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Hi there!  Tanya here. 

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Tips for successfully taking off on the road with kids

Tips for successfully taking off on the road with kids

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Tackling the pre-vacation to-do list

The one where Cinderella's rushing around doing her never-ending list of chores so she can make it to the ball?  I've lived that over and over.  

Cinderella and I are kindred spirit the final two days before leaving on a trip.  Cinderella, Cinderella, Cinderella.  

You know those final hours leading up to a family road trip, or the hours before you and your hubs depart for that special romantic getaway you've been counting down for months (or perhaps years)?  All of a sudden everything else is demanding your time: the field trip you signed up to chaperone over two months ago is TODAY, and three of your four kids have sports practice TONIGHT, and oh my stars, we're out of laundry detergent! 

I've been there.  Many times.  In fact we're preparing to leave for Sedona, Arizona for a family wedding in T-minus 5.5 hours as I type.  

But guess what?  The kids are at school and we're ready to go the second they step off the bus.  That's why I'm here with you.  I've picked up some strategies along the way that make the final countdown to lift-off a little less crazy.  

Tips for a successful take-off on a family holiday

About 72 hours out:

Write your to-do lists and prioritize.  

List writing maintains my sanity, keeping my brain from being one glob of 15 million thoughts of things needing done.  When I write something down, I relax and focus better.  I'm always making lists.

Write one to-do list for ongoing day-to-day family life items (ie. call son's Coach about the tournament, set up tax appointment, call the darn bank to re-set your password because for the life of you, you can't remember where you wrote it down!)  

Then write your vacation / road trip to-do list.  Prioritize each item by writing A, B, or C by each of them.  

A = I need to get this done today!  

B = I'd like to get this done, but it can wait a bit if need be.  

C= This is on my mind, but it can definitely wait until I get back.  If it gets done, then awesome!  I'm just glad I wrote it down.

I show a simple example here, but I bet your list and my list are twice as long!

Bonus for Moms:

Go get a pedicure.  I'm not a regular at the nail salon.  But I love getting a pedicure right before a road trip or vacation.  It's a taste of what's to come.  Go.  Now.  You deserved it five days ago. 

48 hours out:

Do all of your laundry.  

Every bit of it.  Clothes, towels, whatever.  Make your kids help.  Laundry exponentially grows at this point, like it's having babies or something.  But who wants to come home to a pile of laundry sitting there when you'll have loads of it falling out of your suitcase upon return?  Bonus:  When I'm really running on all cylinders, I wash everyone's sheets. 

Print off a pack list for your kids and let them get started.

If your kiddos can read, they can definitely pack their own bag.  Don't let their puppy dog eyes fool you.  Your kids are smart.  And they know where their clothes live.  For the younger guys, just check their bag before they zip it up.   From early ages, we taught our kids how to pack.  You can download a free printable kid's pack list here.  

Print off all important information and stick it in your bag.

Even though we have Maps on our phones, you never know when you might be without service.  Print off driving directions, hotel, campground, and/or VRBO reservation confirmations, and flight itinerary if you're flying.  

If you're driving to a National Park or arriving anywhere late at night, definitely print off driving directions or buy a map from a gas station as you get closer.  We did this on our drive to Yellowstone and we were so glad we did.  Cell service was minimal in the middle of Wyoming and it was very dark the last few hours of our drive into West Yellowstone.  Always be prepared.  

Clean your house some.  

And make your kids help.  Remember, they are smart.  They can be taught.  And they will be better college dorm roommates because you cared enough to show them how to use a toilet brush.  

All of our kids know how to pick-up, dust, and vacuum their rooms (ages 8-15).  And, they know how to clean a bathroom like a boss!  They can do it!  Trust me!  Practice makes perfect, so let them practice!  And maybe one day they'll earn $30/hour cleaning their college friends' bathrooms one day.  Score! 

Keep working your to-do lists.

Place your lists where you walk by them and see them multiple times a day.  Maybe you tape them on your fridge.  I place mine right next to our phone / catchall station at the end of our kitchen counter.  You know, that place where everything goes to live and grows into a huge pile that eventually has to be gone through and sorted.  

Bonus:  My husband likes to get the car washed and vacuumed out before we leave.  Just so we can feel like it's clean the first 30 minutes of the road trip before the Sun Chips are whipped out.  

24 hours before:

Finish packing.

For us, this is pretty much the night before we leave.  Laundry is completely caught up.  Every kid has their pack list and within 15 minutes they are ready for me to check their bags (if they like).  The hubs and I tend to pack after the kids are in bed.  

Load the bikes or the cargo carrier onto your vehicle.

Try to do this the night before you leave.  This time we're only gone 4 nights and we don't need extra packing space for beach, mountain, or camping gear.  So we'll take our bikes this time, thanks to our Thule hitch rack.  This rack holds 5 bikes easily (we cram on a sixth) and even leans back to allow access to your hatchback while bikes are still loaded.

But, how do we pack all that extra gear I mentioned?  The StowAway MAX Cargo Carrier is the answer.  It allows for more space at our feet in the van and easy access to coolers and suitcases without unloading outdoor gear and everything else.  The Stowaway locks up and swings away from the van so you can easily access your hatchback.  As my husband would say, awesome sauce.  

Don't forget your camera and go-pro.

Charge up the batteries before you go.  Grab extra phone charging cords and throw them in your bag.

Download any movies or books you want to listen to.  

Right now, we are trying  Still trying to decide if we like it for the long haul.  We also ask each kid to pick one favorite DVD to bring along.  Somehow, Sound of Music always makes it in there for the really long road trips.  The hills are alive... 

Finish any last minute cleaning.

I love coming back home to a clean house whenever possible.  I know I'll already have grocery shopping and loads of sandy, muddy vacation laundry to do, so coming home to a clean home extends that relaxed getaway feeling.  By the way, if you have access to a washer and dryer on your vacation, do some of your laundry before you come home if possible.  Pack a kitchen sized trash bag in each suitcase for everyone to place their dirty laundry.  

Two hours out: 

If you're road tripping, grab an igloo and pack your perishables.  

One less fast food stop and save some moolah on the road.  What perishable items can you stick in a medium sized Igloo cooler to take along?  For us, this is usually any fruit, vegetables, cheese, and sandwich meat that we can snack on in the car, or use for a picnic lunch while traveling.  Throw in mustard and mayo.  Grab a bag and add any crackers and chips you have laying around.  Voila!  Lunch on the road!

Make sure your kitchen is clean.

Is the dishwasher going?  Who wants to come home to a pile of dirty dishes?  Not me.  Hand your kids a broom for picking up last minute crumbs.

Bonus: Fill up water bottles.  

One for each person.  Stay hydrated and don't waste money on expensive water at the gas stations.  Pack a 24 pack of water bottles if you like.  


You did it!  You are ready to go.  

You made a plan and stuck to it.  You wrote your to-do lists and prioritized.  And you realized many of those "C" items can just wait until you return.  

If your house is clean too, give yourself an extra pat on the back.  If not, pat yourself on the back anyway! Give yourself grace.  There's always next time.  

You and your family are going on an adventure!  Enjoy!

What tips do you have for getting your family out the door?  I'm sure I've left something out, so we'd love to know!  Just leave a comment below.  

Feel free to share this post with a friend if you think they would find it helfpul. Thank you!

All photographs within this post were taken by Tanya Raedeke unless otherwise noted. Please do not use without written permission.

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