How to Stay Organized on the Road
While road tripping is considered one of the great human experiences, not everyone embraces the event of being crammed into a car for several hours (or days) with friends or family members. Even if you're going on a road trip alone, you may start your journey with the best of intentions to stay organized but end up being covered in coffee splatters and pieces of gum you chewed three days ago. There is no reason why you can't embark upon the next road trip completely organized from start to finish––you just need to know how to approach it.
Start planning at least a week in advance.The key to being organized is preparation, so you’ll need to consider several factors before implementing your ideas:
- Identify the vehicle you will be using to take your road trip. Is it a large, roomy SUV or a small car? Obviously, the vehicle size will be extremely important in planning what (or how much) you can take and trying to stuff more into a car that has very little room will make life harder for you.
- Make a list of the vehicle occupants. If you can fit everyone in your vehicle comfortably, along with their suitcase and one travel and activity bag, you should be fine for the road trip. If you think you may be cramped, consider renting a larger vehicle for your trip if possible, especially if you will be car-bound for more than one day.
- Consider your final destination. Will you be heading somewhere cold or a tropical paradise? Do your accommodations have a washer and dryer and how many days will you be gone? Also, do you need to pack equipment for your vacation such as skis or a surfboard? Knowing as much about your accommodations as possible will help you determine if you can pack a smaller sized suitcase (if you're heading to the beach where you have access to a washer and dryer) or if there’s no way around it and you must pack for each day. Also, consider renting supplies (such as skis and boots) if car room is at a premium.
- Determine the number of days or hours that it will take you to complete your road trip. If it will take more than one day to get to your destination, will you need to secure accommodations along the way? If you will need overnight accommodations, conduct online research to identify hotels along your route and make a reservation for each night you need lodging. Don't assume availability; all it takes is one wedding party to fill up the only motel in town.
- Obtain directions or a map. If you don’t have a GPS system, print directions using a mapping website or visit your local travel club (like AAA) and obtain a map.GPS systems are not always available,obtain a map.
Allow each passenger to bring one activity bag (in addition to their suitcase).The best way to stay in control while on the road is to allow each passenger one small bag (roughly the size of a backpack) in which they can pack games, books and electronic devices.
Pack a small overnight bag for each passenger if your road trip will span over multiple days.At the end of a 12 hour driving stint, the last thing you want to do is drag heavy luggage to a room for a quick rest. Instead, determine the number of days you will be on the road, and pack a travel bag that includes enough fresh clothing and toiletries for the number of days on the road. Pack a plastic garbage bag inside one of the passenger’s bags and for dirty clothes each evening; that way, you keep the dirty clothes worn during the day separate from the rest of your items.
Make road rulesbeforedeparting.The only way you will calm the chaos is to establish a few general car rules and ask everyone to kindly adhere to them throughout the trip. Some rules that have proven their worth for others taking road trips include:
- Trash is thrown away at every stop. Request that every passenger search their area for cups, napkins, bags etc. and dispose of it every time the car stops. This will avoid mountains of trash building up and unidentified squashed objects being smushed into the hard-to-reach places of the car.
- Maintain a small trash receptacle in the car. Keep a small garbage bag in the front seat and ask that each passenger use it after snacks or meals. This will help to minimize the amount of rogue trash in the car. Empty this bag at every stop.
- Shoes must be kept by each passenger. Although everyone loves to take off their shoes during a road trip, demand that shoes be kept on the ground by the passenger to prevent missing shoes . Also, if your feet stink, shoes must be worn at all times unless they're a cherubic toddler with no foot odor. Alternatively, bring foot spray to kill odors.
- Passenger space must be maintained and organized at each stop. If the kids want to color in the car or play with toys, fine. However, they must understand that once the car stops they must return whatever they’ve taken out of their activity bag back to its original spot.
- Each passenger should perform a mental checklist after every stop. To ensure that items are not lost during the road trip, ask that each passenger double check important items that should be in their activity bag such as cash, maps and favorite toys, for example. The last thing you want is to be an hour away from the last stop only to realize you left tickets or your child’s favorite blanket at the last stop.
- Always check you have your wallet after roadside stops. The feeling of leaving it behind is more than chilling.
Prepare for emergencies.Anticipating the unexpected will help you stick to your schedule and maintain a sense of order throughout your car trip. Assemble an emergency travel kit that can be maintained either underneath a car seat or in the trunk (but in an accessible area so it can be accessed if needed while the car is in motion). Items to consider include:
- Over the counter and/or prescription medication. Also, don’t forget important medicines such as an Epi Pen or migraine medication if you have allergies or are prone to sudden extreme headaches
- Bandages and Band-Aids. Include various sizes and special blister Band-Aids
- Antibiotic cream and anti-itch cream
- Antibacterial waterless soap or wipes
- Diapers and wipes (if a baby is traveling with you)
- Small can of insect repellant
- Digital thermometer
- Leak-proof plastic bag. Whether someone has to vomit or if they have to use the toilet and you can’t get off the road, it’s better than having the offensive matter strew all over the vehicle. Don’t forget to dispose of the plastic bag immediately at the next stop
- Small can of air freshener--for a more pleasant ride
- One 8 ounce bottle of water--you never know when or if you may need water to clean up messes or wash wounds.
Be flexible while on the road.Sometimes events happen that are beyond your control. Learn to relax and go with the flow if your trip becomes disorganized (think of it as making fond memories that you’ll laugh about in years to come). You can always regroup at overnight stops (do it first thing in the morning when you're most refreshed and least likely to despair over the state of the car).
- Make room in your car or luggage for souvenirs.
- Always take a spare set of car keys. You never know when you might need them.
- A throw rug across the back seat can do wonders for quick crumb cleaning at roadside stops, as well as preventing passengers from sticking to the seat if they get sweaty or drop drink everywhere.
- Replenish used emergency kit items before you road trip back home.
- Another emergency kit to consider is an auto emergency kit that may include a tire patch kit, a small bottle of windshield wiper fluid, a flashlight and your auto club identification number and telephone number.
- Stop the car and stretch your legs every few hours to refresh the mind and revive the body; for some people, sitting in the same position for too long can encourage blood clots.
- If you feel as if you are getting too tired to drive, pull over and either ask another person to take the wheel or stop for the night.
Video: How to Pack and Stay Organized While on the Road -- Tips from Ashley LeMieux with The Shine Project
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