Near Fremont State Park, Utah
1) Plan What to Take. I am a list maker, and my list is my guide when packing for a road trip. Consider the amount of space you have in your vehicle when you plan your packing. Pack as light a possible. For my road trips, the most difficult part of the planning and packing is the food, which I will address in a future post. Here are my road trip essentials:
- Copy of itinerary, including hotel information, confirmation numbers, driving directions, maps, etc.
- Clothing. If necessary, a pair of shoes or flip flops or sandals besides the pair you are wearing to drive in. During short trips, only the shoes you wear may be necessary. If your trip is long, consider wearing articles of clothing twice, or doing a load or two of laundry mid-way through the trip. Plan your clothes so that you can wash them in one or two loads (maybe leave the red shirt at home?) Underwear can be washed out in a hotel sink in a pinch. Bring swimsuits, but if you are using hotel pools, leave the towels at home.
- A basic kit of first aid supplies and medications. We like to bring bandaids, an antiseptic cream for cuts, something for sunburns and/or bug bites if necessary, a painkiller (like ibuprofen), allergy tablets, diarrhea medication, etc. You don't need huge bottles of these things--a few doses should do. Of course you should bring any prescription medications. If you are traveling with children, bring some child-appropriate medication, like a fever-reducer. If your child is running a fever in the middle of the night, you will be glad you brought something along!
- Toiletries. If you can get by with the hotel soaps and shampoos, do. But contact lens solution and/or glasses, toothpaste and toothbrushes, make-up, deodorant, and sunblock should be on your packing list.
- A cooler with food (If you are flying, consider bringing a collapsible cooler for your rental car)
- A bag with picnic supplies
- Water bottles for everyone
- A water jug to refill the water bottles.
- Some snacks for in the car. (Homemade chocolate chip cookies are our favorite!)
- Entertainment for the car--I prefer music, the occasional book on tape, and a book or magazine. I know some people won't venture more than 2 hours from home without a DVD player in the vehicle. That is entirely up to you. I am not a huge fan of having movies going in the car, or of having everyone listening to their own headphones. To read more about technology on family vacations, click here.
Near Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry, Utah
2) Set a target time for departure. I am always happy if we leave within half an hour of our planned departure time! Be flexible. Here are my tips to help you get out the door. (I like to use a "divide and conquer" method. One adult gets kids fed and ready and finishes packing, and the other gets ice, gas, and packs the cooler).
- Pack as much as you can the night before.
- Keep a list of things to pack in the morning. This might include items you couldn't pack early like pajamas, toothbrushes and contact lens cases. Check them off as you pack them.
- If you have not already done so, gas up your vehicle and purchase ice for the cooler.
- Pack your cooler. Keep a list of your food items, and check them off as you load the cooler. I'll deal more with packing your food in another post.
- Fill water bottles and your water cooler.
Loading the vehicle and heading out.
3) Everybody comfortable? Hit the road!
- Make sure everyone has their items for the car, like small pillows and water bottles.
- If your driver has long legs and will be pushing the seat back, put the person with the shortest legs behind the driver.
- Consider having window shades. You can purchase a variety that attach to your car window with suction cups. Keeping the sun off a passenger can greatly add to their comfort on the trip!
- The person in the passenger seat should have access to all itinerary information. They are the navigator. They will also be the person who deals with finding things for children, entertainment (loading CDs or MP3 files, songs and games for passengers), etc. The shotgun passenger also helps keep the driver alert!
Mill Fork Cemetery - stop for unusual sites along the way.
- Plan on stopping every two to three hours if all travelers in the car are adults. Stop every one and a half to two hours if you are traveling with small children. During stops, EVERYONE uses the bathroom. This is also the time to refill water bottles, get snacks, find toys, change diapers, take trash out of the car, re-arrange seating, and switch drivers.
- Often rest stops have picnic areas or places to walk around. Stop and stretch for a few minutes. Since you will have to stop regularly, estimate your drive time and then plan extra time for breaks.
- Stop at interesting view points or historical sites. We have stopped at many wonderful places on a whim. Discovery is part of the journey.
Who knew? Stop and learn something along the way.
- Occasionally buy a treat at a convenience store when you stop for gas. That is part of the fun!
- Keep your camera handy. We often stop to take photos along the way. Other times, we don't stop, and just take photos out the car window. Either way, we are always glad to have the camera available.
Photo taken out the window from I-15, northern Utah
Now you are on your way!
See my other posts for more about road trips:
Road Trip Planning - Step 1 - Routes and Accommodations
Road Trip Planning - Step 3 - Traveling With Children
Road Trip Planning - Step 4 - Food for the Trip