Everything you need to know about what to bring on your road-trip with your kid, by a self proclaimed expert. Self proclaimed expert as a result of spending four months traveling the US in a car with an eight year old. Of course, my biggest fear was that he’d get bored and I’d hear, “are we there yet?” for the rest of the ride! Being the perfect mom that I am, I decided to scour Pinterest for ideas! I ended up spending hours making individual goodie bags for each state we went through. I went to dollar stores and garage sales for games and toys. What a waste of perfectly good time and money! I had goodie bags that were never opened. I had games that were never played. He spent most of his time playing on the tablet and enjoying our crazy stops. In an effort to help others not make the same egregious mistake, I have come up with a list of things you’ll ACTUALLY use!
1. Tablet/Computer/DVD player. This is something that parents try to avoid nowadays, but let’s face facts, if you’re trapped in a car, you need something that they’ll actually enjoy.
2. Headphones! I can’t emphasize this one enough. Imagine four hours of listening to “Gotta Catch Em All, Pokémon!”
3. Snacks. It’s lovely to imagine that you’ll pack all of your meals, but realistically you’ll want time out of the car. Snacks on the other hand, will help when you’re 20 miles from the next exit. I took a basketball net and put a carabiner at each end. I then filled it with apples, oranges, and bananas. I then hung one end from a hook inside the passenger door. I also brought peanut butter crackers, gummies, and granola bars. Not everyone has the same taste in snacks, but remember that you WILL eat some and you don’t want to be 50 extra pounds after your trip.
4. Drinks. You may not want to stop every 15 minutes for a bathroom break, but it’s good to have something to drink. We like to stay healthy with our drinks. We each brought our own water bottle. Then I filled a gallon jug with water and put it in the back of the car. When we stopped I would refill the water bottles. When the gallon was empty, we would go to a water refill station, a grocery store refill station, or a campsite water refill station. This meant that we paid little to nothing for drinks. If you need some flavor, I recommend Crystal Light packets. It’s low calorie and no sugar.
5. Pillows and blankets. This seems like a given for kids, but bring them for you also. You would be surprised how many uses they serve. Plus, if someone spills on theirs, you have an extra. I ended up using a pillow as a lumbar support for part of my trip.
6. Toys and games. Now I know that I said packing these things was a waste of time, but it wasn’t completely. Instead of making such grand efforts, just pack your child’s favorite toys and games. The internet is full of ideas that make you think they’ll get bored with their toys. That may be the case, but they’re more likely to get bored with the toy they already never play with, rather than the toy they love now!
7. Wipes. Messes happen. They especially happen if you have kids. I carry baby wipes with me everywhere! My son hasn’t been a baby in years, but what else can get chocolate out of a car seat and take off makeup?! Baby wipes are a parent’s secret weapon.
8. Maps. When we left, I had planned on using my gps the whole time. I also knew that electronics may not work everywhere, so I brought a giant map. As it turned out, we never lost signal. I did use the maps though. It turned out that navigation is a great activity for a kid. I would ask my son to read the signs we were passing and then find us on the map. Then I would put him in charge of telling me which direction to head in. Of course, i kept the gps on just in case. It made him really feel as though he were in charge of our destination.