Since A and I both have parents who are a four-hour drive a way we do a lot of road trips. At least once a month we pack up our family and head out to visit one or the other set of grandparents.
We have done so for the past five years and have been travelling with a baby for the past year and a half. So I like to think that I’ve got a pretty good, but not perfect, handle on the whole travelling thing. That said life with a child is constantly changing. We often say that no trip is alike. But I think I’ve got a couple of good tricks up my sleeve to help make things go smoothly.
- Don’t leave packing to the last minute: this is especially true if you have a baby. For me, this is a sure fire way to forget things at home. I always start with Willow first. I pack all the things we will need, then check and recheck during the week. On arriving at our destination I unpack the bags so I can repack it as the weekend unfolds. I try to start gathering up our things first thing when I wake up so that I don’t forget anything.
- Packing cubes are your friend: My life changed when I discovered packing cubes. These are now so essential to me! I have two sets: a black and a purple which is great for keeping my and A’s stuff separate. They allow you to keep all your things in one easy to find place and help when it comes to packing up and doing laundry. As the weekend progresses I put the dirty things in the cubes – this means my clean and dirty stuff never mix. When I get home I just dump the contents in the washing machine.
- What to pack: For a weekend away my rule is one pair of pants, two shirts, one pair of shoes, enough underwear and socks for the trip, in the winter a warm jacket and in the summer a hat. I apply that formula for the whole family. For Willow, I throw in an extra pair of pants and an extra top in case we have an accident. I also like to pack Willow’s outfits into Ziplock bags as I know that I may not be dressing her every day. This way the person who is helping out knows exactly what to put on.
- Keep a toiletry bag packed and ready to go: This is great for someone who travels a lot. I have my skincare, body care, and hair care stuff in duplicate (and miniature if I can manage it) and I keep it in my vanity bag ready to go at all time. It takes a lot of the guess work out of the equation.
- Check the weather: I’m a slave to my weather app. But I have been caught short so many times that I’m a bit paranoid now. Packing always begins with a quick look at the forecast and then I pack a jacket or sweatshirt anyway, just in case.
- Put all luggage in together near the front door so it doesn’t get left behind.
- Pack a cooler bag that you can fill with a bottle, snacks and drinks. I keep things like mini biscuits, fruit, cheese, biltong, water and a bottle of milk and one of water or coconut water. You can never underestimate the power of snacks on a road trip.
- Time your trip: We normally leave on a Friday evening and return on Sunday afternoon. We time the trips for sleep times to make it easier on Willow. Sometimes it doesn’t work, but most of the time it does and we are always grateful when it does! We have had trips of non-stop screaming and it is a lot to deal with.
- Pack entertainment: I have learned that you cannot leave on a trip without entertainment. I recommend a notebook with crayons and stickers, a shape sorter, wrapping toys in wrapping paper or newspaper for the baby to unwrap, quiet book if you have one, the iPad, pipe cleaners with macaroni to string, a kids CD; let your imagination take flight. One thing I have learnt though: only give one toy at a time. That way when your child gets bored of it, you can replace it with something new and exciting. Also, I save the electronics for last.
- Refuse bin or plastic bag is a must: I like to keep a bag in the car so I can stash used tissues and wipes, discarded food, empty packaging, etc. This stops the car from looking like a tip when we get home.
- Learn silly songs and nursery rhymes: I have a repertoire of silly songs that we sing, complete with movements. They provide a great distraction when the going gets tough…
What are your tips and tricks for long car journeys? I’m always looking for new things to try as Willow gets older.