Pit Stops for Kids’ Pre-Road Trip Checklist

My Busy Kit is a must in the ‘carry-on’ bag!

As my family and I gear up (literally speaking!) for our upcoming 22-day road trip throughout the western states, piles of equipment, duffel bags, coolers, and the like are starting to dot the landscape of our family room. As I always wonder before an extended trip, I’ve been asking myself: is this all really going to fit into our minivan?

Somehow, it always does. The key to this magic trick? Organization, organization, and more organization. In case you, too, have a trip to pack for, here’s how we divide up all that stuff that accompanies a single family on a road trip:

One ‘checked’ bag per person.

No, we’re not flying on this trip, but the same rule applies (and if it’s over 50 lbs, I pocket the penalty cash…just kidding). Each person in our family is allotted one checked bag, and they all go in our car top duffel so that they’re out of the way until we stop for the night.

Our Family Car Organizer all stuffed and ready to go!

Two family ‘carry-on’ bags.

I know that many families opt to have each child carry his or her own stuff in individual bags, but we’ve found that causes too much clutter with three kids, especially since they bring so many like items.

Our first carry-on (usually our large Tuffo Family Car Organizer) is filled with activities for the car.* These include everyone’s books, travel journals, small toys, My Busy Kits, coloring books, auto Bingo checklists and other car games, and non-perishable snacks like jelly-bellies, goldfish crackers, and the like.

Our second carry-on is filled with electronics. For this, I use my trusted Timbuk2 laptop messenger bag. In it are more than enough compartments to fit (and keep organized) my laptop, the kids’ Nintendo DS units, everyone’s camera (yes, everyone has one…you can buy used digital cameras for a steal on Ebay these days!), iPods, our portable DVD player and portable TV (which we use for a second screen), DVDs and Nintendo games, and all the various chargers and cords. (Don’t forget headphones and a duel headphone adapter!) Within the main bag, we use gallon-sized zip-lock bags to keep the components of each type of electronic item separate.

A plastic grocery bag.

Actually, let’s make that several plastic grocery bags. What are they for? I bet you can guess! But besides car sickness and other unforeseen emergencies, they’re great to slip around a car hook as a garbage bag and as a temporary home for wet shoes, swimsuits, soiled clothes, and the like.

A cooler with ice.

We pack lunches, snacks, and drinks whenever possible. Not only does it save money on the road, but eating pre-packed food ensures that we’ll stop at more scenic locations for our breaks, like roadside viewpoints or parks, rather than fast food joints. Besides, traveling with kids is nearly as hard as running a marathon…best if everyone fuels up with healthy options! And when you simply can’t find a decent place to stop, or one person declares he will simply die of hunger if he doesn’t eat right now (is that just my kids?)…you have assess to your food right in the car!

Add pillows (if there’s room), a diaper bag (if you have a little one) and there you have it…everything we take with us in the car. After all, when your square footage is lacking, less is definitely more!