10 Days on the Road: What to pack (and what to leave behind)

I’m just home from 10 days on the road. Ten solid days of family time – two to get there, two to get home, and the rest hiking our butts off and eating our way through every lobster pound we could find.

More on that coming soon. Pics are being edited. Videos are being spliced. Words are flowing.

But before we could go, we had to pack.

There are five of us in this family – the Dad, me, the oldest boy, the girl and the youngest boy. Obviously, we each have our own things we need, and my husband handles his own stuff – but for me and the kids, here’s how it goes down.

First off, the bags. We have hard sided suitcases, but for camping purposes, I lean toward the soft ones. They are smushable, and I like that better.

Also, because we are camping, everyone gets two bags. One for clothes, one for car stuff. Period. End of story.

For a ten day trip, we pack a minimum of seven outfits. Since we were camping and hiking most of the time, most of what we packed was not school-level clothes, but we had to be presentable, so nothing raggedy.

Seven is a good number to set because it gives you a full week of clothes before you have to wash, but you aren’t packing every single item you own to try to make it the whole trip.

Extra Tip #1I’m a firm believer in laundromats sometime mid-trip. Like I said before, you don’t have to pack such a huge amount of stuff, and those industrial strength machines get stuff done so quick, there is very little time wasted doing the actual laundry. On this trip, it took an hour and a half to do three loads (including folding). 

My kids are 14, 13 and 11 – and I would *love* to say that I don’t have to check what they actually packed…but I do. This trip they did great – but in January when we went to Disney/Universal for the week – one of them (not saying who) packed two pairs of underwear for the whole week. Thank goodness that’s not a hard thing to replace – but seriously, what the heck.

As far as their second bags go – they all love to read. Taking a bag full of books makes no sense – but eight-twelve hours a day in the car means devices probably aren’t going to make it the whole time (unless you’ve got one of those fancy cars with USBs for every seat). They each take a couple and swap as they finish. That way we’ve got six books to split.

Extra Tip #2Snack bags are VITAL. You’ll go bankrupt getting snacks at gas stations. Let everyone pick a couple of snacks and keep a bag with cups or baggies in the car.

The last round is that I have them bring me their vital toiletry items. My girl took care of her own, the boys shared a shower basket and I had my own. When it was time to walk for showers, it made life super easy.

Other than general destinations and packing, our trips are super flexible, designed to fit in as much as we can without overwhelm. We camp a lot because it gives us our own little home away from home where we can chill if it’s raining, cook if we want to – etc.

Stay tuned for a detailed account of our most recent trip in which we traversed Upstate New York, Vermont, a teensy bit of New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and good ole Ohio over a ten day stretch.

Got any amazing tips for road-tripping with or without kids? I’d love to hear about them!