The first official week of summer = vacations = road trips. Do you love them or hate them? While I can’t help you avoid car sickness or kids who play the “he hit me first” game, I CAN help you prepare your car for epic family road trips!
First things first. Starting with a clean slate is always step #1 in my book. Take everything out of your car. Literally. Everything. (OK, you can leave the spare tire if you REALLY have to!) Take the time to start fresh and clean the entire car, inside and out. Run through a car wash, vacuum like crazy, attack nooks and crannies with compressed air, and bust out the Armor All wipes!
How to Store Stuff
You can’t expect things in a moving vehicle to stay in place if they’re not contained in some way. Use back seat floorboard space or space between seats by organizing items in packing cubes inside a foldable box or tote. There are great between-the-seats and back-of-the-seat organizers available anywhere from Amazon to IKEA. For a DIY option, cut down an over-the-door shoe organizer and rig it to fit over the back of your car seats. Etsy shops can make personalized options that are insanely cute. Make sure you're only toting the essentials with you. Save precious space in your center console and glove compartment for your most used items. Keep safety in mind and always secure items that could be thrown around during a sudden stop or accident.
What to Pack: Logistics & Safety
- Chargers for your devices. Pack at least one universal battery pack, just in case.
- Spare car keys. Don’t ask me how I know this is important. :-/
- GPS maps saved offline. Very important if you’ll be driving through areas with sketchy cell service. Also learned this lesson the hard way!
- Good ol’ fashioned map or atlas. Again, in case cell service sucks.
- Cash/coins for tolls. Store quarters in a mini M&M’s tube or small plastic gum container. It never hurts to have a $20 bill stashed in your car in case your wallet goes missing and you need to fill up the car.
- Car insurance papers/coupons/tickets, etc. Keep these in a small accordion file in the glove box or center console. This one is cute!
- Car owner’s manual. Consider saving glove compartment space and storing your manual in the back, under a seat, or with your spare tire.
- Sunscreen. Many windows don’t protect you against all UV rays, so this is important for longer car trips.
- Umbrella, for obvious reasons.
- Emergency items like flares, jumper cables, a flashlight, and a tire pressure gauge.
What to Pack: Keeping Stuff Clean
- Hand wipes. Purchase full size rather than travel size. You’ll go through them faster than you think!
- Kleenex. Again, full size beats travel size here. Ideally in the easy-to-grab round tubes.
- Roll of paper towels or box of Kleenex hand towels.
- Flip-top plastic cereal container lined with small grocery bags for trash. Check out Pinterest for other ideas like using a dishwasher pack container!
- Febreeze for when things start to smell funky.
- Hand sanitizer spray. This one is my favorite.
What to Pack: Snacks & Drinks
- Make sure to pre-purchase snacks. The markups on individual items from gas stations are crazy and oftentimes products aren’t as fresh as what you can get in your grocery store.
- Invest in a non-spill bottle for each kid (and maybe even each adult). Spilled sugary drinks can make for a big sticky mess.
- Put silicone baking cups in cupholders so you can easily wash them out if there’s a spill.
What to Pack: Sanity Savers
- Blankets for each person to prevent temperature fights. Skip the thick fleece types in favor of a thin travel blanket that can be rolled up.
- Games and toys for each kid. Set each kid up with an age-appropriate binder filled with coloring and activity pages as well as blank paper. Avoid "are we there yet" madness by including a map of your route so kids can check off where you’ve been and see where you’re headed.
- Avoid crayons at all costs! The last thing in the world you want is melted crayons in your car seats. Markers can be messy and will dry out in the heat. Opt for colored pencils instead.
- If you have a DVD player for your car, purchase a CD wallet for your movies instead of having cases everywhere.
- Headphones for each and every person. Non-negotiable. :)
- If you have an older car without Bluetooth, head to Amazon for a Bluetooth car adapter to play music, podcasts, and audio books over your car stereo.