Are you heading out on a big long road trip? There are several road trip essentials that can really help you keep everything organized on your next vacation so that you don’t want to burn the car when you see what a disaster it is in the end!
There have been many times when we have come home from a road trip and I open the backs door and see that literally every craft, book, activity, and device is laying on the car floor. I try my best to teach my kids how to respect the things that they’re given but I also think part of it is the system that we implement (or don’t implement) and the way that we allow them to access items that enable things to end up that way. So the next time you start a road trip, think about different ways that you can help keep things organized so that you can help your kids learn how to better take care of things.
Depending on the age of your kids, you may want to consider keeping the activities up in the front with you and then handing them out at your discretion. I feel like this keeps the mess down and allows them to experience the activities at a reasonable rate rather than whipping through all of the activities within the first 30 minutes.
Prep Ahead of Time with Lists
Just like anything in life, if you take time to prepare for an event, then there is much less stress. This is exactly how it is for a road trip! Taking some extra time to prepare for the actual drive can really go a long way and making things go smoothly. Not only this but it will help you be organized and things will be so much less stressful.
You will know before you leave that you have enough snacks (and where they are!), you have enough activities, all the iPads are charged, you downloaded some podcasts, and everyone has some books to read. Instead of frantically trying to run around the house at the last minute, (which realistically happens for everyone anyway) take some time to make a list of needed items and your road trip will be a breeze.
I personally love to make a list of items that we will need in our suitcases, and items that we will need in the car. I have an extensive list of road trip activity ideas that are as mess-free as you can possibly get. So you can check out the article here if you’re interested.
Pack the Car According to Accessibility Needs
It may seem common sense to pack road trip essentials according to when you will need them but a lot of times we get in a frantic rush and we just throw everything in the back only to realize that we can’t get to the things that we need.
So take time to think about when you will need to access certain items and that will determine where you put them in the car.
For example, packing your cell phone charger in your suitcase isn’t going to be very helpful to you on the road if your phone runs out of battery. Only put things in the trunk that you know you’re not going to need until you arrive at your destination. Other items can be located throughout the car at a closer range so that you can get to them when you need them.
Using Bins to Keep Your Car Organized
Bins are a magical tool that will allow you to keep your car organized during a road trip. It is one of those road trip essentials that you just can’t forget!
At the very least, getting a bin with a lid and throwing in some of your kids’ favorite mess-free, screen-free activities can really go a long way to help to keep them occupied. Utilizing a bin will really help contain all the items so that everything can stay in one place.
There are several different kinds of bins that you can use. My favorite bins are these Sterilite snap-top bins. They’re really low profile but they’re just big enough that they can fit things like coloring books and iPads.
You can choose to organize your things according to the type of item or you can even organize things according to the age of the child. For example, your 2-year-old is definitely going to be interested in different toys and activities than your 11-year-old will. So you could consider creating a bin for each child so that they can keep all of their items in one place.
I have these awesome flip-top Sterilite containers that are just awesome! The link allows you to buy several different sizes.
Using Bags to Organize Road Trip Essentials
I have particular bags that I have set aside that are extra helpful for keeping me organized when we are headed out on vacation. These things fold up nicely and compact and I just store them on the side of my washer when they are not in use. They take up virtually no space but they are extremely useful when it comes to packing for a road trip. This is one of those road trip essentials that I really can’t go without.
When I am organizing the car using bags, I store things like pillows, blankets, snacks, grocery items, or even electronics and devices. I even set up a bag right by the door of the garage so that I can put in those last-minute items such as phone chargers and snacks for the road trip.
I ordered these clear travel bags and put each kid’s name on it (using vinyl and my Silhouette machine). Each child is in charge of their own bag and activities. I feel like my kids are finally to the age where I feel that’s appropriate and they love it! Everyone has their own activities, travel pillow, headphones, etc.
I even labeled everyone’s headphones with the same font on their bag to give it an extra fun touch.
I definitely have my favorite bags, and I will link them below, but they don’t have to be anything fancy. In fact, some of the best road trip bags are the cheap extra-large bags that you can get at the checkout stand at most grocery stores. I especially love to get the giant bags from TJ Maxx and Ross. they only cost a couple of dollars but they hold tons of stuff!
Using Pouches to Organize on Road Trips
If I had to choose any one road trip essential to keep my car organized during a road trip, I would definitely use pouches of some sort. The bags that I have pictured are simply from the office supply area of Walmart. They are nothing fancy and they only cost me a dollar.
They are a great way to be able to organize activities and easily pass them around to the kids without handing them all the activities at one time. They can do all the activities that I’ve organized in one pouch and when they’re ready for another set of activities they can either trade with a sibling or ask me for a different pouch.
I have organized these in several different ways but I have found that my favorite way to organize road trip essentials like activities is to organize them according to age. If you were to organize your pouches with all of the puzzles in them, then your kids may get sick of doing puzzles quickly and want to change activities. But if they have a variety of activities in one pouch, then they will keep that pouch for a longer period of time meaning that you don’t have to keep reaching back in the back to trade things around as often.
Bring Compact Pillows and Blankets
One of my no-compromise road trip essential items is a travel pillow. There is no sense in bringing your own pillows and blankets if you are going to a hotel and they will already have pillows there for you.
Unless you will be needing them at your destination, leave your own pillows at home and invest in some small travel blankets or pillows.
This will significantly decrease the amount of stuff that you have in the car and will help with the mess. Each of my kids has a small travel pillow that unzips and can double as a blanket if they get cold. They obviously can’t use both at the same time but it’s so much better than bringing all three of my kids giant blankets and pillows.
Ziploc Containers for Road Trip Snacks and Activities
This method may be a bit over the top for many people but this is something that I have found to be really helpful for me and my family. Oftentimes when we go on a road trip, it’s a time for us to splurge and we usually take our kids to the dollar store or the grocery store to pick out one special treat. But when my kids were younger especially, it was hard for me to trust them to not inhale the entire contents of the package within the first three seconds.
So if you find that you want to ration or have a bit more control over how quickly your kids are filling up on treats and snacks, using Ziploc containers or bags is a great way to keep things organized. This is one of those road trip essentials that I don’t always make time for but when I do, I’m always grateful for it.
When we are on the road and my kids ask for a treat I can easily get a small bag of pre-packaged jelly beans or M&M’s or whatever and pass them back. It makes my job easier in the car and it keeps my kids from going into a sugar coma. You could also use regular size Ziploc bags for things like crackers, chips, or anything else like that.
Of course, there is always the option to buy pre-packaged snacks if you are short on time but if you are looking to save money and just use snacks from around the house then this is a great method!
Diaper Caddy to Organize Kids Road Trip Activities
Using a felt diaper caddy or something similar is a really great way to keep things organized in the car. This is especially helpful if you have a baby and you need to access things quickly to keep them happy during a long drive. Or if you simply have kids that are old enough to access all of the activities on their own without going overboard then this is a great method!
One thing that I really love about this diaper caddy is that my kids were able to keep this organized themselves. It was a simple as sliding it back into the compartment. Things definitely don’t always end up as nicely as I started things out but they definitely do well with this method. I also love the handles because it’s really handy to carry around.
Another great thing about using a diaper caddy is that it has tons of different compartments. The one that I have pictured here has tons of smaller outer compartments that can keep small items from getting lost in the bigger compartments.
The bigger sections also allow me to store things vertically and store lots of different items such as art supplies, coloring books, and even iPads and devices. I think this would also be a great way to organize each child’s activities.
Felt Diaper Caddy Options:
Create Personalized Activity Bags
I mentioned this a little bit before but it can be really helpful to take an extra few minutes to personalize activities for each child. It’s significantly easier to think about it and organize it when you are at home and able to spread things out rather than trying to dig through a bag full of activities trying to find something that a particular child might enjoy.
Giving just an extra 20 or 30 minutes of thought before you leave can really help things go smoothly on a road trip. For example, if you know that you have a little girl that loves Disney princesses, then take a few minutes and gather up some activities that you know are Disney princess oriented that she will love. And my best advice is to even print out new coloring pages or grab a couple of cheap activities from the dollar store that your kids have never seen or played with before. This goes a very long way and keeping them occupied because it’s something that they haven’t done or played with before.
I have tons of road trip activities for my kids and they know that they are not allowed to play with these activities unless if we are on a road trip! This is one of my secrets for keeping my kids happy in the car.
Use a Hole Punch and Metal Rings to Keep Cards Together
There are tons of different activities that come with lots of different cards and pieces. So wherever I can, I do my very best to create some sort of system that puts all of the activities together in one fluid piece instead of having 50 separate pieces. This may sound confusing but let me explain.
Over the years I have found several different card game activities that come with lots of printable cards. Typically if your kid accidentally drops the cards on the floor you’ve got 30 different cards to pick up. But I started using a hole punch and a metal ring binder to help with this problem.
Instead of keeping everything separate, I simply create a hole using the hole punch in the same top corner of every card. Once I punched a hole in the first card, I used that as a template for the other cards so that the hole is in the exact same place on every card. Once every card has a hole in it I add a ring to it that keeps everything together and organized.
So for example, I found a cute trivia card game that is really fun to play but I didn’t want all those loose cards all over. So I used a hole punch and a ring and grouped all the cards together and all my kids have to do is flip through the cards as they are playing the game. If they drop the cards, they only have one thing to pick up instead of 30.
Keep Things as Mess-Free as Possible
My very best piece of advice as far as road trip essentials is to only bring things in the car that you are willing to clean up. I learned the hard way when my kids were young that I hated to pick up crushed goldfish on the bottom of the car floor. So there were many snacks that were outlawed in the car on a road trip.
Do your very best to choose activities and snacks that are as mess-free as possible. In the past, I’ve seen a really cute idea where someone uses a plastic container that has like 20 different compartments for little snacks to go in. And while I think that is a cute idea, can you even imagine that disaster when your kid accidentally knocks that over?! That’s like cleaning up 20 different snack times at once.
So make sure that you bring things in the car that are as simple as possible. And if there is any way that you can find to keep things organized or keep the mess down then do it! Road trips can be messy and long. But if you take a little bit of time ahead of the road trip to prep using some of these methods, then your road trip will be much more enjoyable and stress-free.