The Ultimate "Night Before" Prep List to Get Road-Trip Ready This Summer!

I remember when we drove 21 hours to the mountains with the kids. It was a blast, but we haven't been up for that kind of challenge in awhile.  Thank goodness, my kids have just as much fun in the car with a 3-5 hours trip as they do with the all-nighters!

In fact, since we've been a few fun places over the past year (including a fun trip to the Daisy Museum in Arkansas and our favorite festival -- Annevar), we have gotten this road trip thing down like real pros.  The kids look forward to our trips, and it's a fun way to bond and see new places.

The one thing that has really helped us get our trip off on the right foot (instead of with arguing and tears) is to get it all ready the night before.  This is especially important when you have littles in car seats.  Even if you are renting a car, make sure you pick it up the day before you leave, and have everything that's not perishable in place for pulling out of the driveway.  Things we do include:

  • Cleaning and installing car seats. Dump the crumbs out, wipe everything down with a wet wipe, and make sure belts are at the right adjustment.
  • Getting all your tech ready.  This includes charging mobile devices and getting the portable DVD player in place. Don't forget extra batteries, charging cords, and A/V cables for hooking up your laptop to your hotel TV when you get there! 
  • Ensuring car safety. Checking air-pressure in the tires, checking oil and washer fluids, making sure the battery is good, etc can be done a night in advance so you don't have any last-minute surprises!
  • Packing all the gear you need for swimming. Even if you're not headed to a waterpark, we've had a few impromptu swimming sessions at the hotels we've stopped at.  It's nice having everything ready in one designated "swim bag" that you can leave in the car if you're not swimming, or pull out just for the occasion.  Things to include: Pampers Splashers, trunks and suits, sunscreen, Puddle Jumpers, and ear plugs.
  • Have the kids' clothes for the day of the trip laid out the night before. No scrambling for shoes or wallets.  Pretend like it's their first day of school and leave nothing to guesses the day of the trip!
  • Pack non-perishable snacks now. Some of our favorite must-take items include shelf-stable, individual milk and juices, Great Value trail mix, Goldfish crackers, and pre-washed fresh fruit (like bananas and apples.)
  • Print a map.  Yes, I know we live in a GPS world, but we have had several close calls when construction or bad cell-reception has left us almost taking the wrong turn from what our GPS device says.  Nothing beats common sense and a good, old-fashioned map!

If everything is packed and ready to go, your first morning on the road should go much easier. You can slip on your shoes, grab your perishable food items for your cooler, and load up the crew! 

And if you forget something?  We have been to so many Walmart's over the years simply for that reason.  Whether it be for extra diapers, a lost bottle of medicine, or a healthy snack from the deli, there is one in almost every place we visit.  We have even taken shelter in a Walmart during a bad hail storm!

What essentials do you bring on your road trips?  Does your plan include lots of pre-packing and prep?  Let's hear your tips!

As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I've received compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.  Links to shopping sites may be referral links.