There's nothing better than a road trip: the spontaneity, the open road … the SCREAMING TODDLERS! If the prospect of spending hours in the car with your kids sounds like torture, you're not the only one. But before you resign yourself to another chorus of "Are we there yet?" or give up on family road trips entirely, add this must-have travel gear to your next packing list. Everything here is available via Amazon, so in just a few clicks you’ll be ready to hit the road.
Prepare for Battle
In a perfect world, road trips would go off without a hitch. But there’s a reason movies like National Lampoon's Vacation are hilarious — because they hit so darn close to home. Plan your road trip like a military operation, and you'll be prepared when disaster strikes. Because it will.
Potty accident? Carsick kid? Smoothie explosion? Get a Higher Gear Trunk Organizer ($28) so you know where everything is, and you'll be way less stressed when mishaps happen. Keep cleaners and towels handy for quick and easy access. It comes with reflective panels and in multiple colors, and folds up and stows away when not in use. But since you've got all these pockets, you may as well stock up on trash bags, wipes, and Kids n' Pets Stain & Odor Remover ($15), too.
You should also be prepared for, you know, actual emergencies. Your new trunk organizer will also hold a can of Fix-A-Flat ($10), a set of flashing LED hazard flares ($20), a small fire extinguisher ($13), and AAA’s Excursion Road Kit (above, $55), which includes a flashlight, first aid kit, air compressor/tire inflator, and jumper cables, among other necessities.
Moving on to the real drama…
Keep Them Connected
A successful family road trip means choosing your battles. The first thing to sacrifice in the name of familial harmony? Screen time limits. Pick up the Fire 7 Kids Edition for $100. It comes with a two-year warranty, no-questions-asked warranty, and one year of Amazon’s FreeTime Unlimited — access to 15,000 popular apps and games, videos, books, and educational content from PBS Kids, Nickelodeon, Disney, and more.
These days, there’s no excuse for running out of battery power. Prepare for a car full of zombies with a Jelly Comb six-port USB charger ($17); if your kids are video game fanatics, bring their consoles or laptops along for the ride with a Foval 12v Power Converter ($19). It even has two USB ports. And hell hath no fury like a preschooler whose Netflix connection just died in the middle of Moana. keep your whole family connected with a mobile hotspot that can support up to 15 devices ($49 from Verizon or $50 from AT&T, with qualifying service plans).
But you don’t want to hear all that nonsense. Volume-limiting headphones like those from Kidz Gear ($18) should be standard equipment for everyone in the backseat.
Bring the Snacks. All the Snacks.
A chewing child is a quiet child. Keep your kids fed on the go with High Road’s backseat cooler ($40) that’s also an organizer, cup holder, and tray for meal and play. Another option for controlling the chaos is a seatback organizer ($15), designed with a built-in tablet holder, cooler, and pockets for small activities to keep kids busy. Older kids can manage their own snacks without missing a minute of the Disney Channel action, and younger kids won't drop their tablets while binge-watching Paw Patrol.
Older kids aren't the only ones who can get hangry on the road. Keep the hot stuff hot and the cold stuff cold with Wagan’s portable 12v cooler/warmer ($80). Fill it with cold drinks, hot leftovers, baby bottles — anything, really. Just plug in to your car’s auxiliary power, and hit the road. Imagine the great time you’ll make if you don’t have to stop for lunch.
Think Comfort (and Simplicity)
Make the car comfortable, and your kids are more likely to relax (and maybe even nap!). Get a set of three Veneev portable window shades ($12) to keep kids cool on sunny days, and you can cover both side windows plus either the rear hatch or front passenger window. Encourage naps on-the-go with kid-sized wraparound travel pillows ($25) or, better, a playful armrest buddy (below) that turns car armrests into pillows ($20) and comes with a matching blankie. Save your sanity with My Bucklemate ($16), a simple plastic doohickey that lifts and holds the belt buckle clip upright, making it easier for kids to buckle themselves. You'll be singing its praises after the 50th potty break.
Obviously, the important thing to remember on a road trip with kids is to keep them occupied; the more time they have to be bored, the longer it will take until you all get to your destination and have some real fun. Happy motoring.