Less Mess Road Trip
No road trip, or really, any trip with kids, can be mess free. It simply doesn’t exist. Even the most organized, prepared, and germaphobic parent will admit to this. It seems like kids just need SO MUCH GEAR in the car. However, you also don’t need to look like you just rolled up in a trash can, no matter how long your drive was or how young your kids are. Here’s how to turn a messy backseat into a much cleaner one.
1. Traveling Trash Can
Kids seem to find a way to generate a lot of trash in the car. Have a small trash can, or even just a plastic bag is a necessity. At every rest stop, empty the can or throw away the bag so you can start fresh and not allow the junk to pile up.
I lined a plastic cereal box with a plastic bag. I like that there’s a lid, just in case it tips, but I can also replace the liner without a big process. It even stands up right between the carseats in the backseat, so the kids DO use it!
2. Don’t Walk Away From a Messy Car
This one is so hard. You’ve had a long day of travel. The kids are cranky. You are exhausted. It’s so tempting to just leave the clutter, collapse at your destination, and promise to get it in the morning. I’ve done this more times than I care to admit, because I’ve done it enough where I know it’s a bad idea.
Five minutes to get the trash out and the clutter back into the right places makes a world of difference.
3. Pack Smart
Nothing is more frustrating than playing Tetris in the trunk every time you stop, or having to dig into every bag for what you need. Things get jumbled, lost, disorganized, and it’s annoying. Pack a rest stop bag that is the first thing you can grab when you open the trunk. My rest stop bag includes a change of clothes for each kid, a towel, a blanket, and, of course, the snacks and drinks.
If you’re planning a multi day road trip, having an overnight bag with pjs, one outfit, and the essential toiletries can help assure that you won’t need to empty the trunk for one night!
4. Keep Cool
If you’re driving on a warm day, or even just a sunny day, you can end up with melted crayons, chocolate, peanut butter, chewy candy, and a big mess. My kids stashed some m&ms in their carseats, and reached into that pocket to come away with some very chocolately hands! I spend the next few minutes saying “hands in the air! Don’t touch anything!” until I could pull over and use the wipes.
Traveling with a cooler for “melty” snacks is a great way to avoid this, as well as being a place to stash ANY melty things that shouldn’t sit in the hot sun. We have a soft sided thermal bag with a few cool packs, and it makes a big difference.
5. Teach the System
This is one place where I need to do better. If you spend the short trips getting your systems in place, your family is much more likely to stick to them on a longer trip. If you start with an organized car, and your family is accustomed to knowing where things go, they can handle it no matter how long the trip is. Use car organizers (over the seat, between the seats) to contain kid gear and snacks.
About the Author: Meredith Napolitano blogs at FromMeredithtoMommy.com, where she writes about raising kids while keeping her own identity as well! From kids’s activities to organizational products, from parenting tips to suggestions for Mom’s Night Out, she’s got you covered! Follow her on Facebook!