Monday, May 14, 2012

Traveling with Kids Part 1 - Packing "Have-Tos"

With our crew of three boys, two which are on the autism spectrum, we have learned how to pack the luggage and pack the car. Packing can become an art form if you work at it hard enough. My dear wife, Sarah, is a pro at it. I'm going to touch on some "have-tos" for packing, but I'm mainly going to be talking about things that you really need to pack in order for the trip to go smoothly.

First the luggage and car packing.

I'm sure that you all know this, but it is worth repeating. MAKE A LIST! Now, we don't always make a list for the trip to grandma's house an hour and a half away, but we do make lists for our long week or two week trips. And, just like Santa, we make the lists and check them twice. Some things that we definitely list are:
  • Medications
  • Special items needed for the trip (you have to have fishing rods if you're going to the lake!)
  • Special items that you may be taking to someone on the trip (don't forget that great one-of-a-kind gadget that you found for Grandpa!)
  • Must haves that you can't buy along the way (Study Bible, special stuffed animal, lap-tops etc.).
It might help to also go ahead and list usual items like clothes, else you'll be using your travel budget to buy outfits at Wal-Mart (yes, we've learned the hard way!).

We have also discovered, over the years, how to use every available space in the car and that every item has it's place.
  • Have a toddler whose feet don't touch the floor? Use the floor space to store his needs. Diaper bag, extra pillows, pull-ups, can all be placed there and, perhaps, even make his ride more comfortable (ever travelled for a long time with flapping legs and feet that can't touch the ground?).
  • Do you have a van with bucket seats behind the driver and passenger? Put the cooler between them. It makes it handy for the kids to grab a snack and it's also easy for mom (or dad when mom's driving) to reach around and help.
  • Have an extra seat where no one is riding? Don't leave it empty! Put blankets, pillows, duffel bags with toys (more on that later) on it.
With large families, families that require a lot of things when you travel, or going on a long trip that requires more things, it is often a necessity to use every space in the vehicle. Be creative. You know your needs.

Everything is ready to load - including Jo-jo our dog!
Now for the fun part of the post.

"Must Haves" that will make your trip way more enjoyable.

I know that I have talked about some of the obvious things that you have to pack. These are some extras that we always pack to make things more enjoyable.

Reward/Goody Bags

Number one on our list is our reward/goody bag. These are things that we pass out at intervals throughout our trip. They could be anything.
  • Little toys
  • Games
  • An unusual snack
  • Coloring books w/crayons
  • You name it, you can put it in. You know your children. 
A couple of recommendations are to make sure that you have equal things in an equal amount for each child.
  • More than once we have bought two of one color and one of another or two that are the same and one that isn't quite like the others. Don't do that unless your kids are totally used to that type of thing and can handle it. Our autism spectrum kids can't. It doesn't work for them.
  • Sometimes it's good to have three different colors so that you can tell whose is whose, but at least make sure that they are basically the same.
  • If you have a child(ren) that is sensitive to bright blinking lights, smells, noise, car sickness, etc. choose accordingly. Nothing is worse than a meltdown or sick child on a long trip. It really defeats the purpose of the rewards/goodies.
  • Remember, you know your children and what they can and can't handle.
We'll talk more about this tomorrow in my "Traveling Have-Tos" post.


Electronics in a home can be a blessing or a curse and the same is true in the car. I'll repeat my mantra once again - you know your children! Here are some tips and ideas.
  • If you are blessed to own a mini-van with a DVD player in it, then that can be a God send! More than once an hour and half trip to Nashville for Drs. appointments have gone smoothly because we had a movie to pop in. If your vehicle isn't equipped with one, then consider buying a small travel DVD player. You can purchase ones that hang write over the back of seats now and the prices aren't quite as high as they used to be. When you pack the movies, take into consideration what movies will be enjoyable for all. Your 14 year old probably isn't into Blue's Clues anymore!
  • Handheld games or computer tablets. Again, they could be a blessing or a curse. Make sure you pack one for each child or at least have plans for the other kids while one is taking his turn. There is even a way to hook a game system up to your mini-van DVD player. Again, make sure that everyone will have a turn somehow and pack their favorite games.
More on this tomorrow as well.

Fun Bag

Don't forget to pack a small bag with favorite toys to play with while they are waiting for their goody bag items to start being passed out. Some ideas/reminders are:
  • Cars for the boys or small dolls for the girls
  • Coloring books and crayons, sticker books, etc.
  • Favorite books to read
  • Favorite stuffed animal
Remember what you bought (or are thinking of buying) for the goody bag so that you don't duplicate - compliment instead. If you know that stickers are going to be passed out, then make sure their sticker book is in the toy/duffel bag. One suggestion is to pack a separate bag for each child and don't forget to put it in a handy place to get to.


Snacks are a big thing in the Tinkel family - especially on a long trip. Some folks don't allow their children to eat in the car, but that wouldn't work for us. Here are a few things that we have learned the hard (or easy) way.
  • We like to try different snacks when we travel. Start with some out of the ordinary things and buy some along the way. Did you see some regional drink or snack at the last rest stop? Buy it and save it for snack time later on.
  • Make sure you take into consideration allergies. Or...
  • Make sure you think sugar or things that make your kids hyper. We can't/don't allow our kids to drink or eat anything with red food coloring in it. The results could effect them for days to come. We really try to stay away from all food coloring, but, that's just us...what's my favorite know your children!
Once again, we'll talk more about this tomorrow.

Well, I pray that relaying some of the things that work with the Tinkel family will help with your packing and getting ready for your next big travelling adventure. Tomorrow we'll talk about what we actually do on the trip to make things run smoothly and happily (for kids and parents alike).

Don't forget that this post is part of a great "Five Days of..." Blog Hop that is being presented by the TOS Homeschool Crew. Other members of the crew have chosen other "Five Days of..." themes to blog about this week. Click on the banner below to check out some of great things that they are talking about!




  1. this post couldn't have come a better time, since we leave for vacation in a few days. thanks for all the great tips!

  2. This is great, although my girls have gone through stages of loving small cars too ;-)

  3. Can I suggest keeping and reusing your packing lists? I just added a few "don't forget" things to my regular packing lists because I wished I had brought them with us on our trip last week.

  4. Thanks Marcy, Sweetpeas and Cristi. And, yes, Cristi you can suggest anything you want!