Road trip tips!! You guys! We spent SEVEN weeks on the road this summer. I started planning this trip last spring/winter and built an itinerary from San Diego, up the coast with stops in Big Sur, Santa Cruz and Petaluma in California. Then up the Oregon coast to Brookings, and Yachats and then on to Portland (the furthest North we got). After Portland we went to Bend, Oregon and then finally Lake Tahoe, California – and HOME! Overall it was such a fun and amazing summer. We had so much fun family time and saw so much beauty.
As with every adventure there were a few things that went amazingly and of course some things I would do differently. Before you head out on your family road trip — read these tips!
1- Avoid the temptation to bring too much stuff!
STEP AWAY FROM THE CLOSET!!! If I could go back and do anything differently it would to bring less! Knowing we were going to be gone for almost two months led me to have anxiety about forgetting something. If I could go back I would ditch the kids scooters (used like twice because we mostly biked). I packed way too many clothes, too many towels, and I packed a kettlebell and yoga mat. (Every time my husband repacked the car he would glare at me as he found space for them) I would ditch those – fitness is important to me, but we more than filled our time hikes, bike rides and other outdoor activities. Also, limit kids toys — they don’t need as much as you think!
Even on a long road trip – I suggest that you pack like its a week long trip. You will do laundry on the way.
Also, you might want to invest in car storage — Like a Yakima or Thule. See my review post on our Yakima Sky Box for more details.
2- Get Friends to Meet up With You
As an introvert, too much time with people outside of my little family unit can leave me feeling really depleted. That said, being with good friends makes everything more fun. Our favorite parts of our trip were when we met up with friends and family. We had SO MUCH FUN. If we do this again, we’ll try and get friends to join us on more stops of the trip.
3- Download Apps – Specifically All Trails, and the Free Library App (We use Libby) to Download Audiobooks
I used the All Trails app everywhere we went. I paid for the yearly subscription and I feel like it was worth it because you can download maps for offline use. There were so places without any cellular service so it came in really handy.
Audiobooks seriously save the day on long roadtrips (once kids can listen, and are a little older). My 8 and 6 year old kids were totally engrossed by the books we listened to (The Lightening Thief, and Hunger Games). They were fun for us adults too. To use the Libby App, just entered your library card number and download and reserve books. Tip: Popular books have a long waitlist — so make sure you reserve in advance to get books like those from the Harry Potter series.
4- Get Your Pin On
I got a lot of great ideas for places to visit, hikes, restaurants and more from Pinterest. I created travel boards for our trip and referred back when we got to different cities. Visit my Pinterest Page to see some of the things I pinned and the boards I created.
5- Try Out Home-Exchanging
If you missed my post on Home Exchanging — go here. I did and extensive post on it. I get so many people asking me about Home Exchanging and how it works. On this trip we did THREE home exchanges. Eight days in Portland, Oregon, Four days in Bend, Oregon and Six days in Petaluma, California (in Sonoma, Wine Country). I figure that if we paid the conservative $250 a night in AirBnB expenses (most of the homes were 3-4 bedrooms plus) — we saved $4,500 dollars!!
6- Let Go of Expectations
There is no way to do everything on your dream list. There are also factors like weather to consider. When camping on the coast in Oregon, it was so wet with fog that the water dripped through our tent onto my face all night. Also, the campsite I booked didn’t have any showers. When we went to Bend it was during a very unusual heat wave that saw temps skyrocket above 100 degrees. The hikes and bike rides I planned went out the window.
Additionally, (at least for us) when you travel with kids, hitting five-star restaurants and fancy cocktail bars are not in the equation. So, its important to let go of expectations, enjoy the ride and soak up the quality time with family. Oh, and eat ice cream — lots and lots of ice cream :).
7- Ask the Locals
Whenever we travel we like to ask our Home Exchange hosts and other locals where they like to go. We have had some amazing tips on hikes, restaurants and breweries, and more. If you want the inside scoop its important to ask around and try out the spots that the locals frequent.
8- Prep Recipes for Easy, Healthy Meals
If you are going on a road trip, eating out every meal will make costs soar – and let’s be real, eating out all the time gets kind of old. We cooked and made our own meals at least 90% of our trip and enjoyed the meals we made sitting outside in the summer evening heat. I went on Pinterest for inspiration and made a board with easy, healthy recipes and we made some incredible meals. Eating as a family at “home” (wherever that was) – made it feel like we were living more normally. Also, kids meals at restaurants are just the WORST when it comes to healthy options.
9- Bring Baby Wipes and Small Trash bags
Baby wipes are such a road trip lifesaver. They get the sticky off fingers, and I also keep them outside the tend door when we are camping and everyone wipes their feet down before getting in to minimize the dirt. Its also great to have trash bags handy in the car. KIDS ARE FILTHY CREATURES (lol) – if you don’t stay on top of the trash, pretty soon your car is going to be filled with empty juice boxes, granola bar wrappers, loose french fries and tiny bits of chips crushed under the booster seat.
10 – Get Out of Town
With this length of a trip we really needed to keep costs down. Though my husband and I both work from home there was no way for us to keep up the amount of hours we normally work. For us picking a few big things to splurge on (canoe trip down the Russian River, a few fancy meals and wineries) was how we could make it work — budget wise. Urban life tends to cost more (museum tickets, movies, restaurants, etc) so we planned a lot of outdoor activities outside the city center. When we were in Portland we did day trips to do long bike rides, we visited the Gorge and Hood River, and we went to Silver Falls State Park to hike. When we were in Petaluma we went to Point Reyes to hike, and Bolinas for a beach day.
11 – Rewards & Snacks
Keep your car, backpack etc. stocked with stuff to keep your CONSTANTLY HUNGRY family going. When we hike I use “power pellets” AKA Trader Joe’s jelly Beans to fuel little legs to move forward. When we are in the car I make sure we have lots of fruit, crackers, water etc. to keep belly’s full.
12 – Don’t Bring Out Electronics Unless ABSOLUTELY Necessary
Like every modern child, my kids would like to be glued to an iPad anytime they are in the car. BUT what we have found is that when you let them watch a movie — after the movie is over — NOTHING else is as interesting. Books lose their interest, drawing seems tedious, and pretty soon the whining that they are “BORED” begins. For long road trips our strategy is to stretch out time without the iPad. We listen to audiobooks, we play iSpy – I always have puzzle books and coloring books for the kids. We have stories and other activities. When there is about two hours left of a drive — ONLY THEN does the iPad come out for a movie. Hold out parents! Its worth it. We drove nearly 4,000 miles on our road trip and our kids probably only spent about 6 hours of that watching downloaded shows/ movies.
13 – Make Sure you Have a Well Stocked First Aid Kit Handy
This was not something I thought about — but between bike and scooter falls, trips, insect bites, poison oak, and an unfortunate surfing accident, we LITERALLY spent 70$ on first aid stuff. It would have been so much nicer to have an organized little kit with the essentials instead of always searching for pharmacies.
OK! Those are my tips – I hope you get out there on the road. Send me your favorite road trip tips!!