Tuesday, May 21, 2019

8 Road Trip Hacks

If you're like us, you've probably got a road trip or two planned for Summer.  We have gotten pretty good at road trips over the years.  Kevin does the driving, navigating and reserving of hotels.  I do all the shopping, packing, food, entertainment and kid related stuff.  It works for us.

I am happy to share all the things that work for us in the hopes that it might make your road trip a little easier.

1. Pack Snacks & Drinks
The Dollar Tree is my favorite place to stock up on good candies.  They're much cheaper than gas station candies and they carry a ton of those movie theater type candies in boxes.  I usually pack a cooler full of drinks and then pack an extra tote with drinks to refill the cooler as needed.  It's amazing how much cheaper drinks are in bulk than buying a single drink at a gas station.  Sometimes, if we're all needing a pick me up on a long trip, we'll let everyone go in and pick out something at the gas station.  It's more of a rare treat so it's a fun surprise for the kids when we offer that.

On our recent trip to Chicago, I knew there wouldn't be a great place to stop for dinner when we'd need to stop.  I planned ahead and packed everyone a meal to eat in the car.  It saved us at least $20 and was a much healthier, filling meal than we would have gotten at a drive through.

2. Entertainment
My kids love to color, watch DVDs, get fun little surprises, snack and play I Spy or car Memory in the car.  If we're going on a long trip, I pack each kid a bag of things to do.  I like to include those Magic Ink marker sets where the markers only work on the special paper and can't make a mess, little toys like Happy Meal Toys or Match Box cars.  Did you know restaurants like McDonalds will sell you just a toy for $1?  I try to pay attention at McDonalds and stock up when they're giving away a really cute toy.  Last Summer it was ocean beanie babies.

Kevin and I like to listen to the radio when the kids aren't watching a movie or we give them the headphones and have them listen that way so we can still listen to music.  We like to chat, snack, enjoy the scenery and catch up while we drive.

3. Remove Trash at Every Stop.
I keep a stash of plastic grocery bags in my door and every time we stop I throw away a bag of trash.  We usually end up with trash from little entertainment prizes, snacks and such so it adds up quickly.

4. Have a Place for Everything
Toys, snacks, headphones, cooler, toys, etc - make sure they all have a spot to go.  It'll help you stay organized in the car and it'll help you manage the chaos of people in a small space.

5. Get Out of the Car Regularly
Everyone gets out at gas stations, gets some fresh air, browses the silly stuff they sell at gas stations and uses the restroom.  Stops aren't always the fastest or super easy, but the change of scenery and fresh air really helps boost the mood in the car when we get back on the road.

6. Moms and Wives - Your Attitude is Contagious
You set the ton for your family or your spouse.  This is true in day to day life, but also true on trips.  If you're frustrated, angry or have a bad attitude when things don't go your way, it will spread to others.  I'm not naturally a silly person.  I've had to really work on upping my silly factor since having kids.  My kids LOVE when I'm silly or when I have a silly reaction in the midst of difficulties.  So when we get stuck in traffic, have to make another potty stop, am cleaning up a car sick mess, can't find a hotel with an open room or I forgot to pack something important, I just try to roll with it and come up with a solution.

7.  Food, Toys and Stuff in General is going to be cheaper at home than buying it new on vacation.
If you have room to pack it, stock up on shelf stable grocery items (cereal, granola bars, pretzels, fruit snacks, peanut butter, nuts, crackers, bagels, bread, etc) at your regular store and then bring them to your destination with you.  It's also cheaper to throw your scooters or frisbees or tennis rackets in your suitcases instead of renting them at your destination.  We try to pack a couple toys (bath toys, outside toys, beach toys) with us so that we don't have to pay tourtisty prices when we arrive.

Of course we've had to buy last minute flip flops when mine broke or a swim suit for Kevin when he forgot to pack his.  I'm just saying don't rely on buying everything when you arrive.  Plan ahead and pack what you have at home.  I looked ahead at the weather forecast for our Chicago trip and saw some chilly weather was coming our way.  I packed hoodies, hats and heavier jackets for everyone just in case.  I didn't want to go have to go out and buy that stuff out of town.  It came in handy and we we wore it all.  That's doesn't always happen, but I was glad I was prepared for any weather.

8. If anyone in your car deals with car sickness, 
Bring a barf bucket/barf bags, have wet wipes, water bottles and a spare outfit on hand at all times.  You could also try medicine for motion sickness (beware they make you sleepy) or Sea bands.  They've all worked well for us.  Both kids have dealt with bouts of motion sickness.  They have done much better since we got our van.  Not sure if it's because they can watch movies or if it's the arrangement of their car seat that helps, but I'm thankful it's getting better.

What road trip tips do you rely on when you travel??

Our favorite road trip items from Amazon *affiliate links


  1. This is a perfect blog post as we are going on a road trip this weekend! I will definitely use some of your tips.

  2. #6 is so true. Just this weekend, I had a really irritated attitude...sure enough, it rubbed off on everyone and our movie night fizzled out. These are all great tips, especially stocking up on snacks before the trip to save money. It's a smart move for any vacation, even if you're flying!

  3. Great tips! We defintiely pack tons of snacks!!

  4. Great Tips! We practice a lot of these tips on our road trips with the big kids too!

  5. Our road trip process is very much like yours! You are so right about it being cheaper to pack your own drinks and snacks! And your #6 – all the yes! That’s such a great tip to share. One thing that we do for any trip over 3 hours is make Mason a fun little goodie bag. Nate’s mom used to do it for him as a kid and now we carry that tradition on with Mason. We just put fun little things in it like a lego guy, a hot wheel, outdoor play things (mostly if we’re going camping and he can use them), a new book, candy, snacks, etc. We are leaving on Thursday to go camping for Memorial Day weekend and it also happens to be Mason’s birthday weekend. So his goodie bag for this trip is a little more than I’d normally do. This one will have a new swimsuit & top and new rubber shoes (we love to play in the river on this trip), 2 surprise Lego guys, red, white and blue light up gadgets, party poppers & pop its, candy, snacks, a book, etc. I love putting them together and Mason looks forward to them on our longer road trips.

  6. The first time Mac and I road tripped together, we'd been dating about 6 weeks. I made us stop in Chicago to stock up on drinks and snacks. He thought I was crazy until he realized how much money we saved not having to stop every few hours for more stuff.


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