Leader of the Pack

Alternatively titled:  How to live in your car for two weeks with three children


We made our first trip to Oklahoma with the boys when they were about a year old.

I would have gone sooner but I wanted to wait until they were old enough to turn the car seats to face forward because there was no way I was going to subject them to riding twenty-two hours staring at the back of that beige seat not being able to experience all the glories of Interstate 40.

Oh, it was glorious all right, especially the part where we sat with the engines shut off for three hours on the interstate just outside of Little Rock at dinnertime with nothing but a two pound box of Fig Newtons to keep us company.

Ranger Rick Safety Math Tip: 2 lbs of Fig Newtons X 3 immature digestive systems = Disaster.

I learned a lot on that first and subsequent trips about what we needed/didn’t need to have in the car and we’ve  reached the point where packing for these journeys is down to a science.

That’s not to say that I pack us with military precision.  It takes me two days to get organized and ready to hit the road and most of those two days are spent wandering back and forth from the front of the house to the back of the house muttering “Where did I put the Pringles?”

Oh, yes, there are snacks.

The packing of the snacks is what we do first.

We make a ceremonial trip to the grocery store for the sole specific reason to buy said snacks and the boys get to each pick something to munch on that fits the “can’t smear, melt, stain, or get stuck in your hair” guidelines.

I also let them pick out an assortment of flavoring packets to put in our water bottles  which not only saves me a boatload of cash by not buying cokes at gas stations/drive-thrus but also gives them a physical activity to do in the car as they shake the mess out of their  TIGHTLY LIDDED BOTTLES to get their drinks mixed.

Which is not to be confused with  mixed drinks.

Because that’s a whole ‘nother subject that may or may not be revisited at the end of my travels.

Above the driver’s seat I have a zipper compartment that contains lip balm, eye drops, aspirin, and those roll-up sunglasses they give you at the optometrist’s office after they dilate your eyes because chances are I’ve walked off and left my pair in the hotel room.  Next to the driver’s seat I keep a car caddy that I picked up at Target three or four years ago that holds snacks, pens, my laptop, a deck of cards, power cords for cell phones and Nintendos, and contact information for our hotels along the way; if we’re making good time and everyone’s happy, I will often cancel our hotel reservation and re-book at a town further down the road.  The caddy has convenient side handles for carrying and it goes into the hotel with us at night.

The center console is packed with a first aid kit, a packet of wet wipes, a small tool kit (thanks, ImNotNed), and a jelly jar of change for Starbucks toll booths.

It takes two or three days to get home so to minimize what we have to haul into the hotel each night, the boys have their own backpack that has exactly what they need to get them to our destination and it is small and light enough for them to handle.  It also cuts down on the amount of stuff that gets lost and/or strewn around the  hotel room.

Not that it has ever happened to us.

The rest of our clothes go in two small suitcases – one for the adults and one for the kids.  I never pack more than a week’s worth of clothes because there’s always a  machine somewhere.

And this is more than a week’s worth of clothes because I’ve spent the last three days getting caught up on laundry and am packing straight from the dryer to the suitcase.

I didn’t have enough room to pack Mr. CPQ for this first leg of the trip so he’ll join us later on.  I’m a little sad that he’ll miss the giant disco ball in Knoxville and the Memphis Pyramid and the 875,385th rendition of “Are we there yet” , but there is a silver lining.

More Pringles for me.

Have a nice day.

17 responses to “Leader of the Pack

  1. This is helpful to see your lessons-learned organizational tips! Have a great, safe trip!

  2. THIS is an awesome tutorial! Oh, I just know that my bestie is going to LOVE this post *sends link now to avoid forgetting*

    I still think that well-packed and all, this is a rather brave adventure, and congratulate you on your fortitude and well-plannedness.

    Also, know that each ‘road trip adventure’ post comment from me is always going to have my obligatory ‘come to California!’ ploy somewhere.

  3. “can’t smear, melt, stain, or get stuck in your hair”

    What else is there? Granola? Woo. Hoo.

    And at least now I won’t have visions of you using a dime to fix something while pulled over on the side of I40.

    Say hi to Lahoma et al for us.

  4. Serious as a root canal, you should write a “traveling with kids” book or an article at the least. I know that basically this is an article, but I mean you should send this out to be published elsewhere. You have this down to a science, friend!

  5. Well. Traveling with children. No thank you. But if you have to do it – do it like this! Every time you showed an organizer/tote of brilliant tools for pleasanter travel, I pumped my fist in the air and cheered! You could probably almost have fun doing it this way. This trip could only be made more exciting to me by you adding, “I found a way to stop and see my BFF,” cause that’s what I always want mine to say. 🙂 Well, and possibly saying something like, “Grandma decided to come down and fly the kids up at her own expense whilst I drove my happy little self with all the ding dongs and loud music and stopping at anything that interests me that is not a bathroom that I could stand.”

  6. Wow! You are an organizing machine! I hope your family has a wonderful, safe vacation! We are flying this year (will be the kids’ first airplane ride!) for our vacation, down to the FL Keys. I have no idea how I (a major over-packer) will fit everything we need for our vacation into carry-ons, ’cause my hubby refuses to check bags. I’m trying to come up with a few tricks to persuade him otherwise! Looking forward to reading your future posts about hitting the open road!

  7. Nice! I always pack the snack basket first too.
    First things first, I aways say.
    Happy Trails !

  8. It’s an art.

    And you are Picasso.

  9. You are smart, brave, and organized!

    I miss you already.

  10. You are so very cool! Thanks for the info…I’ll be using it very soon!

  11. Great post. You could write an article for Associated Content. They even pay sometimes.

    I’m excited about seeing you during your travels. I’ll email you my number later.

  12. Traveling with kids…nope, not for me. Makes me glad mine all live close enough. Have a fun, safe trip. Seriously, you should submit this to magazines, Parenting, perhaps.

  13. I’m taking notes on how to road trip with three kids, CPQ. Impressive. Much better than my recent road trip that took a billion hours to get there and was quite disastrous on the way back as well. I think I bit off a little more than I could chew driving a three week old baby and two kids under age 5 in a Toyota Camry by myself. Even if it was just a little under 200 miles. It was not smart. But like I said, I’m taking notes. The snack caddy alone is quite impressive.

    Bon Voyage!

  14. When will you be in my neck of the woods???

  15. Totally agree w/whimzie… You SHOULD write of your travels for SOME publication! I don’t think there are many like you who go so far so often driving w/kids. You could be a great resource to others who want to try it!

  16. Howdy from Oklahoma. Your packing skills are impressive. We flew to OK (we’ve only driven once & hope we never have to again) via Southwest. No baggage fees with Southwest = packing everything but the kitchen sink. Hope you have a fun trip! We would consider driving if we had you with us to inspire and amuse us along the way.

  17. Agreeing with everyone on your packing prowess. You rock. Is the screwdriver for poking into your eyes after one more “are we there, yet?”

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