large family road trip with small kids: master packing list and favorite first aid items.

After the first or second time we took Atticus anywhere - anywhere - I realized that this whole "being a prepared mom" game was no joke.  You can't just take the baby.  You have to have the car seat, and the diapers, and the wipes, and the changing pad, and an extra change of clothes for both you and the baby, and a pack and play, and a breast pump, and bottles and bottle liners and extra pacifiers and OHMYWORDMAKEITSTOP.  Pretty soon, you learn to just ball up in the fetal position out of pure animalian fear any time you have to go to Walmart.

And then comes The Weekend Away To Grandma's.  The Family Vacation.  The Road Trip.  And you're basically paralyzed from the heavy responsibility of it all and you turn in your mom badge and check into the insane asylum for the rest of your livelong days just to avoid having to pack.


I'm here for you.  Together, we can save your family a lot of grief and a lot of sad frozen dinners while you're away at the looney bin.  I promise you can do this.  Because... it's really, really simple.  Check it out.

Click to enlarge.  If you would like a full-size PDF or Google Doc of this, just shoot me an email at paigejvanvoorst AT gmail DOT com.  Maybe put something like "packing list pdf" in the subject line so I don't think you're spamming me, because I can sometimes be an inadvertent email jerk.

Let me give you a rundown of what you're looking at.

First, this is a list based on a summer trip, so you'd need to adapt it if you need to pack all-weather attire.  Second, this list calls for packing half the clothes you will need, assuming you will have access to laundry services at least once on your week-long trip. This is especially easy if you're going to visit family or something, but even if you're not, I strongly suggest even hunting down a laundromat if you need to while you're gone.  It cuts your packing in half, and it saves you a ton of headache once you get home and are slapped in the face with the reality of being back to normal life - less to pack, less to wash, less to put away.  Win-win-win.

Okay, with that being said, the above list is for a week(ish)-long trip.  I can get all my stuff AND all the kids' stuff AND the diapers for the trip into one normal-sized suitcase.  Todd packs his stuff in a separate, smaller suitcase, and then we have a small toiletries bag/backpack.  We like to pack light because it makes it easy to get to the cooler on the road since it's not covered in stuff.  Plus, we usually buy something to commemorate our trip, and we like to make sure we'll have room for it on the way home.  (Last year it was a buffalo skull, so we're not messing around when we say 'leave room for new stuff.')

Make sure you print off an age-appropriate list for each child, so you can just check things off as you go.

Each year there are one or two things that get crossed off or added - like this year, I crossed "bottles and feeding accessories" off the list, since Rocco is still breastfeeding, and I added "box fan," since he sleeps SO much better when the din of the other kids is well-muffled.  All that to say, this list is meant to be tweaked and modified however it needs to be, depending on the specific trip and the specific kids and the specific year.  But it's a great jumping-off point.  The heavy lifting has been done.

And here's how we organize some of the smaller, first aid-type items that are handy to have in my purse or right up front in the van with me:

changing pad | kleenex | toilet paper | diapers | wipes | glasses cleaner | sunscreen
(this is last year's photo - we have since switched to this sunscreen and won't be going back!)

Here are my Purse Packs:

yeah, yeah, yeah, I've already showed you the Dramamine, but that was in the console.  This is in my purse.  Because carsickness is Persona Non Grata in these parts.  And TYLENOL?!?! Billy, don't be a hero.  After paying a million bucks for a bottle at Wall Drug that first year we made the trip because Penelope was screaming her head off and I had a migraine, I got less idealistic.  Pack the Tylenol.

arnica gel | motion eaze oil blend | melagel | Tide pen | more bandaids because: Kids.

Not all of these are 'essential' oils (harhar).  If you're just going for the essentials, pack peppermint (for headaches and nausea), lavender (for skin issues and sunburn), and tea tree (for open owies) - and I have a dropper bottle of carrier oil in there, too - don't forget to dilute oils used on kids!  As for the brand, we use and love Edens Garden.

(As an only-slightly-related sidenote, we all know the wonderful MLM companies that sell oils, and the quality of those is outstanding.  But there are a couple really high quality brands out there if MLMs aren't your thing - Edens Garden, Plant Therapy, Veriditas, Native American Nutritionals, and Mountain Rose Herbs all make very, very high quality oils as well.  Just my two cents.  Not looking to pick a fight, though, so use whatever oils you're most comfortable with, if any.)

And there you have it!  My master packing list for large-family trips, and some of my favorite first aid/health products.  Anyone have any products they love taking on trips that I didn't mention?

Next week, I'll wrap up the Road Trip series with some tips on how to plan a fun itinerary to keep the day interesting.  In the meantime, check out any of the other posts in this series you may have missed:

how to take a large family road trip with small children.
ideas for food and snacks. (gluten- and grain-free!)
master packing list and favorite first aid items.
planning the itinerary.


the jersk. said...

YES THANK YOU. were flying to my parents next sat for a week so I'm dreading packing. it's so daunting. this is perf.

Heather said...

I geek out over road trip planning and smiled my whole way through these posts. As your kids grow and change, packing and prep morphs as well... but I still pack "the pink tote" (once Isabelle's diaper bag) with surprises to bust out along the way. FUN STUFF. #havekidsstilltravel

todd said...

have kids still travel is perfect. Dutch people are the best! And I should know, I am one!!!

Reese n Livs mom said...

I like to bring along a fold-up kid cot as well. This has saved us when staying with family or friends w/limited space or when a kid gets sick & you don't want them in the shared bed. If you already own one, they don't take up any more space than a folding chair.

Reese n Livs mom said...

I like to bring along a fold-up kid cot as well. This has saved us when staying with family or friends w/limited space or when a kid gets sick & you don't want them in the shared bed. If you already own one, they don't take up any more space than a folding chair.

Unknown said...

Much better info than my bag of powdered donuts and a 12 pack of Dewage!!! M...Kay

Mikos said...

Oh...I forgot the Juicy Fruit for the altitude changes!

paige said...

SUCH a good idea! We had this happen once on a trip to my grandma's - my oldest got the flu and it would have been so nice for him to have his own sleeping space!

paige said...

Good idea! I'll be packing that next time. It hadn't even occurred to me!

paige said...

As I was writing this, I was thinking of you! I was like, I wonder how this will change as the kids grow? Heather could tell me. :)

Danielle Tiarks said...

Okay, where on earth did you get those fabulous clear zip bags for the otc drugs? I'd love a few for organization sake!

Leigh Mott said...

Thanks for the tips. We are planning our first-ever family vacation to the beach with our almost-two-year-old quads. I'm searching blogs like a maniac trying to figure out how to make all this stuff fit in our minivan along with four toddlers, two dogs, and to adults!