As a mom, we spend three times as much time planning for the road trip as we do being on the trip. We know the planning is important, because once you know what you are doing on your trip, it is much easier to plan for the trip.
I’m always looking for ways to make this easier. I have a standard packing list from years ago when we lived in Pennsylvania and traveled home to Indiana. It has changed very little over the years, except to expanded due to more children and different needs for each child.
Since I planned our 8 days, 7 nights trip to Branson, MO, I thought this would be a good time to share my old and new favorite tips.
I spent some time on Pinterest looking for snack ideas, kid’s activity ideas, and just ideas in general for this 8+ hour road trip.
Plan your trip
Spend some time researching where you are going. Find out what is available to you and what you are interested in doing as a family. This doesn’t mean you have to plan every minute, but having a general idea of what you want to do makes things like packing a lot easier.
I found a couple of great websites on Pinterest that I’d love to share.
Edventures with Kids had 2 printables that I’m using for this trip.
She has a packing and planning printable. I used to lay out what we are doing and what I would need for those particular activities. I’m so glad I did this or I would have forgotten things like sun screen as we don’t go to the beach often.
The other worksheet is 10 Things to do Before you leave for your Next Road trip. We don’t go on road trips often, but when we do it is nice to have something like this ready so I can just check everything off and make sure everything is completed for a safe trip.
Both of these are going to be lifesavers.
Plan your food
Food is always a big expense. For our family to go out to eat is anywhere from $50 to $100 for dinner, and this is if we don’t eat at a Fast Food restaurant. When we are on vacation we love to hit the local “Mom and Pop” diners. Here you find the best foods at the best prices.
I’ve made a list of the places we want to eat at. We try to find locals and ask them for food recommendations. They will usually tell you the touristy places to eat. Asking, “Where would YOU eat?” has always given the best answer.
Knowing we can’t go out to eat for every meal, but plan to do it at least once a day. Menu planning allows us to make sure we eat and hit the best spots.
Planning an all-day adventure means lunch in there somewhere for the starving children. This is perfect picnic weather at the lake or the amusement park. It isn’t the same as eating out at a restaurant, but it is a new adventure and fun. So in my planning I have written down that we need to pack picnic lunches.
Our plans while flexible are still pretty much what we are going to do. We just move it around to fit the weather. This is why I’ve created a menu plan for the week.
Plan your snacks
You may think this goes under plan your food, but according to my “always starving” children this is a category all of its own.
We will be driving for at least 8 hours. You KNOW they will get hungry. You end up saving time, energy and money if you buy snacks ahead of time.
My husband’s Grandma Raymer was great at this. He told me that she always planned food for the trip. Whether it was sandwiches or Orange Slices, they never stopped at a restaurant to eat, but he never went without either.
If you search for Road Trip Snacks on Pinterest you will find all kinds of great ideas for you to much on while you are on the road that are healthy.
Our kids are in pairs, but when we pack only the boys get packed together. They are about the same size and many times wear the same clothes.
The oldest and youngest girls and boys will be packed together. The teens usually dress the littles for the day. This means they doesn’t have to go looking for the littles’ clothes because they are right there with their own.
Now for my secret to packing…. Gallon-sized storage bags. I grab a cheap package of them at the store before my trip. Each outfit for my youngest 2 is packed in a bag. This is great for two big reasons. One the teen dressing the child doesn’t have to worry about finding matching clothes because they are already matched. In the bag you will find clothes, socks, hair accessories (for the girl), and anything they need for the day.
The second reason is when we are out the clothes are carried in the storage bags. If they get soiled, wet or just need to be replaced, they don’t get tossed back into the diaper bag, but put in the storage bag. This is great for clean up later.
The worst thing that could happen is you forget about one of the bags. Then you can try to save them or toss them, BUT if you aren’t able to save them then it is only the one bag that is destroyed and not EVERYTHING.
Plan Activities and Stops
I spent some time printing out games, coloring pages, and activities for my boys to do along the way. They are usually the first ones to proclaim they are bored. Now I know I could keep them plugged into technology, but this is vacation and I really don’t want them zoned out.
Here is a list of the websites where I found some great things
We also know we will need to plan stops. Kids and parents get a little, ok a LOT, stir crazy if they are confined for a long period of time. Our plan is to stop about every 2 hours.
Our big stop both ways will be in St. Louis where we will check out Forest Park, the location of the 1904 World’s Fair.
Check out the websites for Roadside America and the National Parks and Historical Places to see if there is something along your travel path of fun, easy and even free places you can stop along the way.
While there is a lot of planning involved in a road trip, it does pay off in the end. These things, I promise, will bring you peace and give you sanity while on the way and when you get to where you are going. Spending the time to do this is worth every minute.
Did I miss anything? What are your road-trip vacation planning tips that save your sanity? I’d love to add them to my list.