From the last week of June through mid-July, my husband, my 2-year old daughter and I took a road trip from McAllen, TX, to St. Louis, MO to Milwaukee, WI. That, my friends, involved some packing.
The trip was over 3,000 miles. My husband had to fly to New Orleans from Milwaukee for work, so I caravanned back to McAllen with some friends. They stopped in San Antonio and I continued to the valley on my own. Now, you may be thinking, “You drove all that way? Why didn’t you just fly?” Well, flying anywhere from the RGV is way too expensive now that I have to pay for my toddler to have her own seat. Also, I get to pack as much as I want, and it gives us a lot of flexibility in travel. It may take longer, but it was worth it.
Unlike some of our other long trips with our young daughter, I was far more prepared for this one. My husband was with me the entire time for those other trips, so I didn’t really have to be as organized. I knew that I wouldn’t be completely alone on the way back, but I knew I would be alone in the car with Zoe for a good chunk of time. So, I am going to share with you how I packed as to make my life easier on this very long road trip.
This was the mountain of stuff we put in the car. There are two bags missing from this picture. The stroller and booster seat really require no explanation.
Bags 1 & 2:
Type of Bag: Reusable Shopping Bags
Contents: Chex Mix, pretzels, raisins, applesauce pouches, toddler cutlery, toddler plates, Take N Toss bowls, t-shirt (used as a bib), medicine, thermometer, and first aid kit.
Explanation: Snacks needed to be easy and fast. I didn’t want to be handing Zoe one Cheez-It at a time. The Take N Toss bowls are perfect because they are deep, making them harder to spill. We used these for all eating in the car. They were used for anything from torn up grilled cheese to raisins. I brought her own cutlery and plates because you never know when your child is going to be picky about something when it comes to eating— and I wasn’t going to take any chances. I put the snacks packed for my husband and me in sandwich-sized bags because I didn’t want to drop the box or large bag of Chex Mix and then be out of snacks. We also had a cooler bag with bottled water so we wouldn’t have to sell a kidney to buy bottles at gas stations.
Type of Bag: Backpack (Vera Bradley)
Contents: Car toys: Magna Doodle, coloring books, the twist-style crayons (which are awesome), a dvd player, movies, and some other random toys
Explanation: Technology was so helpful when we were on our own in the car. My daughter watched DVDs and played on the iPad for a long time. Whenever she got stuck on an app, I would simply tell her to pick a different app. It worked 80% of the time. Seriously, though, the technology helped to keep her happy and my eyes on the road. The backpack is also really helpful for just having along on vacation. Backpacks were made for moms with toddlers— forget school books. They keep your arms open for you to grab your child before they run down the stairs at the children’s museum.
Bags 4 – 7:
Type of Bag: Duffel, Soft Sided Bags (Nike, Vera Bradley, Mixed Bags)
Contents: Clothes, swimwear, shoes, toddler life jacket, laundry detergent and sweatshirts
Explanation: I rolled my clothes to optimize space. This included clothes for myself, as well as my husband’s clothes.
Type of Bag: Open Top Utility Bag (Thirty-One)
Contents: Little People Toys, Bag of blocks, cars, diapers and wipes
Explanation: Zoe is really into Little People right now, so I brought Mickey’s Clubhouse and the Disney characters. It wasn’t too much, but enough to keep her occupied. This bag also held the diapers and wipes for two reasons. First, it was an open-top bag so I wouldn’t have to dig for the diapers. Second, it was loaded into the trunk last and had easy access for stops on the road.
Type of Bag: Open Top Tote Bag (Vera Bradley)
Contents: My books, magazines, chargers, the iPad, and surprise toys
Explanation: This bag was my entertainment bag. It had the iPad because it was big enough to hold it, but small enough to take into a restaurant or gas station when we stopped. I don’t like to keep really expensive items in the car. There was also a bag of new surprise toys for when Zoe got restless.
Type of Bag: Duffel (Vera Bradley)
Contents: Air Mattress, blanket, stuffed animals and pillow
Bag 11 (not pictured):
Type of Bag: Small Structured Duffel (Vera Bradley Weekender)
Contents: Zoe’s clothes and shoes
Explanation: Zoe’s outfits for each day were in a gallon-size Ziplock bag with a diaper included. This made getting her dressed in the morning astronomically easier. There was no searching for a matching top and bottom or a clean diaper.
Bag 12 (not pictured):
Type of Bag: Duffel (L.L. Bean Medium Duffel)
Contents: One or two pairs of clothes for each member of the family, plus everyone’s toiletries
Explanation: This was the overnight bag. There were several nights when we stopped for just the night on our way to a destination. We used this bag so that we didn’t have to unpack the whole car. It also freed up space in our main bags by holding the toiletries.
I understand that this is a crazy amount of stuff. However, I was really happy with how easy it was to find everything on this trip and how little extra stuff I had to go out and buy. I hope this helps you, too! Happy Travels!
What are your “packing hacks“? Share them in the comments!