Travel advice from a Mommy Road Warrior

Sunday, May 17, 2009
My godsister, Amanda, came to see me a few weeks ago. We were talking about traveling with our children, and she said, "Girl, you need to write all of this stuff down so that people like me can remember all of your good ideas!". Well, Amanda, this travel blog's for you!

Five things that always travel with my family:

Overnight Bag
Anyone who knows my family knows that we like to travel BIG! We like road trips that take weeks, not days, and we usually carry enough luggage to clothe a family twice as big as ours. If we're stopping for one night enroute to our final destination, I see no reason to lug in the huge suitcases. To keep from breaking my back at every stop along the way, I always pack a small overnight bag. I include the following items in my small bag:

Daily Medications
Pajamas for each family member
One change of clothing for each family member
At least one paperback book or magazine
A few diapers and baby wipes
Cell phone charger

It is so much easier to haul in my small bag, especially if we're planning to hit the road again the next day. If more than one stop is planned I take two small bags. I don't want to have to repack the first one after just one night... I'm lazy that way!

Trips with my children are always easier if I take a small night light for the hotel room. I like to sleep in complete darkness, so leaving the bathroom light turned on is not a comfortable option for me. I pack a very dim night light and put it in the hotel room so that Katie can see how to get to the bathroom, but I don't have to sleep in a lighted room. I also give each of my children a small flashlight. They like to play with them right after lights out, and the amusement keeps Reese in the bed with Katie and NOT in the bed with ME!

Laundry Bag
A mesh bag to put dirty laundry in for storage and to take to the laundry room is one of my top "MUST-HAVES". It keeps the dirty clothing from making its way back to the suitcase full of clean clothing, and it's a lot easier to haul your laundry to the hotel laundromat in a big mesh bag than in seventeen Wal-Mart sacks with broken handles! This year I plan to take a white laundry bag and a black laundry bag with me to separate the lights and darks. Separating clothing on the floor of the hotel laundry room is a pain, and since I got a black bag in my Christmas stocking, why not?

Laundry Detergent
Speaking of laundry, I have found over years of travel that lugging around huge boxes of powdered detergent or spill prone bottles of liquid detergent really stinks! This year I plan to try the Purex Complete 3-in-1 sheets. I have used the Wisk laundry detergent tablets in the past, but apparently those are no longer in production, but I think these Purex sheets will be even better! They have the dryer sheet built right in, too, so that's one less box to carry!

Over-the-door Shoe Holder/Hanging Toiletry Bag
Hotel bathrooms are notoriously small and become cluttered very quickly. There is not much room for anything on the countertops, and even if the countertop is large my kids will inevitably get water all over the place, soaking everything on the counter. A small over the door shoe holder gives much needed space! I have a cosmetic case with a hook that my toiletries and jewelry fits in and I can hang it anywhere. I use a shoe holder to provide a convenient place for sunscreen, flip flops, razors (to keep them out of Reese's hands), tampons, you name it! Hanging your organizer over the bathroom or closet door will give you tons of storage space without taking up any extra room!

Safety Measures:

Safety Tats
To make me feel more secure when I go to a crowded area with my kids I write my cell phone number on each of their arms with a ballpoint pen. I always explain to them the importance of staying close to Mommy and Daddy, but I'm not always sure it sinks in. I usually have rewrite the number several times since it smears off with repeated hand washings (that usually extend to their shoulders if I let them play in the sinks by themselves) and sunscreen applications. I think this year I will try Safety Tats. They look really cool and are a lot less messy than ink pens! I found a discount at this blog that is good until May 20, 2009. Check it out!

Cell Phone Photos
Another safety thing I plan to do is take a picture of what the girls are wearing each day with my cell phone. If we get separated I can text the photo and instantly it spreads faster. Plus, I've got a picture to show anyone I stop to ask for help without having to try to remember how I dressed them early that morning.

Find a mommy, any mommy with kids...
This is what I tell Katie to do if they get separated from me in a mall, supermarket or any other public place. I usually tell her to first find a mother with children and let them know she is lost. I also tell her that she can go to a check-out counter, information desk, or approach a police officer.

Fun things to do in the car:

Prior to your trip, prepare a homemade "book" with a page for each day you will be gone. Write the day/date at the top of each page. As you travel, your child can use any sit-down time to fill in what you are doing that day, draw pictures of interesting things you saw, paste brochures, or get the autographs of anyone - from your waiter to the occasional celebrity! Katie loves keeping a journal, and while Reese isn't old enough for that yet, I hope she'll enjoy it someday, too!

Katie also loves to play travel bingo. This only works if you have another adult in the car. It's kind of hard to cover your boxes and drive at the same time. We bought our cards at Cracker Barrel and loved them. No pieces to lose, nothing to keep up with except the card.

Wrap a few small gifts to be distributed throughout the day. It gives them something to look forward to when the boredom sets in. Reward them for small things, like helping a younger sibling, not rubbing their boogers on the car seats or for riding a solid hour without whining.

For older kids: Give each of the kids a roll of quarters. Every time they misbehave, take 1 quarter from the person(s) responsible. Once you reach your destination, the child can spend the money they have left on whatever they choose.

DVD players and Gameboy/Nintendo DS consoles are a lifesaver in the car. Enough said...

Something else that I think really helps on our long road trips is that we finally broke down and bought more expensive car seats. Reese rides in a Britax Marathon and Katie rides in a Britax Frontier in booster mode. These seats are a lot more padded and comfortable than the seats we had before. Katie likes the Frontier because she has a place to rest her head when she gets sleepy. Reese is just happy to be in the car...

I hope some of my advice is helpful to those of you who travel! Please leave comments with YOUR best travel advice! I'd love to hear from you!


  1. Amy said...:

    you have the best advice! i love the tats! i usually just use a sharpee before sunscreening the kids to write my number on their arms or back... i think the tats are awesome!