Ah the days of living in Ireland when I was blissfully unaware of the great American road trip and all it entails! When I would climb into the car and hit the road from Waterford to Mayo and think that 5 hours on the road was FOREVER. Now a five hour road trip is like a brief Sunday spin to me.
In the last 18 months we have driven over 11,000 miles (props to my husband who did ALL of that as I waited for my license!). From Georgia to Alabama and Florida multiple times and to Missouri and Ohio for special occasions. Soon we embark on a 21 hour journey from Northern Wisconsin to Georgia. I am now a seasoned veteran of the great state-wide road trip!
Aside from the back aching pain from sitting in car seats for extended periods of time, there are many obstacles you could run into on a long road trip. I’ve compiled this guide of essentials to make your journey as comfortable and seemingly quick as possible!
- If you’re fancy, seat back entertainment systems loaded with animated movies
- Tablets or iPods. Even for the anti-technology parent, it will keep them relatively quiet and save your sanity
- Travel versions of their favorite classic board games
- Activites (coloring, Etch-A-Sketch, mess free markers etc.)
- Books (stories, puzzles, quiz etc.)
- Favorite comfort item whether it be a toy, blanket or pillow
- A map of where you are traveling to point out locations and educate them along the way (unless you don’t want to hear, “where are we NOW?” every 5 minutes!)
- Stomach friendly snacks
- Sick bags (sorry for the TMI but it’s that or spend ages cleaning up at the roadside)
- Small washcloth to dampen and place on forehead if they feel ill
- Front seat barrier or hammock to keep Fido from clambering in on top of the driver
- A canvas/mesh travel bag for a small dog or pet safety belt clip for a larger dog’s harness to keep him secure
- Water bowl with enough bottled water for the length of the journey
- Waste bags
- Dog cologne (yes, it may sound weird but if you make a pit stop and pup gets wet then you’re completing the rest of your journey with the strong aroma of wet dog – fabulous!)
For The Car
- Get a service and have your oil changed in advance
- Jump Cables
- Contact numbers for roadside assistance
- Satellite Navigation System
- I like the WAZE app for checking on potential upcoming hazards/traffic delays
- Cigarette lighter USB adapter for charging your devices
- Power bank for your phone
- Car freshener. Road smells, farm smells, in-car smells…just have one!
- Car seat organizer to hang on the back of the front seats and contain all the kids activities. No more “Where’s myyyyyy….?”
- A map. A good old fashioned paper map!
- An emergency kit in the back stocked with a first aid kit, towel, wet wipes, sun screen, umbrella, snacks and lots of bottled water
For Your Sanity
- Dress comfortably but appropriately. You may leave in snow and arrive in the tropics or vice versa.
- Your choice of entertainment (books, audio books, magazines, mobile devices loaded with movies/e-books/music playlists etc.)
- Camera/Video camera. It might be fun to vlog your drive. Unless tensions are running high then it will at least provide evidence afterwards…
- A blanket. Unless you have dual control heating then one may be hotter/colder than the other and the driver gets to be most comfortable in my eyes
- A pillow. I keep a small one to place behind my back, to sleep against or to put under my feet when my legs get restless
- Fluffy socks. You know the fuzzy bed ones? They keep cold feet toasty and are super comfy!
- Snacks that won’t cause any discomfort
- Gum (chewing it will take your mind off a sick stomach if you don’t follow the above!)
- Gallons of hand sanitizer. I don’t even need to tell you about the condition of some of the restrooms you will stop at along the way.
- Wet wipes to freshen your face/body throughout the drive
- A cooler stocked with water/iced coffee (for that good caffeine!). Take a flask full of hot coffee/tea if iced isn’t your style. Avoid carbonated drinks.
- Sunglasses and lip balm are two small things I often forget but make my journey very uncomfortable – don’t make the same mistake.
My greatest tip of all would be to just relax. So many times I have been anxious over arrival and hotel check-in times that I have found those are the journeys where you run into 2 hour stand-stills on the Interstate. Certainly plan ahead places for pit-stops and places to sleep that night but be flexible in the fact that although you may leave at 6am for a 10 hour drive, an arrival time of 6pm is not out of the realms of possibility. Allow for traffic, roadworks, extended stops etc. Life happens. Go with it! Play old school games like eye spy and count license plates. One of my favorite past times in the car is to read ridiculous billboards aloud to my husband and destroy every country music lyric there ever was by speaking it and analyzing the ridiculousness.
“First thing we make you feel better. Next stop we pull it all together. I’ll keep you warm like a sweater. Hold on forever”
If you have a long road trip soon, happy travels my lovelies!