5 lifesaving tips to survive (and enjoy!) a road trip with small kids. 22 October, 2019

5 lifesaving tips to survive (and enjoy!) a road trip with small kids.

As you already know, back in 2019 we’d temporarily shifted from Qatar to Poland. And what better way to celebrate moving to a different continent than by organizing a road trip with kids, somewhere new? 🙂 It started quite innocently, a simple idea to visit friends in Hamburg, Germany. Sounds basic, right? We thought so too, so the idea slowly evolved. It went something like this:

Initial idea: “Let’s drive to Hamburg, stay 3 days and come back.”

Revision: “Let’s drive to Hamburg, then visit Copenhagen (Adam needs more Lego!), and then drive back.”

Final version: “Let’s drive to Hamburg, then visit Copenhagen, then drive to Sweden and come back to Poland with a ferry, yay!”

In the end, the whole thing turned into a week-long road trip, with a 4-year-old and a 9-month-old in tow. Looking back I must say it was one of the best travel ideas we’ve had!

Obviously, we were (and maybe still are 🙂 ) typical road trip rookies. As such, we are guilty of making mistakes that could have been easily avoided. As expected, it turned out that going on a road trip with small kids is nothing like traveling as a couple! Realizing that, right after we came back, I’ve put together a list of tips to remember the next time we go. And I thought to myself, why not share them here? Maybe it will make someone’s vacation better!

1. Re-think the way you pack.

All your belongings will be stored inside a car. And you probably won’t stop anywhere for longer than 2-3 nights. I mean, it’s a road trip, you’re bound to spend a huge chunk of your time in your car 😉 We’d struggled a lot because we packed as if we were going to stay in one place for the whole week – all our clothes and shoes went inside one big bag. Now imagine that: you arrive at your hotel late and your kids want to sleep. You open your 130-liter bag and try to find your baby’s sleeping suit. Then in the morning, you try to fish out a change of clothes for everyone. We were ending up with heaps of mixed stuff spread everywhere, not able to locate the most basic items.

Once we got back, we sat and thought about it. There had to be a better way to pack. We came up with two ideas:

— investing in travel organizer cubes for the big bag, such as THOSE, labeling them with names of family members, and packing accordingly;

— aside from the big bag, taking a small carry-on bag containing necessities for the night/morning (cosmetics, PJs, change of clothes, etc.). The contents of the small bag would be updated right before checking out.

2. When packing food – look at the bigger picture.

When we travel with our kids, we tend to focus mostly on them, forgetting about ourselves. We did just that when we packed for our road trip. Moreover, we continued to do that (excessively!) while we were already on the road! 😉 Ok, so what exactly am I going on about here? Two things:

— Packing a monthly supply of baby food and snacks, even though those will surely be readily available everywhere we go (last time I checked, Germany, Denmark and Sweden were part of the well-developed countries club 🙂 ).

— NOT packing any food for the adults because “we can always grab something at a gas station!”.

So this actually happened to us:

Our last night in Sweden was booked in a remotely located resort. I mean, the surroundings were gorgeous, but there was hardly any civilization nearby. We arrived well after reception closed, to find our key waiting in a designated box. And then, trouble started. To our surprise, it turned out that the last week of August is considered “off-season” at the resort, and the only restaurant/grocery on site is closed. Due to overfocusing on kids, we ended up with 3kg of tasteless baby food in jars, but nothing to eat for the adults! Khaled had to suffer a 30-minute drive to the nearest town to bring some “adult” food, which was obviously the last thing he wanted after spending half a day on the road!

3. You can create your own road map on Google Maps!

Yes, you read that correctly. Many people don’t even know such an option exists (I certainly had no idea about it before the trip!). All you need is a Google account. Type in “Google My Maps” in your browser and log in. There, you can add places, save directions and even draw lines and shapes. After you’re done, save the map, and voila!

4. Bed rail beats travel crib.

Road trip with kids equals A LOT of stuff in your car! Travel cribs are perfectly foldable, but nevertheless take up loads of space in your trunk. We took one just in case, but as nowadays most hotels offer baby beds, we ended up using it only once. So I was thinking. It seems that a much better idea would be to actually invest in a portable bed rail (such as THIS ONE), in case you land somewhere that doesn’t offer cribs. It’s extremely easy to transport – just slide it below all your other stuff!

5. Pack some extra stuff, you’ll thank me later!

Things that we took and loved or did not take and regretted it profusely:

— portable travel kettle (especially if you have a formula-fed baby on board!),

— a night light (one that plugs directly to a socket),

— a roll of garbage bags (seems obvious, but we forgot about it),

— a power bank, or two.


Hey, if you’re about to set on an adventure with your kids, you can also check out my post about packing for a family vacation HERE!