Our super-powered, special needs family of five loves road trips. With three children ages five and under, two in diapers and one under one, packing “light” takes on a whole new meaning.
We’ve been known to spontaneously stay overnight almost anywhere, so packing for a day can mean packing for the night and next day as well.
You might think, oh well, they have a minivan, they can pack anything. And we do. But we just got it recently, before we’d pack two kids and a dog or two into our four door car and hit the road.
Add our wonderful Canadian weather where you can experience four seasons in one day, and you have a certain amount of “must haves.”
We always carry a case of bottled water in the car. I know it’s not very environmentally friendly, but carrying our own water saves a fortune in not buying restaurant drinks. Plus, spilled water is easy to clean, unlike apple juice or *shudder* milk.
We always have a couple sippy cups on hand. It’s amazing how a cranky baby can be calmed by sippying away at water. For reducing spills we use the ones with more of a soft plastic ‘nipple’ style rather than the classic drip and pour type.
Other ‘must haves’ include bag of plain rice cakes for a reduced calorie snack to stave off boredom or hunger. Our glove box always has a pocket knife (for cutting fresh fruit and opening packages on picnics – I’ve managed to slice a watermelon using it), pen, space pacifier, spare baby bottle, and maybe spare medication for me. (I know you’re not supposed to keep medicine in the glove box.)
Our ‘emergency bag’ stays in the car at all times. This is a gym bag filled with one complete outfit for each child for warm and cold weather. Yes, there are shorts and track suits for each kid, therefore six outfits total. Plus an extra jacket for each kid. Diapers, wipes, socks, underwear and an old pair of preschooler shoes round it out. For the grown-ups, we each keep an extra hoodie sweater in this bag. It adds a warm layer in case the weather changes. We usually have an umbrella or two in the van as well. The emergency bag is a life saver in case of soakers, spills or surprise sleepovers.
For most trips we pack a lunch. Over time, even that has been streamlined. I used to make assorted sandwiches before we left, and pack them and some fruit in a cooler. Now I just toss cheese (either the whole block or I sliced it) and packages of coldcuts (and maybe a hardboiled egg or two), some wraps, fruit and treats into the cooler. We assemble our own lunch at a picnic. That pocket knife in the glove box sure comes in handy. To deal with messes and spills, there are always napkins in the car, stashed in nooks and crannies.
Also hidden in nooks and crannies of the van are sun hats, extra mitts and toques, sun screen and a few toys and books. These essentials simply stay in the van, and are replaced as needed. My ‘Backroads Mapbook’ has a place of honour beside the passager door. I do not trust GPS and find it really annoying to listen to a detached mechanical voice telling me ‘in 500 meters, turn right.’
I do make a point of checking the emergency bag at the start of every changing season – there’s not much point in carrying around a pair of shorts when it’s -20 C or a down vest when it’s +30 c. I ensure clothes and diapers are the right size for each child.
Our tub of baby wipes (holding at least 300 wipes at all times) rides on the console between the driver and passenger. Baby wipes are used for the obvious purpose, but are also great for cleaning hands, faces, and wiping spills. Our diaper bag (again, with diapers, more wipes, another spare pacifier and spare outfit for each diaper-wearing child) is handy to grab and go as we set off on foot.
Add kids, stroller and you have the makings of a great road trip.
What are your roadtrip essentials? Where do you like to go?