It goes without saying: almost everyone loves the idea of traveling, but the actual traveling is hardly anyone’s favorite part of it. Moving from A to B, B to C, and C to every other letter of the alphabet definitely takes more patience than anything else.
Now add to that a child, who may or may not be old enough to understand patience (or might just not feel like it at that moment), and things get really sticky. I’ve written about traveling with young toddlers before in the form of everything I learned about taking a (mostly) solo road trip and my 4 tips from when we went to Disneyland (and drove the whole way).
We were just recently looking at our photos from our trip to Disneyland. It’s funny to think that was two years ago—and Fo looks so small in all the photos! He was a younger toddler then and now he’s a kid—and things are definitely different now.
When we first had Forrest, it felt like we might never be able to travel again. Even just a trip to the mall felt like I needed to pack an entire army—and if we did travel anywhere, it felt like I had to pack up my whole house and just take it along. We ended up at our destination with bags and bags and bags of stuff for just a few days! And don’t get me started on the pain in the ass it was to take along all my pumped milk, plus my pump, plus formula, plus bottles… I still remember trying to label the tops of my expressed milk to take in the car on our first spring break road trip after having Forrest, pumping in random parking lots throughout the 9 hour drive there, and much more.
I’ve definitely been able to streamline things as Forrest has gotten older, especially when it comes to packing. I thought I’d share my tips for how I keep everything organized in the car. If you’re planning to travel (for the first time or the 100th time) with kids this Spring Break, this one is for you.
1. Invest in Boxes
The best decision I made before going to Disneyland nearly two years ago was buying 2 clear packing containers. They are about a foot deep, measuring 12 inches by 10 inches at the lid. They aren’t super big, but they aren’t teeny tiny either. I used them to pack supplies for Forrest on our trip and so they would be easy to stack and see inside of.
When I tell you I use these every single road trip now, I’m not joking! They make it so easy to keep supplies together. I tend to keep all our travel stuff in one of them; that includes things like sunblock, our emergency kit, some non-perishable emergency snacks, and things like that. I also keep the small DVD player we use in the car for Fo in that bin as well, just so I always know where it is!
2. Everyone Gets One (1) Bag
I’ve definitely made the mistake in the past of packing In a way that doesn’t make a lot of logical sense, like packing one bag for clothes and one bag for makeup. In general, I know if I need more than one suitcase, I’m probably overpacking and need to talk to myself about what I’m doing.
Overpacking is a great way to ruin your spring break (especially the traveling portion), so our rule now is: everyone gets one bag, even Forrest. He gets one bag for clothes and toys. That keeps us from overpacking and means we have room for everything else we need, or any souvenirs we might pick up on our trip.
3. Keep Snacks Contained
My husband Danny and I are very big on travel snacks. It gives us something to do as we drive (especially on a long road trip) and also makes it easy to keep Forrest occupied (“throw him another snack”). I know this isn’t the healthiest way to travel, but honestly, what’s the fun in having a super healthy Spring Break? (Ok, there might be some fun in it.)
We often have this issue of snacks getting absolutely everywhere in the car: bags of candy in the glove box, bags of chips open in the backseat, you know the drill. Suddenly, I need to vacuum my car really bad.
We designate one spot for snacks in the car (as well as where we store extra drinks and water) and really stick to it now. This keeps me from absolutely feeling like I’m losing it and also keeps the car clean. We usually choose the space behind the passenger seat, as it’s easy for Danny to get out and grab (as I usually drive).
4. Think About What You’ll Need Access To
Have a DVD player for your kiddo? Keep movies within arm’s reach of the passenger seat.
Know you want to drink lots of water? Keep water bottles handy within reach.
Pack your car so that you have access to the things you know you’ll need to grab as you drive—and don’t worry about the rest. Charging cables and extra battery packs can be kept in the glovebox or console; books can be kept in door pockets. Pack accordingly.
5. If you’re stopping midway, think of what you’ll only need for that night.
We often have a bin (throwback to item one on this list!) that is just things we need for at night. Oftentimes, we break up long drives with a stay overnight along the way—traveling with a toddler, it’s just easiest for us. We don’t want to totally unload the car, so we usually just take what we need: our bags, our snacks, and the overnight bin (as well as anything valuable, like laptops). That means leaving in the morning is way less hectic as we don’t have to repack the entire car.
6. Remember a Trash Bin
All those snacks, as well as stops along the way, wiping faces, and more… you need a trash bag. I usually grab 4-5 plastic Target bags and stow them in the car, then we use this as trash bags through the drive, throwing them away whenever we stop. It just makes it so much easier to keep the car clean if you have a specific spot to put trash.