Family Road Trip Packing: Car Vacations With Children

silhouette of three people walking beside body of water

The One-Suitcase Rule

A great place to start is the one-suitcase rule. For each child or teenager old enough to pack their own bags, give them one small suitcase or duffel and let them have the flexibility to pack what they want. For infants, toddlers and young children, restrict yourself to the same rule for their gear (or it will quickly get out of control). Parents must follow it, too.

Multi-Purpose Travel Gear

Don’t try to reproduce your entire home on the road. That just isn’t necessary. If you have a baby or toddler, look for gear that does double-duty, such as stroller/carrier combos. If you will visit family on this road trip, see what gear they have on hand. Check ahead with hotels, too, which usually can provide cribs or sleep cots.

Plan Ahead to Lighten your Load

Sometimes, simply how you plan your trip can help tremendously to reduce family road trip packing clutter. You can save a ton of space in everyone’s bags by booking at a hotel with on-site laundry, for example. You can pack fewer snacks by staying at accommodations that offer free breakfast. You can pack fewer toys and games by hitting a destination (or campground or resort) with plenty of children’s activities.

Pack the Super-Mom Travel Tote Bag

The super-mom should always travel with the super-mom travel tote bag. Instead of having everyone bring a hodge podge of clutter to spread around the back seat, pack one large tote bag filled with on-the-road needs: games, books, maps, toys, snacks, and anything you would want to grab in a moment’s notice when the cries of, “Are we there yet?” start mounting. Keep it at the feet of mom or dad in the front, and you’re ready for any requests.

Yes, You Will Forget Something

Make your peace with this idea, and it will free you to leave more behind. Yes, you just might need that bulky sweatshirt if a cold spell hits. So? Why not wait and see. The bonus is you can get a souvenir sweatshirt on the trip. If you are in doubt, and it is easy enough to replace en route, just leave it behind. If you’ve packed lightly, you’ll have room for any extras you buy on your road trip.

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