8 Road Trip Essentials and Why You Really Should Go!

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As a mom of school-aged children, the end of the school year is bittersweet. Packing school lunches is not a tearful goodbye. Neither is yelling at asking my sleepyhead to get up and get in the shower for the fifth time. I don’t miss frantically searching for a missing shoe or digging through the laundry basket for a matching sock. Who’s kidding? Any clean sock will do. And I especially don’t love the last-minute signature request: “Mom, I need you to sign this so I can go on the field trip today.” Wait, what field trip?  

Here’s the bitter part . . .

Two weeks into summer break, three if your patience is extreme, the countdown to the start of school is underway. I’m ready to shop for new supplies, stuff the backpacks, and get in the drop-off line by the beginning of July.

Summer can be especially dreadful if you’re like me and work from home. I cringe, knowing my colleagues hear my kids playing their video games in the background during my Zoom calls. Or when they shout through the door, “Mom, what can I have for lunch?” I’ve mastered my speed at clicking the mute button, then quickly snapping back, “I’m in a meeting.” While many employers (and employees) are work-from-home friendly and these incidents are gracefully accepted, it doesn’t make it any less embarrassing.

To be clear, the stress of summer doesn’t just stem from the kids. I’m already busy moving laundry from the washer to the dryer between phone calls and letting the dog out if my meeting schedule is forgiving. Summer for me isn’t exactly a well-needed break, other than from the rushed morning rigamarole. The mid-year break checks off a few to-dos from my morning routine, but that’s about it.

Why not indulge a little and take a summer road trip with the family?

Take a break from the break! You deserve it, and it’ll give everyone a much-needed break from the house. You can spend time with the family and simultaneously press pause on the monotonous daily grind.

Get this! We have a legit reason to take a vacation. The owner of the website, Holiday Insights, Bob Matthews, marks the third Friday in June as Take a Road Trip Day! Ever heard of it? I hadn’t either. Here’s a little background. Matthews created this back in 2019 to go along with the already established National Read a Road Map Day. (This day also has very little historical significance). So, in honor of this very made-up day, give yourself permission to take that trip.

Road tripping should be adventurous and allow you to make some memories with your family. The goal here is to have fun, get away from the day-to-day, and relieve some stress. Once you pick your date and destination, it’s time to prep. Let’s talk about road-trip must-haves!

8 Road Trip Essentials and Why You Really Should Go!Here’s what you need to log successful miles and have a fun road trip:

1. Rules

Establish the rules of the road ahead of time. Before you leave, know how many bathroom breaks are allowed. If you’re not in a rush, maybe that’s the rule–no time constraints, just go as far as you want with the luxury of no deadlines. Or, if you know you want to drive a specific number of miles or have a destination in mind, plan out the travel time. I’ve done this both ways with my family. We’ve established only an hour for gas and restroom breaks for short weekend getaways. Or, for the stress-free option, take our good ol’ time–and drink as much coffee and water as you want. Another good rule to implement is seating arrangements. This will help stave off the musical chairs bickering.

2. Water Bottles and Snacks. And Coffee!

A clever idea is to snag a Starbucks gift card for the road ahead of time (It’s amazing how Starbucks can be found where you may least expect it). Just monitor intake, especially if you’ve set rules on restroom break allowances (see number one above). Water bottles can easily be refilled at the pit stops, or you may even want to keep a gallon bottle. With snacks, I make sure to have a variety, both healthy and splurge munchies. It’s crucial to have wholesome options to keep our bodies functioning on par, but my kids also know they get to have a special vacation treat! You may also consider packing a picnic lunch (or dinner) depending on the length of your trip. This helps save a few dollars and is a fun way to break up the drive.

3. Car Games for the Kids

This could be video games and electronic devices. Or prepare the family type of car games like car bingo and the license plate game. The goal is to make the travel fun and keep the kids occupied. It’s a mood killer when they ask, “How long until we get there?” only an hour after you left the house.

4. Pillows and Blankets–Make Yourself Comfy!

You never know when you’ll wish you had your pillow. Nothing’s worse than a hard and stinky hotel pillow or grandma’s 30-year-old paper-thin padding. Also, bring an extra blanket or two. It’s not only nice to have your own, but if the A/C is blasting and others in the car are cold, they can bundle up. Plus, it just makes it cozy.

5. Oversized Towel and Bed Sheet

I always keep an extra towel and an old sheet in the car, not just on road trips. I’ve forgotten the lawn chairs for football games and throwing down a sheet beats sitting on the itchy grass. If you stop to stretch your legs and have a picnic lunch, it’s also great to sprawl out on. Any type of accidental spill in the car, an extra towel can save the day. Or, when hotel housekeeping supplies the tiny, see-through, and sand-papery variety, your own feel better.

6. Roadside Assistance

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to call AAA. Of course, it’s never a planned phone call, but it’s been a lifesaver. Did you know they’ll even come out if you run out of gas? Hopefully, that doesn’t happen, but there’s security knowing you won’t be stranded. As an added bonus, AAA offers discounts at many hotels and various attractions like zoos and museums. Many auto insurance companies offer an add-on option if you don’t have AAA, and even some cellphone carriers do. Be sure to have some type of coverage because it’s better to be over-prepared than stuck in the middle of nowhere!

7. Pet Travel Accessories

Don’t forget a water bowl, leashes, toys, car seats, or your pet carrier. If you travel with your furry family members, don’t forget to keep them hydrated, fed, and occupied. We have a plush car seat for the pups–it’s like a dog bed but has a leash-like clip to keep them harnessed in safely (and so they’re not jumping between the front and back seats). Amazon sells awesome travel water bottles for dogs that are nearly spill-free. And bring a toy or two–just leave the annoying squeaky toy at home. Trust me on this one!

8. First-Aid Kit and Emergency Supplies

It’s convenient to have bandages and some ibuprofen readily available. Rather than making an unnecessary pit stop at the next convenience store and paying a ridiculous price for a packet of Advil, have it on hand. Along with that, keep a flashlight and some batteries. I don’t know about you, but batteries are a commodity in my house, and you may want them, especially if your child’s glo-worm needs a replacement mid-trip.

If given the option to travel by plane or car, I’ll choose the car 9 out of 10 times. I find air travel stressful, especially with children. Of course, traveling cross country with little ones may be challenging. Maybe keep the trip a little shorter and check out these tips for road tripping with toddlers. I personally love trips by car because it’s automatic permission to overpack! Just save enough room for everything, especially if you need to load up strollers, car seats, pet kennels, or coolers.

If you’re counting down the days to the start of school and needing relief from the so-called break and the constant “I’m bored” remarks, round up the family and hit the road! It’s a great way to beat summer break boredom. After all, it’s a real “holiday” to celebrate, so pack up and go! Just don’t forget the necessities!



The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ABQ Mom, its executive team, other contributors to the site, its sponsors or partners, or any organizations the aforementioned might be affiliated with.

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Vanessa is a recent New Mexico transplant (2021), by way of Phoenix, Arizona, and is busy learning and loving the Albuquerque life. She is a Christian, career-focused, work-from-home mom to son, Colby, and stepson, Brady, and is engaged to her fiancé, Kevin. She loves animals and has two dogs, Girl and Ziggy, and a fluffy cat, Alfie. Vanessa is an early riser who loves Mondays and routine, iced coffee, and the daily Wordle challenge. When she’s not working or driving the kids around, she enjoys exploring the city, taking in the stunning New Mexico nature, and fishing with her guys. Vanessa is passionate about sharing kindness, gratitude, and insights on parenting and family life. She’s indecisive and doesn’t have any specific niche but can talk a little about a lot. You can follow Vanessa on Instagram @vprueter.

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