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Top 10 Unique Hacks for Awesome Family Road Trips

My family loves going on road trips (that's why I started this blog).  We've been on several as a family, but I also grew up with road trips being part of my family culture.  This list is all the things I've learned and like to use for our own vacations.  I'm sure you'll find many things you can use also!  Be sure to poke around my blog for even more ideas.

1- Play the Mystery Snack Game

Every blog post about road trips is going to suggest food to bring for your kids, but I'm suggesting that you make snack time into game time!  When you play the Mystery Snack Game, you play "20 Questions" to guess the hidden snack food.  It just takes a bit of preparation time before your trip and a way to wrap the snacks to hide them.  Click on the colored text to get more details.

Get the Details on the Mystery Snack Game

2- Pack Each Day Together in Packing Cubes

We love using packing cubes to organize our road trips, day trips, swimming gear, camping stuff, and more.  The flexible envelopes have the structure of a small suitcase when full, which can be packed inside bigger luggage, but can be wadded up or stored flat when not in use.  We like to pack one "cube" for each day with the entire family's clothes.  Then, we throw all of them in a laundry basket and put it in the car.  The laundry basket is helpful for holding dirty clothes and random stuff as we move between locations.  To learn more about packing cubes, click on the colored text below.

3- Pick a Fun Theme and Label Everything

We named this blog "Party Through the USA" because of our family's love of themed road trips.  We've had Minions, Jurassic Park, Mickey, Moana, and more!  A theme can be as simple or as complicated as you'd like, but I try to grab a few ideas for our food, clothing (at least one shirt for everyone), toys, and other entertainment.  When you go often to the same destinations, theming your trips helps kids to anchor that vacation in their head and have a framework for their memories.  On the top left tab of this blog, you'll find everything I have for themed trips including planning information and printables.

Jurassic Park Parody Labels Printable

4- Make Your Own Surprise Toys

I don't know exactly what is is, but kids LOVE blind bags!  I don't like how expensive each bag can be (especially if you have multiple kids) and how difficult it is to get just the toys you want without duplicates.  My solution is to create our own surprise toys using bulk party favors that follow our theme.  For example, the dinosaur skeletons are from our Jurassic World road trip.  I wrapped them in aluminum foil, as a super quick way to create the blind bag element.  Of course, if you want to take the time, you can wrap them in themed paper or place them in colored bags.  Some of our favorite blind bags have been Thomas the Train mini figures, Hatchamals (already come in a shell), and Matchbox cars.  Click on the colored text to read more about them.

Easy Blind Bag Ideas

5- Track Your Progress

One of the things I learned is a huge benefit to my children's mental wellbeing on a road trip is to give them their own map to hold as well as posting one on the passenger visor.  I use a program like Mapquest to put in our road trip destinations and overnight stops.  I print off one for our trip out and one for the return.  Then, I add mini round stickers on the beginning and end, and at every major landmark (cities, border crossings, rivers, etc).  I aim for one sticker every one to two hours.  The kids love keeping track of our travels, which completely eliminates the whining, questions (when will we get there), and anxieties.  Read more by clicking the colored text.

More Ways to Track Your Trip

6- Buy a "First Day" Outfit

This is going to sound super unnecessary, but trust me, this is a game changer!  When you're preparing for your trip and buying all the snacks and supplies, take a bit of your budget and buy one outfit for each of the kids.  I like to buy matching shirts according to our theme and a pair of shorts.  The reason why this is so awesome for your vacation planning is that you automatically have one less day for which you have to plan, find, wash, and pack clothing.  I keep the new outfits hidden until the morning that we leave.  I hand them to the kids.  They put them on.  We get in the car.  No fussing.  No last minute scramble for something to wear.  Done deal!  I've never written about this before, so I don't have a blog post to link.  This image can be pinned to Pinterest, however, and will link back to this post.

7- Pack the Potty

Maybe, like me, your kids are already potty trained and you're wondering if this tip is actually for you.  Oh, it is, my friend.  See, when you pack a portable toilet in your car, you don't have to take your kids into yucky, germ-infested bathrooms.  It also helps you make faster stops, because the kids can use the toilet right at the car as you're getting gas (we pack so there's a private area or hang a tarp off the back doors).  And, if you have a child who gets super distracted by gas stations and all their wonders, not even taking the kids into the building takes away a lot of temptation and dawdling.  Finally, if you're a special needs family like we are, a portable toilet cuts down on all the sensory overload issues related to public bathrooms.  To get a preview of all the options, click on the colored text below.

8- Bring Blankets for Everyone

It's really hard on road trips to get the temperature just right for everyone, which is why a lightweight blanket can be super helpful.  I also find them necessary for kids to encourage lots of snuggly, sleepy, behavior and many naps.  I made these throws from a yard and a half of polar fleece, bought during a summer sale.  The elastic strap allows them to be rolled up and secured like a sleeping bag, which keeps them neatly packed up when not in use.  My kids used these blankets all throughout the trip and in hotel rooms, and are still using them today (5 years later).  

DIY Throw Blankets with Straps

9- Have a Checklist When You Stop

It's always really exciting when the car finally stops at some awesome destination.  This checklist helps kids know what they're expected to do before we start driving again.  The list includes good reminders, like that you should put on your shoes before going to the bathroom and to pick up your toys.  Get the printable by clicking on the colored text.

BONUS TIP- Fill the kids' water bottles with ice to the top and then add a bit of water.  The ice keeps them cooler, but the slow melt spreads out the water consumption to keep the potty stops to a minimum (we stop every 2 hours or so).

Picture Checklist for Rest Stops

10- Keep the Co-Driver Busy

Taking care of the kids' and driver's every needs can't be the only thing the co-driver does for the whole trip (although, we know it's a big part of it).  I recommend giving her lots of things to craft!  Whether you're a knitter, painter, sewer, or general crafter, you'll find ideas and hacks for traveling with your projects.

Crafting Ideas for the Road

Well, I was only going to make this a list of five road trip hacks, but then I got writing and just had to add more.  I hope this list is helpful to you.  Tell me what works for you in the comments!



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