clothing in bags – makes sense. And I didn’t think enough about what potty training my 22-month old 10 days before a 5-hour road trip meant. OOPS. Lesson learned 🙂


    • Haha! It is so helpful to have things organized out as much as possible. And as few children potty trained as possible. Seriously. Even with only 2 potty trained kids, they added so many hours to our drive! But memories. So…maybe worth it? 😉


  6. We don’t even have kids yet, and I’m a freak and do the very same things (minus diapers and such haha). It seriously makes such a difference to be organized like this. I pack the backseat very particularly so I can reach things that I know my husband will inevitably ask for while driving (sweatshirt, drink from the cooler, etc…) Important thing to share, I’m glad you did!


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