Over the course of two separate vacations, Hubby and I drove the 4 boys cross-country this year. First we drove to the Pacific coast, and last week we went to the Atlantic. Both trips were pretty neat, and I learned a few tricks in packing along the way.
*Limit each family member to one suitcase and one toy bag. I helped the boys with their suitcases, and left it to each of them to pack a toy bag. I did slide in crayons, paper, and coloring books but they chose the rest. The toy bag is a great place to store treasures that are acquired along the way as well.
*Make sure the toy bag can zip closed. I nearly lost my temper with the older boys during the spring trip because every time they got out of the van all their stuff was dumped out. This time I still had to police it a bit, but there was a massive improvement.
*Pack just enough clothes for the time period of your choosing and plan to wash them during the trip. For the 7 day trip I had the boys pack 5 of everything and then made sure I washed by the 4th day. Many hotels have laundry facilities available on site. It is cheaper to use an actual laundromat, but the convenience outweighs cost in this case. I could leave Hubby and the boys in the room and run down to check the machines quickly. This was a lot more fun than sitting alone in a strange place waiting for my clothes to dry. The machines are high capacity: I was able to get all our used clothes plus 6 beach towels clean in two loads.
*If you have the car DVD players put all the DVDs into a plastic box. I put all the DVD’s in a bag first trip which meant I had to dig them out and then nag the boys to put them away. This time, I found a box that fit under the middle van bench and just slid it out to help the little guys when they were ready for a new flick. The older boys could reach it from their seats easily. We only had one or two loose DVDs the whole trip, and I was able to catch that quickly and avoid scratches.
*For trips longer than a week, consider renting a luggage carrier. We discovered that we could rent a box that rode behind the van (attached to the hitch) from a local bike shop. We considered one that attached to the top of the van, but decided against it due to concerns about drag and decreased gas mileage. The Thule that we got held a great deal of luggage and supplies and was fairly easy to tip out of the way when we wanted to open the back of the van.
*Devote one bag to first aid and medical supplies. Items like sunblock, band-aids, vitamins, pain relief, cough and cold remedies, etc. are easy to find if you’ve got them all in one place. Bringing along what you already own can also save time and money.
*Use a cooler that plugs into the vehicle to keep milk, juice, produce, and sandwich fixings fresh and close at hand. We borrowed a friend’s cooler first trip and liked it so well we purchased our own for the second jaunt.
*A large laundry basket does well to hold all the rest of the food supplies. We brought along things like bread, peanut butter, chips, cookies, microwave popcorn, shelf-stable microwave meals, plates, cups, and utensils. We sat the basket on top of the luggage in the back of the van and used a bungee cord to keep it from sliding around. It was high enough that the older boys could reach back and fetch items while we were on the road. Very handy if the family suddenly had a snack or gum craving.
*A smaller plastic box can hold helpful supplies like paper towel, hand wipes, sanitizer, laundry soap, dryer sheets, and batteries.
*Gather coins and some dollars in a zip-close sandwich bag and keep near the driver’s seat. This is a great stress-reducer when approaching a toll road, using a coin laundry, and feeding the ever popular stretched penny machine.
So what vacation tips do you have to share? Any special secrets you have to make vacationing with children easier? Leave a comment and share with the group!
Earnest Parenting: tips for saving money on vacation.