Road Trips: What to Pack and What to Leave at Home
The road-tripping family has become a caricature in American culture. In the most classic of representations, an over-ambitious father sits behind the wheel, his grandiose visions tempered by a loving, but realistic wife. Together, they drag a couple of too-cool teenagers on an adventure that they’ll soon learn to appreciate. Part of that caricature, of course, is the family vehicle: an overstuffed station wagon with an extra large load of unnecessary items tied tenuously to the roof rack. Like all good satire, this exaggerated depiction has some foundation in truth. When it comes to packing lists, most families cannot differentiate between the items that they’ll need and the ones that they won’t. To avoid this stereotype, compare the contents of your car-top cargo carrier against these lists of road trip dos and don’ts.
List 1: What to Pack
Because no two families are the same and no two vacations are the same, every family will have a very different packing list. But these three oft forgotten items will save any family from headache while on the road.
Laundry Bag: You may think your vacation will provide a much-needed break from the endless spin cycle of family laundry, but your kids don’t stop soiling their clothes just because you’re away from home. In an act of supreme unhelpfulness, most hotels provide a single small, self-tying plastic bag to help you keep up. You’ll be better off throwing a washable mesh laundry bag into each family member’s suitcase to stay organized on the road.
Device Chargers:While it’s nice to imagine a week where everyone puts away their cell phones in favor of face-to-face familial interaction, your electronic devices are actually a crucial piece of road-trip success. From roadside phone calls and electronic maps to music players and movie screens, your devices get used a lot on vacation. Despite this fact, chargers are one of the most frequently forgotten items. Be sure to pack both wall and car chargers for optimal electrical supply.
En-Route Entertainment:Your kids are going to sit hip-to-hip while mom and dad respectfully disagree about which way is up on the road map. While it’s nice to dream that they’ll keep themselves calm and occupied during these hours of exasperation, you’re going to need a distraction plan. Portable DVD players, coloring books, iPads, and travel games are definitely on the list of things not to forget.
List 2: What to Leave at Home
Toiletries and Beauty Appliances: You may think your beautiful hairdo needs specialty salon products at home, but forget about it while you’re on vacation. There’s no need to fill up your suitcase when almost every hotel in the country provides all the toiletries and hair dryers you could possibly need. But if you decide you still need a little extra primping, scale down by putting your salon products in small bottles that will fit nicely in your luggage without taking up too much valuable real estate.
Valuables: Road trips are about treasuring your memories, not remembering where you left your treasures. It may seem like a good idea to bring your diamond ring, jewelry, and other valuables to the lake, but you’ll spend a lot of time worrying about their safety and won’t get much benefit out of having them with you. Leave them at home and you’ll be better off.
Duplicate Clothing Items: Too many people treat their suitcases like miniature bedroom closets—a place to get a new, perfectly styled outfit every day. But you really don’t need a different jacket every day you’re on vacation. Most trips require a couple pairs of shoes, a single swimsuit, and a few tops and bottoms to alternate between. Save the space and stress associated with wardrobe selection by limiting the number of options you bring.
Towels: Towels are bulky and unnecessary for most road trip travelers. If you’re staying in hotels along the way, almost anywhere you go will offer complimentary towels in your room and at the pool. Even though everyone knows this, many travelers still waste valuable space by packing along a towel.
Beach Gear: Your picture-perfect day at the beach probably includes a couple of beach chairs, a sun umbrella, and some sand toys; however, cramming all of that into a rooftop cargo carrier has driven many families to total frustration. Most public beaches feature surf shops that will rent these items to you for dollars a day. That’s a small price to pay to avoid the frustration of packing, unpacking, cleaning, and storing your own beach gear.
Like the stereotypical families found in road trip legends, you’re looking to provide an amazing travel experience for your family, but you don’t need to repeat the packing mistakes of those over-prepared, under-organized families. Follow this simple set of dos and don’ts and you’ll save yourself some serious luggage space, and some serious heartache.
If your hectic life could use a little summer fun, head over to our Facebook page and enter our #GarffRoadTrip contest. You can enter to win exciting prizes every day, as well as the grand prize of a $2,000 road trip.