Keeping it Simple on the Road: What We Packed for a Two+ Week Car Trip

Keeping it Simple On the Road | A Simple Haven

I’ve said it before: I aspire to minimalism but default to over-preparedness.

But with two and a half week road trip on the horizon and the knowledge that less stuff would be easier to lug in and out of hotels, motels, cabins, and houses, this time I was determined to err on the side of less.

My goal was to take enough to help our trip go smoothly but not so much that our stuff felt burdensome.

How did I do?  Well, it depends.

For the kids: pretty well. For myself, I realized I could have done without several pieces. For the food, I made a big ‘ol list of what-not-to-dos for next time.

(Yes, there will be a next time! I hope. Sign of a good trip, right?)

So, here’s the 411 on what we brought and how simple it all felt in the end. Regardless of where you fall on the minimalist spectrum, hopefully somewhere in my pack-list reflections, you’ll find something helpful for your next trip.

Kids’ Clothes

I packed nearly all of my two kids’ clothes and shoes in one small suitcase.  They each got three pairs of shorts, two pants, about four tops, a couple sweaters, swim stuff, a raincoat, and two pairs of shoes.

This ended up feeling just right. I expected to have access to a washing machine at the end of the first week, but no dice.  So instead I did a couple of sink washes to tide us over and bagged the rest of the dirty laundry until we got to Maine around day ten.

I’m a pretty committed cloth diaper-er and briefly considered trying to use at least some cloth on the trip. Then gave my pregnant self a break and opted for disposables.

Kids’ Car Stuff

The dilemma: how to pack enough to keep them happily occupied on some stinking long drives but not so much that junk tumbles out whenever you open the door?

Here’s what we brought:

1.)  2.)  3.)  4.)  5.)  6.)  7.)  8.)
1.) 2.) 3.) 4.) 5.) 6.) 7.) 8.)

Not shown: a large Magnadoodle, a few books and blank notebooks, each kid’s special “friend,” and the Kindle (loaded with games, books, and our two favorite movies (The Sound of Music and Mary Poppins).

This was our first road trip with movies in the car and I’m glad we had them. Although I learned that when you’ve got a restless, over-tired kid, movies are by no means magical.

Glad I brought: pretty much everything. Wish I’d had an extra Magnadoodle (the small one above was lame).

Note to self: don’t let your toddler keep the rocks he found at the rest stop in his carseat. It’s not worth the risk to your car windows or kid’s stomach.


My Stuff

I love pinning those travel wardrobes.  Just a few fabulous mix-and-match pieces and you’re set.

Problem is, I often don’t own half the things they show. And I was in that weird early stage of pregnancy where regular clothes were getting tight but maternity stuff was too big.

My solution? Comfy dresses, low-rise shorts and jeans, maternity tanks, and strategically flowy shirts.

Also helpful: a Panama hat to both protect my face from the sun and cover the hair that I didn’t have time to wash in the midst of getting everyone out the hotel door.

Could have done without: the extra sweater or two, one of my three pairs of sandals, the extra bathing suit.

The Food

I wrote about how I navigated attempting to eat decent food on the road here, so I’ll just say if you’re going to be all committed to bringing organic meats, make darn sure they’re double-Ziplocked in the cooler.

Otherwise, gross raw meat juice will contaminate your bread, cheese, and everything else. For the record, I just washed off the cheese, said a little prayer, and ate it.

Family + Beach Stuff

Is there a beach tent on earth that doesn’t require 20 minutes and a degree in engineering to collapse and put away? (Really, let me know).

Ours was horrific. We only used it once because we never could figure out how to fold it up properly. And really, we probably didn’t need it in the first place.

Other stuff we brought: standard beach gear, a kite, camera + video camera, double stroller, and two pack-n-plays.

That’s right. Our four year old (who sleeps in a big girl bed at home) prefers to be “cozy” in a pack-n-play when we travel. And because she’s the world’s greatest sleeper, I’ll throw out minimalism and do whatever makes that sweet girl feel cozy.

Smartest Thing I Packed:

A backpack full of essentials for a one-night hotel stay (basically everyone’s pjs, toiletries, and if necessary a change of clothes for the next day). That way we didn’t have to unload suitcases if we were just staying the night.

Pat on the back for Mommy.

Do you aspire to minimalism? How does that work out on trips (with or without kids)?

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About Jenn

Jenn is a mommy of three and wife to her best friend. She enjoys good books, dinner guests, elevenses, and proper apostrophe use.