q Family Road Trip! How to organize and prepare - Livable Solutions

Family Road Trip! How to organize and prepare

Memorial Day is upon us and the world is opening up.  More and more families are traveling again.  This means family ROAD TRIPS! 

We spend a lot of time in the car traveling to see family and taking short weekend trips to our vacation home three hours away.  As a mom of two young kids I have learned a lot of tricks to keep the car organized and roomy with important items, such as snacks, a short grab away. 

Here are some organizing tips as you begin planning your summer road trips.

Clean out the car before you go

  1. Pull out Everything!

It might seem ridiculous to some to clean the car before your family gets in it and trashes it for a road trip.  However, starting clean helps everything stay cleaner.  Pull out everything in the car, check under the seats and look in every storage area.  You will be shocked at the pile that accumulates.  I am pretty on top of my car and I still fill a small trash bag every time I clean it out.   My kids are great at hiding wrappers and other surprises in hidden places.

2. Vacuum

Give the car a good vacuum.  Pull out your mats, shake them out and wash them if they are rubber.  A long winter in New England causes tons of sand to accumulate in our cars.  Be sure to take part car seats and vacuum and wash them as well.  They are incredible food collectors!

3. Sanitize Services

While the car is empty give all the surfaces a good wipe down.

4. Organize in your console

If you are like me, I throw random items in cup holders, trays and my compartments in the console when I running a fast schedule.  Most items don’t belong in my car, but they pile up fast.  Here is a list of my essentials to get through my work stops and kid chauffer tasks.  When deciding what you keep, think small things you need to grab frequently. 

  • Tissues
  • Charging Cords
  • Chapstick/Lipstick
  • Masks
  • Small amount of coins
  • Pen/Pencil
  • Keys for my office/PO box

4. Organize the Glove Compartment

This can also be a huge dumping ground.  I like to keep minimum items in there.  It is filled with the following:

  • Registration Paperwork
  • Extra napkins (because the kids always need them!)

The goal is to have what you need, but also to feel relaxed when you get in the car.  The less you see, the more balanced you will feel  for work and fun.

Create a Summer on the Go Kit in Your Trunk

I keep one small tote in my trunk with the essential items we need on the run.  It helps me worry less about packing a million little items every time I leave the house.  Plus, I find most of these items come in handy at events, kids games, and on the road.

  • First Aid Kit
  • Paper Towels
  • Wet Wipes
  • Extra Water Bottle
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Folding Chairs
  • Folding Blanket
  • Umbrella
  • Sunscreen
  • Baby Powder (we love this for getting sand off of feet after the beach)
  • Portable Shopping Bags (link to Portable Bags I love)
  • Small garbage bag roll

Think about the items you use as a family most frequently on the go.  What would you not want to forget if you were running off for a hike, a trip to the beach or stuck in an isolated section of a road trip.

Entertainment for the Kids

Life’s Lists Road Trip Printable Activity Pack – https://www.etsy.com/listing/830666641/road-trip-activity-pack-printable-kids

As a parent, keeping the kids occupied is probably the most essential component for all members of the family to be happy on a road trip.  Here is a list of what I pack in a small bag that goes in between the seats or on the floor for the kids.

  • iPad (we download content to be used without the internet on the road for a special treat)
  • DVDs in compact holder (We still use DVDs with our car’s entertainment system.  Store them in a CD book to have a lot of choices, with minimal storage space used)
  • Ear Phones (Essential so parents can enjoy their own music or conversation time)
  • Ear Phone Extension Cords (We keep these on hand in case we have to use the third row seating and reach headphones in the  way back)
  • Paper, Markers & Clipboard
  • Books
  • Road Trip Activity Pack
  • Quick Snacks 
    • I like to have a pouch with non-meltable healthy snacks like trail mix pouches, granola bars, peanut butter crackers, etc. to fend off whining about being hungry.

Invest in Roof Top Box

If you are like us and do a lot of family  travel by car, investing in a roof top box can be a game changer.  It allows you to put a trunk’s worth of items over head to not feel so jam packed in the car that you can’t even see out the back window.

Minimal Packing

There is always a temptation to pack a lot on road trips.  Try to minimize what you bring for each family member and remember that most of what you forget can be bought along the way. 

If laundry is going to be an option, pack less clothes. Try to pull together basic items that can be used in multiple outfits along the way.

Document your destinations for easy navigation

Finally, make sure that you have all of the information about your destination.  There is a long running joke on my husband’s side of the family that we will hit the road and then be calling another family member to find out what address we are going to for the wedding or vacation home.  As a professional organizer this drives me nuts!  But the lesson is remember to check that you have the hotel name, address, phone number, any tickets, passports, VRBO confirmations etc.  Don’t be stuck on the road searching for an email trying to figure out where you are supposed to be.

Have a safe and happy Memorial Day weekend.  Happy organizing!


Kristin Vander Wiede is a Professional Organizer and owner of Livable Solutions Professional Organizing and Life’s Lists printable organizing labels, systems and activities.

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