This year my family & I have been fortunate enough to be able to take some amazing trips. We have traveled to Disney World, Boston, MA, Washington, DC, Durham, NC, Wilmington, NC, Hilton Head, SC and Jacksonville, Fl. While some of these trips were planned some were also spontaneous adventures. Our family loves to pack up the car for a night or two and take the kids on a mystery ride. Over the years we have mastered the art of the road trip. I thought I would share a few tips with you.
1. Hangers- Most hotels already have some in your room however if they don’t then I recommend bringing some from home. We use hangers to hang our wet bathing suits on. Genius, I know right! This saves us some coin, so we don’t have to use the hotel dryer. There is nothing I hate more than coming home from a trip with your suitcase smelling like stale pool water (gross!). Most Disney World Resort hotels have a clothesline in the shower, so I recommend bringing clothes pins, since they take up less space.
2. Bins- Most of the time you can find these bins in my office filled with all sorts of fun finds. When we are traveling I empty it out and fill the drawers with food for my boys, since they require special allergy friendly diets. The key is to find bins that are portable but also are not too heavy when you fill the drawers with food. The bins work out great in hotel rooms since there is usually not a lot of extra space to store food. When traveling to Disney World we like to pack extra food for the entire family so that we do not have to eat out as much, which saves us a lot of money in the parks!
3. Collapsible Hamper- I picked up this beauty at the Dollar store. Since we are a family of five we have a lot of laundry! The hamper comes in handy so that we do not have to put dirty clothes in our suitcase with our clean clothes. It also makes going to the hotel laundry room a lot easier!
4. Toy organizer for your car- We bought this toy organizer a few years ago and it was worth every penny! Trust me, you and your car will thank me for this tip! There is nothing worse than taking a road trip with kids and arriving to your destination to find your backseat looking like a bomb went off! I have found that a Dollar store shoe organizer does the trick just as well!
5. Prizes/ Car Games- After a few hours in the car I am sure your little ones have already played with every toy they brought with them. This is when I get the mom of year award… before the trip I will go to the Dollar Store or hit up the Target dollar bins and buy some small games & toys. I will then randomly hand out a few of these prizes to keep the little ones entertained for the remainder of the trip. Our family loves car games to pass the time. One of our favorite games is Eye Spy. Although after a while you may tire of the same trees, cars and billboards. Once your little ones learn how to read you can play the license plate game which is always fun. Another tip is to save unopened kids meal toys. My kids get so excited for kid’s meal toys, it is like Christmas morning all over again!
6. Plan Breaks- I like to get to our destination as fast as possible but when traveling with little ones I have found that planning breaks ahead of time is a must! I like to find stops where the kids can run and play. I have found that most outlet shops have playgrounds that are a great way to get some ‘ya yas’ out before continuing on with your trip. We also like to pack a lunch, have a picnic and maybe do a little shopping. If you don’t have access to any outlets or malls along your journey then you can also turn a rest stop into a fun adventure. You can have your little ones play tag or simply just run before heading back in the car. Don’t forget to have everyone empty his or her bladders before getting in the car! I can’t even begin to tell you how many times we have left a rest stop just to have someone say five minutes later that they need to use the bathroom.
7. Portable DVD player- This is my secret weapon! My kids can tell you that it takes us about 4 movies to get to Disney World, ha-ha! Whenever we are about to take a long car ride we hook up the DVD players even if we decide not to use them. They are a wonderful distraction from the long hours in the car plus who doesn’t enjoy a few hours of screen time!
8. Snack Bag- This was a gift from another Disney loving family like us! Anytime we are planning to leave our house for a few hours we take our snack bag along and fill it with allergy friendly snacks for our boys as well as some breakfast & lunch food so we can stop and have a picnic. Most highway rest stops are filled with junk food or fast food so bringing healthy treats from home is super helpful and saves you some money.
9. Overnight Bag- Some of our road trips are 10 hours or more so we like to stop at a hotel for a night and get a good night sleep before continuing on our adventure. Instead of bringing in 4 suitcases into the hotel for just one night I usually pack an overnight bag for the entire family. I will pack pajamas, a change or clothes and a bathing suit (if the hotel has a pool) for everyone. I also like to do this when we travel on a plane too just in case the airline happens to lose our luggage. Also, when traveling to Disney World, the Magical Express will pick you up and take you to your hotel then magically your suitcase arrives at your room a few hours later. While waiting for your luggage to arrive however, it is nice to have quick access to a bathing suit or a fresh change of clothes after a long day of travel.
10. Blow up tube- I purchased this one at the Dollar store. I keep it in our suitcase as a back up if I forget to bring our Puddle Jumper life vest. A blow up tube is perfect for traveling because its compact and all you need is a little hot air! There is nothing better than arriving to your hotel after a long day and taking a dip in the pool! Also a great way for your little ones to get some energy out before heading to bed.
If you have decided to fly instead of drive to your destination, I have found that the cheapest flights are best to book on a Tuesday at 3:00pm six weeks prior to your trip. Our family has also found that last-minute travel websites like Priceline are amazing for saving a ton a money at the last minute. We have stayed at 4 & 5 star hotels for a quarter of the price and sometimes we have booked them an hour prior to arriving! Hope you have found these travel tips helpful!