Right now I am preparing for a 9-day road trip with my family. We did our first cross-country road trip as a spur of the moment trip, back in March, from Florida to Disneyland in California and back. While there are things we would definitely do differently, I have to think that we did a lot of things right, because it was an unforgettable trip and we couldn’t wait to plan our next road trip. I know a lot of families travel to Disneyland or Walt Disney World from all over the country, and I thought I might be able to pass on some tips for families making long road trips for their Disney family vacation.
Make Cleaning Part of Your Prep
One of the things that takes an immense load of pressure off of me is getting the house clean before our vacation. No one likes to come back home from vacation to a messy house. I HATE coming back home from vacation and looking at all of the bags that are left to unpack, while also looking at the full load of dirty laundry from before we left or a clutter of toys all over the living room floor. It just adds to the overwhelming sense of tension from having too much to accomplish all before going back to work and jumping back into reality the next day.
This also goes for the car. Your car will most certainly be a mess when you get home. At least start your journey out with a clean car. It’s easier to start your journey off with a little bit of organization. Also, if you take a little bit of time to do a quick clean-up of the inside of the car once you get to Disney, you’ll start your trip back home a little less stressed as well.
One of the things we didn’t do on our first trip, that we will definitely do on this trip, is pack smaller bags along with the main luggage bags. I got tired of unloading everything from the car every time we stopped at a hotel for the night. If you know how many stops you will be making before you get to your main destination, you can pack smaller bags (maybe a duffel bag, backpack, or even just a plastic bag) with necessities to get you through the night and to get your started on the next day before you hit the road again. Everyone has different “needs”, but some items you might want to make sure you pack in your smaller bags are toothpaste and toiletries (a small toiletries bag that you can just carry in with you each night will work great), some nightclothes or pajamas, and a change of clothes for the next day. Those of you with little ones, don’t forget to pack a couple of small toys or bedtime items that they may be used to sleeping with.
Don’t Forget the Food
If you make a grocery store run ahead of time and pack plenty of snacks for your road trip, you’ll reduce the amount of time you might otherwise spend stopping for something to eat along the way. My wife excels in this area and makes sure to pack a variety of things that everyone will enjoy, including one of each person’s favorite snack. In addition to snacks, we also pack items for breakfast that we can quickly eat while getting ready or maybe even eat in the car as we get back on the road. A few of the items we pack are sodas (you can grab a couple of ice blocks and load them up in an insulated lunch tote), chips, granola bars, mini-muffins, Pop Tarts, Dum Dums for the kids, etc. If you’re traveling with an infant, shelf-stable milk is a must! This will allow you to fix a bottle on the go without having to worry about refrigerating milk on your road trip.
Keep the Kids Occupied
Everyone told me I was crazy for doing a cross-country road trip with a 1-year-old and a 4-year-old. Surprisingly, they did OK, and I owe most of that to my wife. She understood that kids are impatient and their attention can only be held on one thing for so long. So, she made sure to load up the iPad with some movies and games that my 4-year-old likes. We also remembered to pack headphones for him, so we wouldn’t have to listen to what he was watching. When he got tired of that, he had paper, crayons, and a clipboard to color and draw on. The 1-year-old was a little more challenging. They do make iPad holders that fasten to the head rest. We didn’t do this, but that would be a nice thing to have to hold their attention for a while. If your baby uses a pacifier, keep extra pacifiers in the front of the car. Our daughter is notorious for throwing her pacifier when she gets bored and then she screams and cries for it. Having extras in the front will prevent you from having to ask the adult in the passenger seat to crawl around the car looking for it while you’re driving.
Anticipate the Meltdown
6. I have said many times that our road trip was an unforgettable experience. It was also a rollercoaster of emotions. There were times where my wife and I would look over at each other and agree that we were so glad we were doing it, and then moments later find ourselves wondering why we even left the house in the first place. I would expect to have at least one meltdown. (For that matter, expect at least one meltdown while you’re at Disney.) If you go into the trip with a realistic mindset expecting rough times, you’ll be able to handle them easier and move past the meltdowns, when the time has passed, and ready to enjoy the good times. As I prepare for this trip we’re about to make, I know there will be meltdowns. Yup! I said “meltdowns” – plural! But I won’t be surprised or unprepared, because I’ll be expecting them.
Enjoy the Journey
Not every vacation will allow for this, but if you have the time, try to leave a little wiggle room in your daily itinerary to stop and see some things along the way. If you’re like me, I’m sure you want to get to Disney as quickly as possible, so you’ll have more time to spend in the parks. But there are some amazing things to see in this magnificent country along the way. The road trip will be much more enjoyable if you can break up the amount of time spent in the car by seeing some fun things along the way. Your vacation doesn’t have to just begin when you get to Disney and end when you leave it. Enjoy your time together as a family and make it interesting for everyone in the car. If you’re unsure about what there might be for you to see along the way, check out www.roadtrippers.com and the Road Trippers app. It will actually recommend things for you to see along the way, and it’s a great tool to use to help you navigate your road trip as you go.
Going on a long road trip with the family can be a daunting experience, but just like anything else in life, the better you prepare for it, the better it will go. You may have your own road trip tips. If so, feel free to comment below. We’d also love to hear how your upcoming family road trips have gone. What tip proved to be the most valuable? What would you do differently next time?