I won't lie... I love my kids, but spending 13+ hours in the car with them en route to our vacation destination pushes me to the very edges of my sanity.
Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating just a bit, but all of the "Are we there yets?" and "He's/she's touching mes!", not to mention the bickering over what movie to watch, where to stop for food, what to listen to on the radio, etc., are enough to make me consider locking myself in the bathroom stall at the next rest stop. But we still do it year after year -- and in the end, I have to say it's worth the aggravation.
In just a few weeks, we're headed back to the beautiful Outer Banks, Corolla, NC to be specific. I'm SO looking forward to the gorgeous wild mustangs that trot up and down the beach, the dolphins playing in the surf out in front of our beach house, and gorging myself on Duck Donuts (warm, made-to-order heaven)! But I'm not looking forward to the drive down.
That said, I'm trying a few new ideas this year to make our road trip a little less stressful. I thought I'd share them with you, along with a few of my tried and true essentials that have proven their worth.
Cereal Container Trash Can
Perhaps you've already seen this idea floating around on Pinterest -- I'm not sure who came up with it first, but it's simply brilliant! This Mainstays Storage Dispenser (I think it's an updated version of this cereal dispenser) is the perfect size to hold a Great Value Small Kitchen Bag securely. The wide-mouth, easy open and close top makes corralling trash simple and easy!
Power Inverter with USB Chargers
We recently upgraded to a 2015 Yukon Denali XL that has power outlets and USB chargers galore, but before that, a good power inverter was one of the best investments I've made. I could easily charge my laptop and my kids could charge their various devices. My husband hardwired ours into our car and zip-tied it down to keep the kids from tripping on it, but you can also just plug it into a DC outlet for more portability.
Favorite Travel Apps
Smartphone apps make travel SO much easier these days. In addition to keeping the kids occupied with games like Minecraft and Plants vs. Zombies, I rely on apps to help me find the best price on gas (GasBuddy), figure out when the next rest stop is coming up (USA Rest Stops), and to see what restaurants are coming up over the next few exits (Roadtrippers). The Weather Channel Max is also indispensable because it notifies me of adverse weather conditions based on my current location.
Road Trip Snacks
I don't know what it is about sitting in a car all day, but it makes my kiddos hangry! So a cooler packed full of bottled water and healthy road trip snacks is an absolute essential. Plus packing your own snacks is a much more affordable alternative to running through the drive-thru several times and it gets us to a destination a little faster!
The Drawstring Bag Rule
Though our Yukon is pretty roomy and easily seats seven, once it's packed full of luggage and all of the other miscellaneous items associated with a week-long trip to the beach, it gets pretty cramped -- so I've instituted what I call the "drawstring bag rule". Any items they want to use during the driving portion of the trip must fit into a standard drawstring bag, including blankets. The only exception is their travel pillows. This is a totally simple and argument-free way to keep the inside of the car relatively free from clutter!
Cargo Carrier Luggage Rack with Totes
This is actually a new purchase for us, one that I'm anticipating will revolutionize our road trips! We just invested in one of these cargo carrier luggage racks that mount on the back of our SUV via the trailer hitch. My plan is to measure it when it arrives and then purchase some storage totes that will fit securely and a cargo net that will hold it all down. Storage totes will be SO much easier to pack than suitcases, and this should free up loads of room inside the car.
DVD Case + Headphones
Last Christmas, my kids all used some of the money they received to invest in a good pair of Beats headphones -- music peace and quiet to my ears! But we didn't have wireless headphones that connected to the DVD player in our car, so my husband and I have endured hours upon hours of listening to the same movies over and over. When we purchased our new car, we made sure to get five sets of headphones. I'll be stashing a small stockpile of extra batteries in our center console to fuel them, and I also picked up a Case Logic DVD holder when I was at Walmart the other day to avoid having half a dozen Blu-ray cases sliding all over during our trip.
Looking back over my list, I'm struck by how much travel has changed since the road trips of my youth! I do realize that these are truly convenience items and that we're blessed to worry about things like which movie to watch first.
There are also some true essential items that we keep stocked in our car at all times. Things like: baby wipes, napkins, Kleenex, hand sanitizer, a well-stocked first aid kit, pain relievers, a multi-tool, and a roadside emergency kit.
What are your must-have items (convenience or essential) for road trips?