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Tips for Long Road Trips with a Large Family

Posted by Erika

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This past summer our large family of eight took a long road trip, from our home in Coastal North Carolina to Western Washington State. It took us 6 days to get there, normally would only take 5 days but we decided to take an extra day at Yellowstone National Park to see some of the sights. The total trip time for us was just under a month. We allowed a week for travel there, two weeks with family, and another week to get back home. It was a long trip. 

So here are some of the tricks I learned to help make it easier cause lets face it, just even thinking of planning for a trip like that can send even the most seasoned moms into panic attacks.

  • Make lists. Make lists for your lists and keep them in a safe place so you wont lose them. I even went as far as making a specialized calendar with small things to do or look at a specific list for each day leading up to the day we left. I like lists. Hi my name is Erika and I have a making lists problem. 
  • Plan ahead. Seriously, I was planning for this trip at least two months before we left. With all of the list making, household chores, house sitter set up stuff I had to do on top of the normal chaos that goes with having a large family I had to plan ahead or I would have gone crazy(er).
  • Check the weather forecasts of where you are going, and still plan for the worst. We had done this but still the weather changed on us. While we were camping at Yellowstone, it got to freezing temperatures during the night. We knew it was going to be cold, but it was about 20 degrees colder than we were expecting when we left North Carolina.  There was a lot of snuggling going on in that tent that night. But we picked up some extra blankets at the gift shop along with having a large dinner and pocket warmers and the second night was much more comfortable.
  • Packing the bags. Okay so my husband and I each had a bag to ourselves and that was fine, but the big idea that I had and worked far better than I had planned was the backpacks for the kids.
    my view when we woke up while camping near Mount Rushmore.

    I did not let each kid get their own bag… that would mean six separate bags for each night to unload and seeing how we camped at a couple of our stops limiting how much time we spent unloading and loading up was extremely important. So each stop had a backpack, complete with pj’s for the night for each kid, clothes for the next day and the appropriate amount of pull ups and diapers those kids would need till we were back on the road. I also had my diaper bag set up with any and all medications and toiletries they needed for the night so instead of six bags we had it down to two and the older two were able to carry them easily. Each bag was labeled for each night so the kids also knew which one to grab because each place had different climates to deal with.

  • Potty Breaks while on the road. Yeah I had this brilliant idea to put #3 and #4 who were 5 and 4 years old at the time, in pull ups during the day just in case they couldn’t make it to the rest stops, we also brought a portable potty just in case. Yeah that backfired like no tomorrow. When they announced rather loudly that they needed to go potty telling them how far away the rest stop was and to just go in the pull up if they couldn’t hold it, did not settle well with them. There were tears from them and face palming from the front seats. In the end we learned that they could and would hold it and opted for them to wear their usual underwear for the drive home. No one had any accidents. But I wish that was the only body fluids we had to deal with…
  • Children who are prone to getting car sick. All of our kids are prone to it. It sucks. We usually used Zyrtec as their Pediatrician prescribed to help with it and it usually did help. But my oldest gets it the worst and by day three she was green. I hadn’t needed Dramamine in quite a while for her so I thought we would be good. But her breaking point was when we were at Yellowstone. Did you know that Yellowstone has its own medical facility?
    Husband at one point ran to a convenience store to get the essentials to hopefully make our oldest feel better, plus some goodies for us.

    There is one of their Urgent Care clinics by Old Faithful and after walking around seeing the sights, hoping the fresh air and not being in a car would help. It did not. Poor thing was still puking. If there is anything that I have gotten well-trained at since becoming a mom is to be prepared for puking kids at any time and anyplace. Our car was well stocked with Ziplock bags, you want ones that will for sure seal so once they are done, it can be sealed and not stink up where ever you are. So after a few hours at the clinic she had some anti nausea meds and was finally keeping things down. I could not thank them enough! From then on she used Dramamine and did not have any problems for the rest of the trip. What supplies would you need for any kids that get car sick aside from Ziplock bags? Baby wipes to wipe off their face, spare clothes in case they unfortunately got it on their clothes, and a good thick spare blanket or towel to cover up their seat if it got puke on it and was cleaned but still wet. Been there, done that, too many times to count. Like most things, you clean them up, get them comfortable, and move on.

  • Snacks. We had a ready supply of snacks and juice boxes. Goldfishies were their favorite but Oreo’s were a close second. With how much fast food we were consuming on this trip we opted to give them juice that has the vegetable juice hidden in it. You gotta get it into them in sneaky ways sometimes. Avoid giving them milk at all costs, in the evening once the driving for the day is done is fine but giving kids milk who are prone to puke in the car is not the wisest thing to do. By the end of the trip my aim was pretty good with tossing them snacks and juice.
  • Be flexible. You can plan and prepare but have a backup plan when things go awry. For example on the way home we didn’t leave as early as we wanted on one leg of the trip causing us to go through San Francisco during rush hour… it turned our 8 hour drive into 14 hours.
    Baby girl wanting to be awake… we were not ready.

    Thankfully our stop for that night was with family in LA who is a night owl and the kids were troopers! But it caused us to break with our plans and make an unexpected stop on the following night and basically made us get home a day later than wanted but still a couple of days early than planned because we planned ahead in case something happened, and it did and we were able to keep going.

This trip was amazing, we made so many memories as a family and I am sure the kids that were old enough will never forget it. I hope these tips will help anyone planning a road trip in the future, if you do go on one, send me a message with how it went and if you learned any new or useful tips too. As we will be making another long road trip in the coming year when we move cross-country.

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