We just took a long, long drive. Long. I've done this many times in my life now and there a few things you need to have in the car when road tripping with kids. Or anyone. Here you go:
- Wipes! Go to the dollar store and buy two containers of wipes for each bench in the van. Two because the kids will use up the first one in the first hour of the trip for no particular reason, then when there is a mess you have another to use and no one gets in trouble. A wipe can also keep a toddler in a car seat very amused. If you give them a doll, action figure, toy car or train and tell them to clean it up they will take a long time and be very careful. It's a win-win.
- A pile of garbage bags for each bench. Not a big one, a white trash bag suitable for the kitchen can or the largish bags from your local dicount store. Each time you stop throw out the trash, even if the bag is not full. Yes it's wasting bags but it's saving the van from being a toxic waste dump and thereby saving your sanity. That's more valuable. They are also handy for the carsick kid. Keep a pile by that one and train them to do their business in the bag. Then it gets put in another bag and thrown out at the next stop. If you use a bowl or cup you have a bowl or cup of that knocking around a vanand that, my friends, is a recipe for a really gross disaster. Just let them be sick, clean them up and keep on trucking, we've got to get where we are going. ;).
- First aid kit. The one time I didn't have one everyone ended up with some kind of boo-boo. Paper cuts, picked scabs (they're bored after all), skinned knees at the rest stop and so on. A little antibiotic cream, some bandaids, and an ice pack should suffice. It's the kind of thing you don't use very much but when you need it you are so grateful to have it.
- Audio books. I went to the library and borrowed the first Harry Potter and the first 39 Clues books. This kept everyone happily quiet for a few hours. If you have little ones you can still find some fun books that will interest them, check the library.
- Sweatshirts/sweaters. There is always someone who is cold and someone who is warm. It's easier to have the chilly one put on a sweatshirt than to have a stuffy warm car. I hae found it nearly impossible to make the temperature of the car comfortable for everyone so wether we travel north or south, eas or west, everyone dresses in short sleeves and bring a sweater. That way I make the car comfortable for those of us in front and everyone else adds or shed layers accordingly.
Some additional items that aren't as necessary but pleasant; a small pillow for each head (we use pillow pets, peppermint essential oil for car sick people, A device for watching a movie (we use a laptop since our big van doesn't have it's own system).
A last suggestion is to have a special treat stashed away that won't create a mess but can alleviate the crankies that come when you've been in the car a looooooong time. This time I bought two sheets of Candy Buttons for each child. When things started to feel like they were coming apart at the seams I just handed around the buttons and everyone was completely occupied getting them off the paper and eating them. No muss and a lot less fussing.
What are your essentials for travel?