My top three tips for packing for a road trip successfully!

Twice a year, in the summer and the winter, my family takes a trip to visit my in-laws, who live 13 hours away. Since we first starting making this trek five years ago, we’ve added two more children and countless “stuff” that is needed for our stay.

Over the years we’ve learned some important things about packing efficiently and successfully for a road trip. Here are some ideas designed to keep you calm and help you make the most of the space in your vehicle–my top three tips for packing for a road trip with less stress!

Three tips for packing for a summer or winter road trip that will help you stress less and pack well--even with kids! From a mom who has traveled cross-country many times with four children!

Make a Detailed Packing List

Before you begin randomly stuffing items into suitcases {ahem}, it’s important to have a detailed list of what you need. Some things you may want to consider when deciding what to bring along:

  • The length of the trip
  • The weather and/or potential weather
  • What activities will keep kids occupied {lots of ideas in tomorrow’s post!}
  • What type of food you’d like to eat along the way
  • Activities you plan to do while on your trip {swimming, sledding, going to the beach, etc}

What we’ve found so helpful is to type up a list of the items we bring every time. {Check out our fun and cute Kids Packing List printable!}

Then we put in a page protector to be reused for any trip, simply checking off each item as we go and wiping it clean for next time. We add things to the list, of course, depending on the destination.

Decide How to Pack and Store Needed Items

We’ve always had a van to travel in, but this summer will be the first time we’ve had stow-and-go (woo hoo!). There have been a variety of ways we’ve tried to pack but these have been the most successful.

  • Packing three to four outfits plus swimsuits, limiting ourselves to one soft drawstring bag for each person’s clothes. This suggestion was given to me by a friend and it was a life-saver!
  • Roll and stuff heavy sweatshirts and snowpants in the winter. When you roll clothing items you can fit them much more easily into tight spaces or small suitcases!
  • Pack using a large tote to store all children’s clothing, diapers, shoes, etc. When we do this, we pack non-essentials (things we won’t need on the way) near the bottom. We use a large Sterilite latching tote and put everyone’s things in it, putting each child’s clothing in a different pile (we have 4 kids).
  • If staying overnight on your way to your destination, have ONE small suitcase that you put a change of clothes and only necessary toiletries in for each person so you don’t have to drag out all your totes and suitcases when you stop.
  • Packing activities {books, coloring pages, worksheets, a Trip Clip and “busy bags“} in a reusable shopping bag for easy storage.
  • Pack stuffed animals, blankies, and other can’t-go-without-them items in another reusable shopping bag so they don’t get left behind.

Be Prepared So That Packing for a Trip as Stress-less as Possible! 

I tend to get stressed out easily {blame my Type-A, high-strung personality} and so I’m trying hard to tweak the way we pack so that I don’t end up just being a grump before we leave.

  • Start packing 3 or 4 days in advance so you’re not doing everything at the last minute {we’re still working through this one at our house!}
  • Give your kids a small list so they can help pack. Yup, half the time they won’t do it right but that’s okay! It might at least keep them busy and it’s good reading practice :)
  • Eat an easy meal before you leave so there is little to no clean-up.
  • Try to relax! Realize that it will all get done and unless you have a minute-by-minute plan for your trip, leaving a half-hour late won’t upset the apple cart too much!

One More Thing…

I don’t know about you, but I always approach summer vacation with excitement mixed with some nervousness.

I love the freedom and lack of routine in some ways, and in other ways it scares me that my patience won’t be able to survive unstructured time with all my kids home 24/7.

But, just like coming up with some great activity ideas to break up the days, I’ve learned a little summer planning can go a long way.

Summer comes with it’s own set of specific “planning” challenges though.

We need a routine for us AND the kids, we want the kids to pitch in with helping around the house and our schedule will be a mix of organized events and spontaneous fun (which is good!).

We need ways to get things done, but also space for last-minute ideas.

So to help with this, I created the Purposeful Family Summer Planner!

It’s a printable resource designed specifically for moms who are at home with their kids during the summer. (That’s my experience as a work-at-home mom, so I can only speak to that).

Not only will it help you organize your time, but it also lays out a plan for a strong devotional life for your family as well as a guide to making a “family strategy” for the summer, so you can all discuss your priorities and make plans together too.

I really believe that creating a “whole family” plan and not just individual plans for each person will help your summer goals, strategies and ideas to actually be accomplished, because they are a cooperative effort!

(I’ve created a video for you along with the planner explaining how to create a whole family plan for your summer!)

This summer, I want you to be ready with a plan, be a happier more patient mom and enjoy making lots of fun memories with your kids!

Want to see what’s inside the Purposeful Family Summer Planner?

Click the button below for details and get your copy for a special price!

Show me the Purposeful Family Summer Planner! 

You may also like:

Five Healthy Snack Ideas for Traveling with Kids

How to Travel with Kids and Not Go Crazy


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5 Comments on My Top 3 Tips for Packing for a Road Trip with Less Stress

  1. I love your tips for packing! I am one of 7 children (and two parents) and we often have to travel for delivering puppies (we are breeders – Happy Hill Pups)! The fun part about it though is, we have a Suburban and so all 9 of us have to fit in, with the puppies (and sometimes their mothers) … along with our luggage! We have learned to pack light … each person gets 1 back pack and sometimes a few other things, such as a computer bag, camera bag, guitar case, etc. This last year we got a traveling case for the roof to put luggage in, which was a big help! It is so much fun though and we all love traveling together! Blessings, ~Sarah (visiting from Radical Femininity)

    • You have a busy group for traveling! How fun! You definitely find a good method after a lot of trips :)

  2. I love these tips! Once a month, I take my two littles to my mom’s for an extended weekend. Although, the drive is not always smooth, I feel like the packing is what stresses me out the most. My mantra is my mom’s got a washing machine. If we need extra clothes, we will wash the ones I remembered to bring. :) Thanks for sharing your tips with us. I’m pinning this for next months trip! :)

    • Thanks, Kelsey! Yes, we wash a lot of clothes on vacation too–it definitely cuts down on the load we have to bring ;)

  3. We just got back yesterday from our vacation in maine. I thought I had everything figured out, except that I didn’t plan on the “potential weather”, like you advise. ;/ It rained for 7 of the 9 days that we were there! We learned first hand why spring in Maine is called “mud season!”

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