This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and Walmart Family Mobile. All opinions are mine alone. #Tips4Trips #CollectiveBias
If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you might have noticed that we are currently on a mini vacation in Las Vegas. Fun Dad and I consider ourselves road trip professionals. It’s our favorite way to travel! This time around, Fun Dad had to work, so he drove out separately from me and drove home earlier. That means that I am doing the bulk of the driving with the kids all by myself.
Like I said, we’re pros. I’ve driven to other states by myself with the kids, and I’m sure I’ll do it again, but only because I’ve picked up some tips and tricks over the years that make every road trip smoother. Not only do I have a list of things that we always bring along, but I also have a list of things that have been banned from future trips.
Road Trip Must-Haves:
1. A great emergency kit. Our kit has flashlights, batteries, jumper cables, a small cone, a towing strap, gloves, a poncho, a very thorough first aid kit, a spot light, and glass chalk. We have a tendency to find ourselves in disastrous situations quite often, like getting stranded on a muddy road in the middle of nowhere, so having some kind of emergency kit is a priority for us.
2. Wipes, Napkins, and Towels. Even without eating meals in the car, you’re still going to need wipes and napkins. Lots of them. I usually stock up with a big box of diaper wipes and a few rolls of paper towels any time we go on a road trip. There always seems to be some kind of spill or accident, or something that requires a clean up job, so it’s nice to have. My kids also have a history of trashing hotel rooms, so it’s just best that we carry along some things to clean with.
3. Lots of plastic bags. This kind of coincides with the items above. Plastic bags are a must. I usually bring a bunch of plastic grocery bags as well as a couple of different sizes of zipper bags. Like I said, there’s always some kind of spill or accident, or you might have a kid who gets car sick (we have one). I hate throwing away a good outfit if I can afford it, though I have had to throw a few out in the past. Zipper bags are great at keeping smelly clothes contained until you can wash them.
4. Cash. Always travel with a good amount of cash. I like to split it up between myself, my husband, and a few hiding spots in the car and luggage. That way if one of us loses our wallet or something, we’re not completely out of luck. Cash is important, because there are still cash-only places in existence. And if they do happen to have an ATM, the fees are usually exorbitant. It’s also useful for getting you out of a sticky situation, or apologizing to the hotel staff.
5. Magnetic Games and Activities. Magnets are the way to go when traveling. They tend to be easier for kids to keep together, and if a piece gets lost in the car, just run a big magnet around all the crevices to find it! It’s also nice that nothing slides around as the car moves, so no one loses their place in the tic-tac-toe game. (Read further down the post for an awesome DIY Magnetic Road Trip Bingo Game!)
6. Non-Messy Snacks. Emphasis on non-messy for our family. There’s nothing like getting out of the car at a rest stop or at your destination and finding mountains of crumbs and sticky stuff in your back seats. Unless of course you like that kind of thing, then more power to you. But, if you’re like me and you can’t stand getting crumbs poked into your legs while you’re leaning in the car trying to get someone in and out of their car seat, then non-messy snacks are the way to go. Some of our choices include jerky, soft granola bars with no chocolate chips in them, and fruit leathers. We still pack a full cooler for trips, but we stopped eating actual meals in the car because of how quickly four kids could get the entire car dirty. Instead, we just stop at a rest stop or restaurant to eat at an actual table, and leave the mess in a garbage can somewhere.
7. Portable chargers. Most vehicles have limited charging outlets. You can buy things that have two USB plugs instead of one to help with that, but they charge super slowly, and usually the outlets are in the very front of the van. It doesn’t help you much when you’re trying to keep the kids in the very back quiet and calm for the long, boring part of the drive. I have a small collection of portable chargers that I can pass out to the kids when their batteries are getting low and it usually keeps them quiet until we get where we need to be.
8. Sunglasses. Okay, this is probably a no-brainer. But have you ever gone on a trip and forgotten your sunglasses? It is not fun, and you won’t last long before you have to go buy some overpriced ugly ones in a gas station. So, do yourself a favor and put them on your list so you won’t forget them.
9. A great smart phone. We use our phones for everything when we’re traveling. Photos, navigation, booking hotels, entertaining kids, and yes for calling people too. It important to have a phone we love, that works well, has a clear display, and isn’t freezing up on us all of the time. I love the ZTE ZMAX for that, and have been a fan of the phone for a while now. We bought one last December that my husband has been using, and we love it so much it was time for me to get one for myself.
We don’t mind letting the kids play on them while we do the boring driving. They can play games, watch movies, and take photos from their perspective. We don’t even have to worry about the data they use because we have…
10. An awesome cell service plan. There’s no point in having an amazing phone with you if you can’t even use it for most of your trip. I can remember one cross-country road trip we did where for half of the drive we had absolutely no service at all. The only connection we had with the outside world was when we stopped at an area that had a McDonald’s where we could connect to the wi-fi. And those are few are far between where we were. That’s one of the things I considered when I decided to make the switch to Walmart Family Mobile. When I saw the coverage map, I knew we wouldn’t have that problem in the future! I was able to pick up my phone and starter kit while I was in Walmart, shopping for the rest of my road trip necessities, and set it up right there too! Later, I can pay my bill at the end of the month right in the store if I want.
At only $29.88 for the first line, $24.88 for the second, and no contracts, that leaves us with a lot of money saved to actually do some fun things on our road trips! I tend to be pretty frugal for the most part, but sometimes it’s nice to step out of your comfort zone and do things you normally wouldn’t do, like spending $50 to visit a Las Vegas aquarium!
Now that we’ve covered what you need to bring on a road trip, let’s talk about what you shouldn’t bring. Most of these things I’ve learned from experience. I’m sharing so that you won’t make the same mistakes as me!
Road Trip Must-Not-Haves:
1. Crayons, markers, pencils, and pens. Just trust me on this one. Unless you have those magical clear markers that only color on the super expensive magic paper, leave all of the art supplies at home. Your car probably doesn’t need an artistic makeover, and you probably won’t be excited to see that your child has recreated the Ziggy Stardust look on themselves while in the back seat. So just don’t even bring them.
2. Stickers. Oh stickers. I always looked at those parents whose backseat windows were completely covered in stickers and said, “I’ll never let me kids do that. I’ll never be that parent.” Until it happened to my backseat windows. And I didn’t even notice until it was too late. Now stickers are completely banned from our vehicles, but the damage has already been done.
3. Messy snacks. You know, popcorn, chips, crackers, fruit snacks, anything with the ability to spill or splatter. Those kinds of snacks stay in the trunk or the cooler until we are somewhere where we can get out of the car to eat them.
4. Soda and juice. So sticky. So so sticky. For some reason, cups just fly out of the back seat cup holders and spill all over the place. And spill-proof cups have failed me too many times. When we’re on a trip it’s water and only water, in a sippy cup of course. Yes, even for the big kids.
5. Games with tiny pieces, or cards. Games are great fun, but tiny pieces and moving vehicles don’t work well together. Once too many of the pieces or cards get lost, the game is ruined. Better to leave those for inside games. It’s fine to pack them in a suitcase and bring them out for a game night in the hotel, just remind the kids that they won’t be playing them in the car.
Speaking of games, here’s a great one you can use for your next road trip! This DIY Magnetic Road Trip Bingo is super easy to make, and can be used by kids of all ages.
Get the full tutorial by clicking here.