I have really fond memories of traveling as a child. So much so that I knew that I wanted to carry that tradition on with my kids. Most of the time, we fly but we recently road tripped to New Orleans and (shocker) packing looked a little different this time around.

Parents, this one is for you– especially if you have never road tripped with your toddler before. Travel is less fun if you aren’t prepared and we don’t want that.

1.Create Multiple Music Playlists in Advance 

One playlist is great if you are flying and your child can put on some head phones and is happy listening to the same 10 Disney songs over and over and over and …you get the idea. Let’s be real, they will probably be happy to listen to their ONE favorite Moana or Frozen song on repeat for the entire trip. On a road trip, it’s a little different. I think that everyone being involved in the trip is important in making great travel memories; that means, no headphones…no isolating yourself during the ride.

Making more than one playlist will keep everyone satisfied–no one will get worn out by ‘Let it Go’ playing on repeat and you can even squeeze in the edited versions of your favorite “adult” songs. Me and my kids listen to the edited version of Beyonce or Chance the Rapper albums–win, win.

2. Dry Snacks ONLY

Please do not make the mistake of packing things like yogurt cups or pizza lunchables. Think of the long term goal of not having to stop to change clothes after a spill or having to seriously clean your car once you arrive. Pretzels, apple slices, grapes…..those are the kinds of snacks that have minimal clean up repercussions.

3. Quiet Games

Both of my kids have ipads; I promised myself that I wouldn’t be that parent but that was before I actually was a parent and….screw that. I don’t know what I was thinking. But that’s besides the point. On road trips, it’s nice to avoid them. No one wants to listen to bouncy noices or magic wand sound effects or train horns all day while your kid taps away at their screen.

Instead, I pack no-mess markers and mini-coloring pads…the kinds made especially for travel or restaurant dining. They work wonders. Your kid’s favorite teddy or doll is also a plus. It can even be really entertaining to hear your kids have full conversations with their toys. Makenzie basically chastises her kids , threatens them with time outs and then reminds them that she loves them…she is basically me. LOL

4. Avoid Drinks When Possible

Yes, it is important to stay hydrated but let’s be honest: no one wants to deal with a toddler-sized bladder on 12 oz of water. GEEZ-US. It is the worst and completely kills your travel timeline, having to stop every hour for a potty break. I stop the drinks an hour before we take off on the road, make everyone use the bathroom before we leave the house/hotel and then avoid anything more than a sip of water after food while on the road.

5. Enjoy the Unexpected.

Give yourself a break. Remember that you’re on vacation. This is hard for me at times because I am a Type-A personality. I like structure and timelines and goals and ultra-planning. I have to remind myself to relax.¬†Allow yourself to check out the cool hipster shop that you see when you pull over for food or to stretch. Take the time to set up your tripod and take a full family photo in front of the colorfully painted house or the random, life-size statue of a bronze chicken (I’ve never seen one but a girl can dream). The point is, on road trips, you will find things that you weren’t expecting. Enjoy them. Make the memories. Take the picture. Embrace it. Your kids will love you for it and you will appreciate it, too. I promise.

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