Heading off on a vacation this summer? For most families, skipping expensive airfare and opting to drive makes a lot more financial sense. In addition to keeping more cash in your pocket, road trips are also an opportunity to create new memories together as a family (while making pit stops at cool destinations along the way)! If you’re getting ready to hit the road with kids in tow, there are some things you definitely don’t want to leave home without. To make a long drive as comfortable as possible for your little ones, here’s a roundup of five must-have things to pack before hitting the highway.
Your child’s favorite loveys
Chances are, your child has a treasured stuffed pal or blanket that feels like part of the family. Being that it is a family vacation, be sure to bring these loveys along for the ride. Since road trips require long stretches of time in the car, it’s only natural for children to grow restless and cranky sooner or later. Having their favorite lovey (formally known as a transitional object) can help soothe crabby little ones. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), transitional objects are a perfectly healthy part of development. Why? They help children cope with unfamiliarity while providing a sense of comfort and safety. Sshlumpies make for an ideal lovey object because they’re portable, cute and (most importantly) super soft! The AAP stresses that softness is part of a transitional object’s appeal. Having a lovey in the backseat will also help your child sleep away some of the drive.
Snacks to keep those hungry bellies full
Nothing will throw off your travel time like having to continually stop for food. Be sure to pack a good supply of grab-and-go snacks to help keep hunger at bay. Word to the wise: avoid messy foods. Good go-to items include fruits and veggies in squeezable pouches, almonds (assuming your child is old enough to have them and doesn’t have a nut allergy), apple slices and cereal bars. When it comes to drinks, be sure to stick with water, which won’t stain if it spills. To be on the safe side, opt for travel cups with secure lids. I like to keep our snack bag in the front seat during family road trips. Otherwise, the kids will blow through all the goodies before we’re even out of the neighborhood!
For most parents, it doesn’t take long before they hear whines of boredom coming from the backseat. Think ahead and be sure to pack things that will help pass the hours. Consider renting an educational movie that kids can watch along the ride. To prevent fights over who gets to hold the iPad, try mounting it to the back of one of the front seats. Sites like Pinterest are full of creative ways to do this. When movies lose their appeal, card games and handheld video games can also do the trick. (I prefer ones that teach letter sounds, number sense, etc.) Stuffed animals are another great option. More often than not, the novelty of a new toy is enough to keep kids enthralled. Consider picking up a new cuddle toy that you introduce to your child while on the road.
Extra clothes that are within reach
Let’s face it—family road trips get messy! It’s only a matter of time before a drink is spilled or a potty-training little one can’t hold it in. Having an extra set of emergency clothes on hand can be a lifesaver. Just make sure it’s within reach. If your child gets carsick, the last thing you’ll want to do is pull over on a busy highway to dig around in the trunk. Alternatively, some parents prefer to pack emergency kits for each child that contain things like extra clothes, shoes, underwear and more. Clean-up supplies On a similar note, it doesn’t take long for a family car to become a trash pit during a long drive. Keeping the glove box stocked with a few plastic shopping bags is key. During each rest stop, be sure to clean out the mess as you go. One other thing I would never leave home without is a good supply of baby wipes. Even if your kids are older, wipes are a must! Between food, runny noses and unexpected spills, you’ll thank yourself later for keeping these on hand. Hand sanitizer is another thing you’ll want in the car. This is especially handy to have when visiting a public rest area or before digging into a drive-thru meal. (Speaking of drive-thrus, bringing along a little basket for each child to sort their meals in the car is genius!)