I took my family of five on a two-week road trip to Southern California from British Columbia and back this August. Preparing for a road trip this length and with seven stops takes a good amount of effort!
I sourced tips from friends, Pinterest, and of course, Google when planning our trip. Since we’re back I thought I should share some of the things I learned and would or would not do again next time, and my absolute MUST HAVE’s for a trip like this along with how and what to prepare.
PACK FOR IN-OUT OF THE CAR OFTEN
Everyone in the family had to pack only what they could carry in and out of each hotel themselves. That meant a small roller suitcase (carry-on size), a backpack or tote and a pillow or blanket they wanted for each child.
For Las Vegas (the hotels are so HUGE) I encouraged everyone to pack their clothing for that one night into their backpack or tote so that they didn’t have to drag their entire suitcase through the hotel all the way up to the room.
This worked well for me since I had the most luggage (of course!). I had a duffle bag specifically for cosmetics, toiletries and accessories so I put a bathing suit, and an outfit for the next day in there, and just had to tote that into the huge hotel.
PREP THE TECH
Pack extra charging cords, extra batteries for the wireless in-vehicle headphones, some wireless charging packs, but also have everyone be responsible for their own device(s) and charging cords for their own stuff.
Be sure you’re logged in to your favourite apps so that you’re not using Cellular Data on the road unnecessarily just to log in.
Check out my post for a list of apps necessary for a road trip.
Aside from the kid’s devices or family iPad(s), your car may have an in-car entertainment system and/or WIFI. Our car has both, so I hooked up Google Chromecast, so the kids could stream from YouTube and/or Netflix to the in-car screens.
Unfortunately, the cost of wifi ($70 for 10 GB) in the car, and the rapid use meant that they only used this once for a very brief amount of time and our 10 GB was gone. POOF! So, I don’t recommend this.
I do recommend DVDs if you have them, those are always great in the in-car system.
This may sound strange, but having the band aids, any daily meds, gravol, pepto, advil, throat lozenges and any other first aid ‘stuff’ in one place throughout the trip helps. I had one small tote with all of this inside (and ONLY this) up at the front of the car with me throughout the trip. I also brought it in to every hotel with me at every stop so we always had it all with us.
Pack one beach tote with a towel (one is enough as an extra, as all hotels will have towels for you), goggles, flippers, and a bathing suit (one per person) in it for easy in / out at hotels and beach stops. Include a plastic bag for wet stuff on your way out of a destination.
PLAN TO DO LAUNDRY HALF-WAY
If you’re going away longer than 7 days, plan to do laundry around the 6-7 day mark. I was SO fortunate to be able to do three loads at my sister’s home in San Diego when we arrived there, so we all packed only for one week. I did the laundry and then everyone re-packed before we left her place for the next hotel.
DON’T BUY TOO MANY TREATS BUT PACK A FOOD BAG
I have this bad habit of prepping the food/treat bag for the car TOO much. I buy chips, chocolate bars and their favourite candies pre-trip. BUT, my husband had a fantastic point. DON’T BUY all the treats ahead of time. Wait until you stop at gas stations along the way, and they will be so excited to go inside and pick one thing each stop. I learned that this really works well, and we did this for the trip home.
I will say this was one of our very best family vacations EVER. Including flying to California in the past multiple times, going to Mexico and even the Dominican Republic last Summer. I highly recommend this trip for as soon as your kids can handle a 10-hour car day.
Go for it!