For the last six years, we have traveled to Florida with our children.
In our van. Driving from Illinois.
It’s technically a 17.5 hour drive. But for us it takes about 30 hours. It’s great.
And every year, after we arrive home and have re-entered normal society, we are asked the same questions. (And if this was you, please know that we do not mind the questions. And that you’re not alone in wondering.)
How did it go?
How did you do it?
Well friends, I’m going to be honest and say – I have no idea.
But really, there’s more to it than sheer determination and will to survive. We’ve learned a few tips and tricks over the years. And each year we try something a little new.
And since we’re friends I’m going to share my tips with you. You’re welcome.
(I actually share a little more detail in this post: I wrote it let year after our annual Florida vacation. Check out that post for a detailed packing list and more tips: https://gracemountaindiaries.wordpress.com/2015/07/13/this-is-how-we-do-it-family-vacation/)
Pro Tip #1: PACK LIGHT Oh my goodness. If you can find a place that has a washer/dryer in unit or laundry nearby snatch.it.up.
It is so freeing to only have to pack 3 outfits per person. Because each person still needs bathing suit, hat, sunglasses, jacket, pajamas, undergarments, socks, shoes, beach blankets, lovie…and the list goes on seemingly forever. For our family of 6, including diapers and wipes, we fit everything in one duffel bag and a backpack.
I just want all the hallelujah hands for that one. But I digress…
Pro Tip #2: PACK INDIVIDUAL (TOY) BAGS: I use the kids school bags, but use whatever you like. The key is that they can be closed and that each kid can open it by themselves. Your back will thank you.
I don’t completely fill the backpacks because the little toys will inevitably fall out all over the floor of your minivan. This will inevitably happen during the treacherous mountain driving section of your trip. It will then start raining and thundering. And your children will be screaming and hyperventilating because their sudden new favorite toy had become lost to the abyss. For all time. Also known as when you stop next.
Anyway, don’t let that be you. Be like me. I fill ziploc bags with themes of toys: Princess toys in one bag, cars in another. I include a bag of stickers, pencils, and crayons. We bring a few books, coloring books, and notebooks. And a few new toys. Because everyone loves surprises.
Pro Tip #3: PACK SNACKS Obviously. The best part about road trips is the snacks, right? We bring a giant bag of the kids favorite snacks, even the not healthy ones. (Just do not pack snacks that are: sticky, can melt, or make a giant mess.) Because the time for arguing about health is not when you’re trapped in a metal box driving for 30 hours. It’s just not.
We do try to ration snacks. They mainly stay hidden by a pillow until snack time (Yes, it’s a real time. It happens around 9:30/10. Some call it second breakfast.) and for before lunch when we’re trying to get that last 30 minutes to the rest stop. I include small snack containers, with lids, in the snack bag. This way snacks can be filled and tossed to the back of the van. Easy peasy.
Oh and never ever give your kids free access to water. We keep them by us, hidden on the floor and hand them out for sips, as needed.
Pro Tip #4: PACK SEPARATE BAGS TO GRAB ‘N GO: Pack separate bags for every need. So we have a cooler and one bag specifically for rest stop lunches. It holds our (my kids) favorites: Nutella, bread, and fruit snacks. It also holds necessities: water bottles, paper towels, wipes, paper plates and plastic silverware (all kinds – because you never know what makes it in the cooler from the fridge).
We also have a separate bag for the overnight stop. It has everyone’s pajamas, undergarments, diapers, wipes, toiletries, and a change of clothes.
Pro Tip #5: KEEP CHANGE OF CLOTHES EASY TO REACH Always, always keep diapers, wipes, a change of pants, and underwear in the pockets of the car seats for those just in case moments. You never know when they’ll happen and it’s best to be prepared instead of being the people unpacking your entire car searching for one change of clothes. Seriously.
Pro Tip #6: BLANKETS Strange, I know, but stick with new. Bring blankets and lovies. Leave one easily accessible by each seat. That way when it should be nap time or bed time, you can declare it. You tell everyone to grab their blankets and toy and go to sleep. We turn the radio to the front speakers and ignore any sounds coming from the back of the car. I promise, they’ll fall asleep and you get a few more hours of driving in.
And that’s it. We don’t stop a lot on drives that are destination drives (like Florida). We don’t do a lot of screen times either. Instead we talk to the kids about where we are, where we’re going next, and let them be. They’re kids and they’ll find weird things to do while you’re driving. I promise.
What are your favorite road trip tips? I’d love to hear them – leave them in the comments!