Family travel is such a privilege and gift, and still, the process can be harrowing. As we packed for our current road trip, I realized there are a few habits I have developed over the years that help planning and packing for the road feel smoother and more approachable. I jotted down three impactful tips below for you to borrow and make your own.

1. Delegate Packing with Lists / Getting everyone properly packed and ready to go can be stressful! Regardless of age, children are often eager for travel, so several years ago, I began channeling that energy into letting them pack their own bags, even if it was just for the weekend. I would then check and edit what they packed and they were done! Now everyone packs their own bag, but to ensure we don’t leave out any of the essentials, I create a list ahead of time for all of us. It saves so much energy and tugs-of-war about what is essential. These lists are extremely helpful for me, too, as there are so many details to keep in mind. Here’s my process:

  • Create a Reproducible List | Make a family packing list in GoogleDocs (or some other program), titled with the season, location, and time period, i.e. “Two-Week Summer Road Trip / UT, WY, MT.” This will be helpful to reference and copy/paste for future travel.
  • Label Lists Clearly | Make the list easy for everyone to use. Make specific lists for each child if they are too nuanced, or label one general list for all to follow. I find numbering items of clothing is helpful, too!
  • Print + Distribute to Each Child | Print a list for each child (maybe with images for non-readers) and clip it to a clipboard. Hand each one a clipboard and have them check off as they create their piles to pack.
  • Check + Edit Piles | When they announce they are finished, use the checklist and double-check their piles. Make any necessary edits, and have them load their bag and set it aside.

2. Pack Individual Food Bags / For longer travel trips, when food stops are imperative, we tend to pack our own food and drinks to save money and make wiser food choices. This idea works whether you are flying or driving. Sometimes distributing all the food during the trip becomes a part-time job, so we make food bags for each person to enjoy during the day, including a variety of dried fruits, meats, and nuts, little treats, fresh fruit, and bars. The idea is for each of us to choose what we eat and when during the day, but also to fill our bellies with foods that won’t make us feel bad or damage our digestion while we sit for hours in one space. For this trip, I purchased everything ahead of time on Amazon or at Trader Joe’s. Although I typically avoid pre-packaged snacks, for this purpose, it’s worth it for me. The same concept could be created from bulk. Also, for day-long drives, we pack lunch in a cooler to stop at a park along the way, to play, stretch our legs, and enjoy time in the fresh air. Here’s what is in our food bags this trip:

  • New Primal Beef Thins / These are crispier than most beef jerky and made without any of the preservatives. We love them! And this package came with them pre-packaged––perfect for individual use.
  • Justin’s Cinnamon Almond Butter packets with fresh apples and banana / These nut butters are delightful, and the individual packets help us to avoid needing utensils. There are a variety of flavors to choose, too! I also like having fresh fruit available for them to eat. It’s best if the banana is eaten early on since it tends to brown
  • Rx Bars or Clif ZBars / I love Rx Bars for their whole ingredients and substance, but not everyone in my family agrees. Wink. So I also ordered a box of Clif ZBars for the kids.
  • trail mix packets / You can find these on Amazon, too, but they are less expensive at TJ’s. I choose the mix without chocolate to prevent a melty mess.
  • a cranberry-orange scone / I picked up a packet of these at TJ’s so everyone would have a breakfast treat in the car to enjoy.
  • personal water bottle / Many places in airports and travel stops have refill stations for water bottles.

3. Create a Personal SOS Bag / SOS is a little dramatic, but we all relate with needing a few things on hand for TLC when we travel. Everyone brings something to read or draw/write on in the car, but I also have a little SOS bag for random needs along the way, even if it’s just for me. Wink. Here’s what I packed this trip:

  • Dr. Bronner’s Lavender Organic hand sanitizer / This is helpful to have on hand for all obvious reasons. I even use it to spray surfaces in a pinch. It’s made with lavender oils and without any of the toxic chemicals or preservatives. Plus, it smells so good.
  • Beautycounter Face Cloths / These are wonderful for travel! I use them to refresh, first with my face and then at times my pits and feet. They’re made with safe ingredients, are oil and fragrance-free, and are compostable, too!
  • Beautycounter Melting Body Balm / My skin tends to dry out when we travel, and this luxurious body balm feels so good on my hands, feet, and elbows. For the kids’ dry patches, I prefer this unscented option. It is also wonderful for mild eczema.
  • Ningxia Nitro / A friend gifted these to me for our trip, and I love them for the afternoon slump when I tend to crave an energy boost. These are less expensive through wholesale, so if you don’t know anyone who sells YL, I can connect you!
  • Essential Oil Roller / There are SO many resources with EOs for travel to cover here, but I love having 1 or 2 on hand while we travel. Sometimes I carry my own blend or one premade. My favorite blends are Peace+Calming, Stress Away, and Valor from YL.
  • Hydrating Facial Mist / Can you tell hydration is key for us? Lol. Sometimes I don’t need to wash or clean my skin, I just need a little moisture. This facial mist is fantastic! It releases a gentle mist with just the right amount of hydration. Two sprays is often plenty, so it often lasts forever. The peony ingredient smells so lovely, and it’s safe for the whole family, too.
  • Lip Moisture / I always keep lip balm, lip conditioner, and a Twig Sheer Lipstick (if I want some light color) on hand for family moisture. Spending time in the car AC or traveling to drier climates always dries out our lips. I reach for one of these often during travel.
2 replies
  1. Jessie
    Jessie says:

    YES! We also do all of this. For my older daughters I usually tell them what to pack and the amount and they do. However I love your idea of giving them their own lists. For my youngest I usually pack with her. I also like your idea of how you check their bags before. Since we didn’t do a list or I didn’t check several times we have forgotten things. Like one of my daughters forgot t-shirts. We also have an SOS bag, but it’s usually our first aid kit with bandaids, calendula and arnica gel. Like you guys when we do a long drive we also pack a cooler with sandwiches, and fruit. All the girls have their own backpacks that they carry in what they want to do on the plane or in the car. I also like your idea and going to start doing that, everyone picks what they want for snacks for that ride. We try hard not to do processed food either but you are right, this might be the exception. I also then create a master list (Sound machines, keys, phone charges, license, epi pens). I then also write stickies and put them on the bathroom mirror with things I have to do right before we leave (Feed the cat, empty the liter) Thanks for the great ideas.

    Reply
  2. Clair
    Clair says:

    I don’t want to OUT myself as a total Type A, anal person but I am so 😂 I actually made up master packing lists for the whole family and laminated them so that you can use a dry erase markers to cross/tick things off and then just use nail polish remover to clean them off after. I made extra blank spaces to add stuff that maybe isn’t on the list. 6 yrs later and multiple trips per year and they’re still going strong.

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