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Fun Road Trip in a Compact Car

Updated on June 26, 2012
 Sanity in a compact car
Sanity in a compact car

Aaahh, Summer time!

Who doesn't love summer? People to see, places to go and things to do. Holidays and picnics. A warm summer breeze grazing your face. Plan a road trip, what a way to really get together. For the past couple of years we have been making a seasonal trip to New Jersey from South Florida. Oh, did I mention in a compact car? And that there are four (yes 4) of us. The children ages range from 4 to 16. Then there's me the only driver in the crowd. Welcome to my world and see how we do it, without even wanting to kill one another!


pack light
pack light

There are washers and dryers in New Jersey.

TRAVEL LIGHT Face it, we all over pack! We fill our cute little heads with "Hum..what if we go.... then I'll need this". NOT! There's 7 days in a week and one washer/dryer in the basement. Our packing list consists of the following: 2 Everyday Shorts and Shirts and a couple extra shirts. All Bathing suits and cover ups, 2 pair Casual-to-Dress Shorts and 2 pair Capris, Who can go anyplace without a pair of comfy jeans? 3-4 Interchangeable Tops for Casual-to-Dress, 3 pair of shoes, flip flops, sneakers and sandals. Throw in some underwear, sox and a couple pair of pajamas and your all set!

PACK HOTEL CLOTHES SEPARATELY Find a fairly inexpensive roadside hotel/motel, much easier to make reservation and pay ahead, preferably one with a pool. Pack only what you need for the one night in a separate Ziploc Bag, the new 'super jumbo' size works great. The 4 of us use 2 bags, one with bathing suits, tooth brushes & pajamas. The other has our toiletries and travel/arrival clothes for day two of our trip. We place our bags on the vanity while we inspect the room and make any necessary changes.

PICK AND CHOOSE WISELY What teenager thinks she should be seen in the same clothes 2 times in a week? Mine does, when given a choice of 'electronics or extra clothes'? Even in todays age of fashion, my teen chooses her electronics over the extra clothing. Same goes for the tween, when given a choice they are really very wise. The 4 year old has to choose which movies she will bring....OMG!! decisions, decisions... What a great job she does at picking her 6 dvd's to bring. A far cry from the whole case we were hauling around a few years ago.

Express yourself at a rest stop
Express yourself at a rest stop

Road side entertainment

  • PLANNING is the key to a successful road trip, whether your traveling for 2 days or 2 weeks. Are you traveling to sight see? or to get from one place to another? Reserve all hotel stays ahead of time. I check my mileage on a trip tic and plan my driving days, on 1000 mile trip, I will travel about 600 to 700 miles the first day, then take it easy the second day. Making it a point to leave very early, makes for a peaceful start.
  • Packing the car with overnight bags and backpacks in the trunk (1 medium back pack per person), a small cooler in the back on the floor in front of the car seat, and each child has a small back pack for their in car entertainment sources. As the driver, I am not responsible for your chargers.
  • STOPPING stopping for a few pit stops along with a couple of longer 'get it out of our system' breaks will get us up to the planned 600-700 miles for the day.
  • REST AREAS are a great place to stretch, run and play for a bit. Keeping sidewalk chalk in the car along with some bubbles keeps the pre-schooler busy, having a picnic and feeding the ducks or fish at a rest area are fun and does wonders at breaking the monotony of sitting in a cramped area. We stop at welcome centers for a couple of the states we are traveling through, the teen find learning 'facts' about the state we are in very interesting. Then we also have something to talk about in the car.
  • HOTEL STOPS hitting a drive through on our way to our hotel choice is a great way to get the kids inside so we can discuss what our plans for the evening are. While eating, we plan a trip to the pool to burn off that pent up energy. Play hard, that's the plan. Showers and a movie and to bed. Wake up early and prepare to leave then hit the free continental breakfast at serving time and we're off. Full bellies and all.

Individual entertainment
Individual entertainment

In Car Entertainment

  • In car games you know them, The Alphabet Game, where you find the alphabet in chronological order on billboards, road signs and license tags, I think the first one all the way through wins, we all work together and go through the alphabet a few times, each claiming victory! The Cheese-It game, when you see a yellow car, you say "cheese it", similar to the "punch buggy" game, with out the 'punch'. And then there's the ole favorite, Singing those old time favorites, ahh, does 100 bottles of beer bring back memories? Or Row Row Row your Boat 'in rotation'? These are the times that build character in children and teach comradarie in siblings.
  • Electronics Most compact cars do not come equipped with a 'drop down' screen for dvds and games. I invested in a portable 7" dvd player, with a storage bag that holds it in place between the front seats, can provide the back seat passengers with hours of entertainment. I pads, cell phones with music, nintendo ds, and a mobigo for the little one make for a fun ride too. A couple of word books and that handy dandy new fangled 'etch a sketch' in travel size is great. Keep crayons out of the car, it's summer time and crayons melt in the sun. Most essential Ear phones for the little one and buds for the older kids, keeps down the arguments.
  • In car snacks are essential, if the right snacks are brought along, Pack a ziploc bag for each person with their favorite snack, a granola bar each, bottled water and individual packets of flavor for the water works well. Snacks in our car consist of Chex mix, Trail mix and an assortment of mini cookies, I also throw some apple chunks, bananas and fruit cups, these hold down the beasts until we stop for a real meal. While at a rest area we try to have a picnic, even if it only consist of some fruit, or some watermelon wedges. I learned years ago, that too much watermelon, grape and cantaloupe can cause an ugly case of diarrhea in younger children. Not a good idea.

Save on gas in a compact car
Save on gas in a compact car

Arriving well rested

  • Breaking up your trip so that your travel time is mostly the first day leaves for a casual arrival into your destination city. We stop at the last rest area prior to arrival. Brush our teeth, hair and wash our faces to freshen up. A little spritz of body spray and we feel much better, giving our hosts the misguided idea that we are ready for a hot time! And a casual walk to the local ice cream store.

Plan and prepare

When planning a road trip with children of any age or all ages, making it fun, and breaking up the monotony of the long ride will start your vacation on the right track. Snacks, games, songs and a variety of electronic entertainment will make the time pass. A small pillow for each passenger always comes in handy and enjoy your time away from the car while resting and playing. Keeping the item you need for the trip in the cab of the car and what you don't need in the trunk, out of everyone's way. Many cell phones have cameras, encourage passengers to take pictures so that the driver can see what he/she may have missed. Talk about what the plan is once you arrive at your destination and for the coming week or weeks. Enjoy your trip.

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