At the end of July we will pack 5 people, including 3 kids, and a dog into a Corolla and head cross-country from the East Coast to Nebraska to visit family for several weeks. Yes, we are crazy. Yes, we have heard everyone tell us how crazy we are. But, we own a Corolla (we are a one-car family) so that is what we have to pack everyone and everything into for the trip.
To be honest, I am starting to stress a bit over this trip. We can barely drive to the beach that is 40 minutes away without someone poking someone or the kids getting in each other’s “space”, which is pretty hard not to do with three kids (including one in a booster seat) across the back of a small car.
While this isn’t our first road trip (we have always been drivers), and not even our first in a Corolla (in Taiwan we packed 6 people into one to drive 6 hours to the best resort area on the island), this is our longest trip in such a small space. Once again, I believe that organization will help conquer my stress, and create a more pleasant experience for everyone. Here are some of my favorite road trip tips, especially for small spaces!
#1. Plan your route. We have planned our entire trip west with hotel reservations, possible bathroom and fuel stops, and interesting things to see and do along the way. Because our return dates are flexible, we did not make hotel reservations for the journey home. However, we have listed out possible hotel stops, based on driving times and things we want to see along the way.
#2. Add time. It will take longer than you expect. People will need more stops than you think. For every 5 hours on the road, add 30 minutes to your travel time.
#3. Pack light! We are packing for only 4 outfits of clothes, one set of pajamas, and one swim suit per person. We can wash things at each stop or our final destination. We use this Master Packing List to help us decide what we need to pack. We don’t take a lot of extra shoes – one pair of sneakers and one pair of sandals or flip-flops per person. We just take the basics. Everyone does not need their own computer or beach towel (unless you are camping and then that is a whole different packing experience).
#4. Pack smart! Organize your packed items by what you will use when. We have one backpack that contains all toiletries that we can grab to take into that night’s stop. We organize each days’ outfit, complete with socks and underwear, in a zipper bag. This way everyone has what they need for stops on the road. Plus we use the zipper bag to hold dirty clothes until we do laundry. For stops along the road we keep clothes for all 5 people in a small pilot’s case so that we don’t have to take a huge suitcase into a hotel and risk losing something.We don’t take pillows or blankets and each child is allowed to pack only one Lovie.
#5. Limit what you keep inside the car and have a place for everything. Here is what we keep inside our little car:
- Each child has a small bin that fits in the back window behind their seat that they are allowed to fill with car activities (Color Wonders, paper, cards, iPod, DVD players, etc.).
- Each child has a seatbelt snuggie that velcros around their seatbelt to hold an iPod or MP3 player or headphones. Click on the like for instructions to this great no-sew project.
- GPS, AC power plug adaptor, and phone charger in the glove box
- Trash bag in the console
- Coin purse with change for tolls (check for tolls as you plan your route in #1) in the driver’s door pocket
- Travel case of baby wipes, a pack of tissues, a clear toiletries bag with Bandaids, antibiotic cream, cough drops, children’s acetaminophen, Benadryl, Ibuprofen, and any medications needed during the day (inhalers for example) in the passenger door pocket
- Small cooler bag with a drink for each person and snacks (fruit chews, granola bars etc.) in the back seat pocket (we keep ours in the passenger seat pocket because First Born sits behind that seat and she is most reliable to hand things out)
- 3 ring binder tucked between the passenger seat and door that contains several DVDs for the kids in plastic sleeves, print-out of our itinerary, print-outs of any hotel reservation confirmations, information about any stops we plan to make, current health and medical information for each family member (1 sheet per person), a list of important phone numbers, a map, and our vehicle registration and insurance cards – all in protective plastic sleeves. We also keep several empty sleeves for adding brochures and other things we pick up along our route.
- Camera – A must-have for all vacations! Don’t forget to document the journey. We have a camera that can take still photos or video, so we don’t need two cameras taking up space in the car
Remember that getting there is part of the trip. Do your best to make it fun. Take frequent stops and enjoy the journey!