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Family Roadtrip Planner| Tips for a Hassle Free Family Trip

Updated on April 4, 2014

Family Roadtrip Planner Tips

  1. Don't overpack and use a packing planning guide to ensure maximum packing efficiency.
  2. Have a packing "system" that works for your family.
  3. Have a place for everything, including snacks, drinks and media.
  4. Get a GPS. Just do it.
  5. Protect your vehicle seats and seat backs.
  6. Keep all the things you need during the trip in an easily accessible place.

Signs that You Need Help with Vacation Roadtrip Planning

Soon after having our second child, we quickly realized that airplane travel was not an enjoyable and efficient way for our family to get around. The fact that us and our 2 kids under the age of 3 were being forced to stay in one spot for several hours at a time, all the while being quiet and courteous just didn't make any logical sense to us. So family roadtrips made sense to us and our kids seemed to do a lo better. The longest family roadtrip we ever did was a 16 hour stretch to Northern Canada. Let's just say, we survived, but it wasn't pretty.

Here's a typical scene from that roadtrip that maybe others can relate to:

  • 3 year old happily watching a movie on mom's ipad, until we hit a bump and the ipad goes flying out of his little hands.
  • 3 year old has tantrum and repeatedly kicks the back of dad's seat with his dirty boots.
  • 1 year old serenely munches on his cheerios then screams when the container of said cheerios goes flying out of his hands on onto the dirty van floor.
  • Can't find the kids coats when we stop at the fast-food restaurant and it's -20 C and we later find the coats buried in the suitcase.
  • Everything is impossible to find and never within reach.
  • So much stuff everywhere and suitcases stacked on top of each other, making it nearly impossible to retrieve specific items packed away in said suitcases.
  • Parents are stressed and turned around/lost in unknown areas with little or no cell reception (google maps, where WERE you when we needed you?)

Trip Planner| For Families


Family Trip Planner

What is your family's packing system?

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Find a Packing System that Works

Sometimes the best laid plans don't always work, and this goes for packing strategies too. Every family has their own packing system (or not) and it's good to experiment and find a way to organize all your things efficiently.

I'll share the packing system that currently works for our family of four ( 2 adults and 2 kids under the age of 5).

  1. Clothing and larger items go in our suitcases.
  2. Medium Rubbermaid bins are used to hold jackets, extra shoes
  3. Small Rubbermaid bins hold our snacks and drinks/extra garbage bag and kids books/toys.
  4. The inside lids of ALL the Rubbermaid bins have a complete inventory of what's inside the bins (this makes packing up at the end of a trip much easier and things don't get left behind).
  5. We're working on a media solution and have plans to get an over-the-seat-back ipad hold so our kids can watch their movies. (I don't trust the kids holding my ipad with their own hands...)

Keep the Vehicle Clean and Tidy

If you have a preschooler, you know they just love to kick the back of the seats, which makes for a super fun road trip. The worst part of the kicking, besides the sound and the fact that your seat gets bumped every 5 seconds, is their dirty shoes and feet getting the seat back.....dirty. We all know how easy mud is to clean off by hand. Upon further research, I've realized that there are products out there that actually protect the backs of seats. These covers wrap around the headrest and hang down by the child's feet. Some of these seatback covers even include compartments for toy, drinks and book storage. Perfect! Whoever invented seat back covers must have been a parent who's been through the terrible 2's, or 3's or even the fearsome 4's.

We usually allow our kids to snack in the van (who doesn't?) and snack crumbs are inevitable. Again, a brilliant individual came up with a thoughtful solution: hard plastic covers that protect the seat under the carseat.

Here are some tips to keep your vehicle tidy during road trips:

  • Cup and snack holders that attach to carseats.
  • Over-the-backseat toy and snack organizers.
  • Having a designated garbage bag.
  • Seat covers and seat back kick pads.
  • Accessible snack/drinks/coats area.
  • A place to put all your media and to secure it.

Kick Mats Save Seats


Hassle-Free Kids Ideas for Vacation Planning

Our last few road trips have been long and sometimes movies and books don't cut it, so I've discovered kids travel bags. Some of our favourite kids travel bag activities have been:

  • Making a picture with a large piece of felt material and several smaller felt shapes.
  • Sorting trays with egg cartons and treasures.


Twenty first century roadtrips are not what they used to be. Media and devices have become synonmous with family trips these days. Ipads are often used for games and movies and ipods/iphones have replaced the walkmans/discmans so many of us remember. Just remember to secure your iPad/media device so it doesn't get dropped or damaged. The over the seathead ipad holder is a great option for those who don't have a DVD player installed in their vehicle. We try to incorporate some old fashioned car games mixed in with movies and music, for nostalgia and to give everyone's eyes a break.

If you can't afford or don't want to buy a GPS, your iphone/smartphone will help you get to where you need to go, using software like google maps. The downside of reliying on a smartphone is that often the signal is lost and when the signal is lost, google maps or other map apps will cease to work. Also, roaming charges can really add up. The best GPS devices on the market can be very helpful on roadtrips, especially when you're not familiar with the area you're traveling to. Here's a list of helpful things GPS devices can do for you:

  • Lifetime map and traffic updates (the vehicle power cable is also the 3D traffic receiver)
  • Speed limit indicator - unit displays speed limits for most major roads,Card Reader: microSD
  • Lane assist with photoReal junction views,Display resolution: 480 x 272 pixels
  • Park position recall - find your car where you left it,Battery Run Time up to 2.5 hour(s)
  • Preloaded City Navigator NT North America (U.S., Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands and Bahamas)

You Can Turn your Smartphone into a GPS


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      4 years ago

      I'm totally laughing about your description of the average family road trip experience. So familiar! :)

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Nice tips especially about keeping the car neat and clean. When lots of people especially kids go places in an automobile it tends to get trashed quickly, Lol.


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