- Pack light. It really is an art form sometimes, but carefully planning out what you are bringing can really make everything go more smoothly. I like to lay out the clothes everyone needs day by day with only one set of spares. This way, I don't have to pack anything more than what is necessary. Try to mix and match to keep everyone's wardrobe pared down and minimalistic. There is really no sense in hauling around your whole house, especially with weather reports that can really give you a good idea of what you're in for.
- Pack well. The more you can do to be organized before you leave, the less frantically you'll have to burrow through the trunk to find the diapers in an emergency. When you do pack up the car, make sure anything you might need to access during the journey is on top, so you don't have to unload everything to get to some spare clothes or a favorite toy.
- Choose good snacks. I avoid anything chocolate because it's really messy, especially in a car or in little hands where it's likely to melt. I also am very concientious about choosing snacks that are not high in sugar, fat, or salt, because they are more likely to cause upset tummies. And babies with upset tummies are not happy travelers. And parents with unhappy babies are also not happy travelers. So thinking about what you eat is important. And don't forget to keep the kiddos well hydrated!
- Use overnight diapers to keep leaks during the trip to a minimum.
- Bring a special bag that is full of car entertainment. Coloring books and crayons are good, finger puppets, small stuffed animals, plastic figurines or cars and books are all great. Distribute the toys over time, not all at once. When the kiddos get bored with something, reach into the fun bag and bring out something new. They'll be thrilled.
- Learn some songs or bring CDs with lots of kid friendly music that you (the driver) can stand to listen to. Our girls love to sing and they are pretty content to sing their little hearts out just about the whole drive.
- Ziplock bags are your best friend. I use them for everything. I use sandwich size bags for snacks to help keep crumbiness down (although crumbs still happen). They are also great for holding just a few crayons, so the whole box doesn't end up scattered around the car. I use gallon size bags to pack up diapers and wipes and keep them handy in the car. I also use gallon bags to keep a spare change of clothes handy. And having other bags on hand is good, too. We always bring along little garbage bags for dirty/wet clothes, diapers, and all that other fun stuff.
- Plan for breaks. Everyone needs to stretch their legs, go to the bathroom and get some fresh air every few hours. If you're going on a trip you haven't taken before, look ahead for major cities or stopping points so you know how long each leg of the journey is going to be.
- Don't be afraid to repack if you have multiple destinations. At the end of our Cascade Lake trip we spent one night in Boise before heading back. We repacked a smaller bag with only what we would need for that night and it was much easier than hauling around our big suitcase that had everything. Or, if you know ahead of time you'll be having lots of little stops, consider packing smaller bags for each destination (or using those trusty Ziplocks to separate outfits) and keeping one central bag (with all the daily necessities like toothbrushes and diapers and such).
Do you travel with your young children? Or do you stay put? If you do travel, do you have additional tips? I'd love to hear them!