In 2020 my family took a huge leap of faith and decided to explore the great outdoors for a year in a brand new camper trailer. Up until that point the longest road trip we had ever taken as a family was 5 hours long and we certainly hadn’t camped more than a few days at a time. Needless to say, over the course of the 30,000 miles we logged, we learned a thing or two about ourselves (and each other) as we hit all four corners of the USA. Sure, flying from point A to point B is more efficient, but a road trip gives you a chance to run your fingers across an atlas and drive through small towns you’d never visit otherwise. With summer right around the corner, I’ve listed some pointers for your next big road trip.
Make a packing list and (mostly) follow it.
Despite being an obsessive list-maker, there will never be a trip we take that we don’t forget something semi-important, whether it’s something small and easily replaceable, like my toothbrush, or an item pretty integral to the entire trip, like our tent. Yup. We have totally gone camping and forgot to bring the tent. Fortunately, the nearby roadside market had a smattering of outdoor gear, tents included, so rather than camping in our roomy Kingdom 6 from REI, we slept next to each other in two separate tiny tents all weekend. I’m not really sure what our neighbors thought, like were they fighting? Did they sleep in separate rooms at home? Either way, we got a ton of laughs out of the situation and we’re better about double-checking our list before pulling out of the driveway.
Pro tip: pack a small bag with extra clothes for your child and keep it easily accessible in the car. And never leave home without emergency barf bags. Finding out your kid gets car sick mid-route is never a good time. On that note, might as well throw a trash bag in the car so you don't have to shove everything in the doors.
There is no shame in bailing on your plans.
When our son was nine months old we had a pretty ballsy trip planned. We were going to road trip and camp at several different spots along the southern Oregon coast over the course of 10 days. Things were going pretty okay (if you count breastfeeding in a tent with a child who won’t sleep okay), until it started to rain on us. Tired, cranky and now also wet, the trip was getting less fun by the minute. As we took shelter from the rain in the car, my husband nonchalantly mentioned we could easily call it quits and be home by dinnertime. Honestly, the thought hadn’t even crossed my mind at that point. Normally, I’m a ‘finish what we started’ kind of girl, but ending our trip on a high note rather than slugging through the last few days was a wise decision.
Bring more toys and activities than seems necessary.
When flying we try to travel as light as possible, but the rules of packing are totally different when you’ve got a road trip ahead of you. Stuff that vehicle to the brim, baby! Depending how many hours you have to drive, you won’t regret having lots of activities on board to keep your kiddos busy. They will come in handy too at your campsite, rental, or brewery happy hour. Pending your child's age, some car activities we love are paint by sticker books, scratch art, magnetic hangman, dry-erase road sign bingo, and magic ink coloring books.
Pro-tip: get an activity tray for your child’s lap so they can play without dropping things left and right.
Step up your snack game.
Road trips are only as good as the car snacks, so hit up your local Trader Joe’s and go wild. We also like to pull over at roadside markets for some local flair. Nothing beats hot boiled peanuts or a carton of fresh berries, depending on what part of the country you’re cruising through. So leave your normal go-to snacks at home and pack some variety.