Organizing Your Car for a Road Trip

Today was my first full day at home all month long. It’s been one road trip after another since June 30th. We visited the hubby’s family at their lake house. We visited my family for the 4th of July. We visited his family again when we found out his sister was in town. Yesterday, we returned from our longest road trip ever — 17 hours to (and from!) Gloucester, Massachusetts.

Our girls are good travelers, which mostly just means they sleep in the car. A lot. We have a few other tricks to keep them entertained, well fed, and relatively quiet, but the best thing we’ve ever done is learn how to properly pack the car for a long drive.

It’s all about access and organization. Just like the way we have carefully thought out how to stack Christmas decorations in the garage (tree trimming supplies easily accessible since it goes up first, outside lights on top so we can put them up on the first warmish day approaching December), how things go into the car takes some planning. It isn’t just about making it fit. It’s about making sure our drive is as comfortable as possible.

Here is our carefully crafted system:

  • Assigned Seats 1 of 7
    Assigned Seats
    Those smiles? They can disappear quickly in the car when someone touches someone else. So, the girls' seating arrangements are very specifically decided. The teen argues with the tween but not the little sister. So, they sit together in the middle seats with the tween in the back. The 6yo sits behind the passenger because she's smaller and less bothered when the seat is leaned back for naps. It's a delicate balance and makes for a more peaceful ride. I've even heard of people erecting a suitcase wall between children to prevent bickering.
    Photo: My girls at the back shore in Gloucester, MA
  • Food Totes 2 of 7
    Food Totes
    We stop only for gas and bathroom breaks. Meals, snacks, and drinks are packed in the car. The cooler goes in the middle, between the girls' seats, opening toward the teen so she can easily pass out whatever we need. We've learned the hard way that the snacks need a storage tote, not a bag. A few too many crushed chips and squished bananas taught us that lesson!
    Buy It from Home Depot
  • Kid Packs 3 of 7
    Kid Packs
    Each girl was instructed to pack their own bag for the road — including sunglasses, entertainment, lovey, pillow, and blanket. It's much easier than trying to pass things out along the road or refereeing arguments over who gets which blanket in the middle of a long drive. The tween ended up repacking hers on arrival and carried it around the entire trip. It came back home chock full of the brochures she collected everywhere we went.
    Photo: The tween in front of Gloucester Harbor at Hammond Castle
  • Trash Can 4 of 7
    Trash Can
    If you're eating on the road, be prepared for the resulting trash. We used plastic sacks, but I discovered today that they mostly just tilted and spilled empty wrappers and cans all over the car. Next time, I'm going with the cereal box velcroed to the car.
    Photo and tutorial via Better Homes & Gardens
  • Overnight Bag 5 of 7
    Overnight Bag
    If you'll be stopping halfway, pack a separate overnight bag so you don't have to lug in a big suitcase for one night. We do an all night road trip, so we packed a separate bag with pajamas, a change of clothes, toothbrushes, and deodorant. The girls are more comfy in their jammies all night, and the hubby and I felt better after freshening up the next morning at a rest stop.
    Photo: My girls saying goodbye to their New England cousins before our return trip
  • Driver’s Stash 6 of 7
    Driver's Stash
    Since we travel all night, one grownup sleeps while the other is driving. We kept a tote between the seats filled with energy drinks, soda, and water as well as a few handy snacks. That way, the driver doesn't have to wake anyone when something is needed.
    Photo: Somewhere in New York, on the way to Massachusetts
  • Toll Booth Money 7 of 7
    Toll Booth Money
    We keep a few dollars and as many quarters as we can get our hands on at the ready for tolls on the road. It fits nicely in the driver's door handle, along with any toll booth tickets we pick up as we go.
    Photo Credit: Flickr user notjake13

A big thanks to The Home Depot for sponsoring this campaign. Click here to see more of the discussion.

Photo: Sunrise over New York, en route to Massachusetts

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