wagon_girlWith a tighter belt on all of our expenses these days, we’ve decided to put the rubber to the road and drive from New York to Southwest Florida for a vacation. I know, we’ve heard it all before, but we are going for it and we’ve already put some of our strategies for success into motion.

My husband and I have combined his gift for directions and my love of snacking and entertainment and created a “must have mini-van tips” list for road trips. We have broken down our list into the following four sections; Safety First: Making Sure Your Car Is Road Trip Ready, Map It Out: Where the Rest Areas Are, Packing It In: Things You Won’t Want to Leave At Home, and Too Much Junk in You Trunk: How to Pack in More With Less.

Safety First: Making Sure Your Car Is Road Trip Ready

 Since I’ve started listening to Vehicle Vibes on blog talk radio, I have become more educated and confident about dealing with my car. There is a great segment about tire safety with Lisa Hickey, Marketing Communications Manager of the Michelin Brand . Something I didn’t realize is that tires affect the fuel efficiency of our cars. In order to be road trip ready, also check up on oil, coolant, and windshield washer fluid. We will do our best to keep the interior in order with paper towels, pinesol and water in a spray bottle, and a couple of garbage bags. The last time we took a road trip we had to have the car cleaned before we saw our family (it was that bad).

 Map It Out: Know Where the Rest Areas Are 

The convenience of having a GPS to take us where we need to go, our maps have taken a back seat in the directions department. However, it is always a good idea to have a paper map along for the ride. There are also some nice online trip planners like Michelin to check out before you hit the road.

We are planning on heading out on our journey in the evening so our kids will be fall asleep for at least the first 10 hours of the trip. My husband said he would take the night shift. We’ll take our first break around then, which is also when the kids will be waking-up. Our goal is to make it to an already identified rest area with a family bathroom (this would help things when my three year old daughter tries to crawl under the bathroom stall door (she has done this before). This is where the AAA TripTik will come in handy, so what’s one more map, especially if it will help you find bathrooms in a not so familiar place?

Packing It In: Things You Won’t Want to Leave At Home                                          

Nosh

This list has gotten easier over time. Since we eat only kosher food, we always travel everywhere with a couple of fully stocked coolers of food and beverages. Our three year old and one year old love their milk, so we take a gallon of milk plus six ready to sip bottles of milk using Playtex Drop-Ins bottle liners. We bring other snack like items in zip lock bags so they are ready to disperse at any moment. We have decided to make the girls snack packs with some healthy kosher snacks: Homefreetreats.com Organic Chocolate Chip Cookies, Yummy Earth Organic Lollipops, Snikiddy Grilled Cheese Puffs, and Apple and Even Juice Boxes.

 We always bring a bag of bagel from our favorite local bagel store, and a lot of water, carrot sticks, and apples.

 Entertainment

We’ve got 12 of our kids’ favorite CDs in the car, six of them are in our disc player already. Since we plan to have our kids sleeping for the first ten hours of the trip (fingers crossed), we hope to listen to some of our music. When the kids are awake, they will each have their backpack packed with a coloring book, crayons, dolls, and board books. We will also make sure they have two of their favorite dolls next to them for the ride. We will also have our laptop to play DVDs for them (Dora, Uncle Moishy, Yo Gabba Gabba, and Kai- Lan). For my own entertainment and something fun to do with the girls, I will be bringing my Nintendo DS Style Savvy game. I will hang with them in the back of the car (yes, it is a tight squeeze but it helps the time go). Even though they can’t read yet, they’ll definitely have fun when I read them the conversations between the characters because it is so pleasant.

Too Much Junk in You Trunk: How to Pack in More With Less                                                     

We’ve all been there, stuffing our suitcase until we have to literally sit on it to make it zipper close. That is not necessary. Save yourself some space and plan out how many days, and how many outfits. We have a Honda Odyssey which makes fitting in a lot of these items a breeze.

Avoid those late night dashes to Walgreens and spending more on must have items like Seventh Generation Diapers, Playtex Drop Ins, Baby Wipes (fragrance free), bottled water, sunscreen, sunglasses and hats, (we’re going to Disneyland, yah!), pots, pans and a couple of cooking knives, and a travel size bottle of scent free laundry detergent. Even though we are taking our In Step Double Stroller, we will still take our umbrella stroller (you never know).

Once we have our standard items in the car, everything else will fit in two suitcases. Before I had children, I had one suitcase just for all of my clothes. Now that I have kids, I share a suitcase with my husband and kids now have their own suitcase. We have to bring more items for them in order to be prepared for spills.

Will you be taking your kids on the road? What’s your secret to success?