packing tips

Road sign_0886

So last week we took off for Southern France.  More to come on that.  First, though:  if you road trip a lot, consider some packing tips that made our trip with our kids–more particularly the driving part–downright pleasant.


One.  Take food.  I mean, like, lots of options. Let’s face it:  driving for hours is rough on kids and adults alike, even if the scenery is breathtaking (and it was).  For kids who may be approaching critical mass, I recommend the following: the makings for peanut butter & jelly sandwiches; crackers that come in cool shapes (the Simpsons worked for us); a good baguette that can be happily ripped into impressive chunks and dipped in hummus; fresh apples and a decent knife to cut them with; Greek yogurt plus the requisite granola to fold into it; (good!) chocolate; nectars, juices, and bottles of water; nuts of whatever variety the folks in the car like to munch on; and good potato chips (without msg). This is merely a start. If you brainstorm ahead of the curve and leave yourself time to hit up the local Carrefour or Mercadona (or of course Costco or Target . . .), you are so going to thank yourself when road restlessness sets in.

Millay by roadside_0895

Town wall of Bar_0942

Two. Take utensils/a small cutting board, paper towels, and bags for trash. Don’t laugh, but we take knives for cutting and spreading, spoons for, well, you know–all the things spoons are good for.  The small cutting board works brilliantly for sandwich making during short stops.  Paper towels are about the handiest thing since the steering wheel, especially when spills inevitably happen or carsickness sets in (yep).  Having a small plastic bag for garbage likewise keeps me sane: the car stops, the bag goes in a garbage can at a gas station somewhere, and the snacking resumes anew, sans mess.

Three.  Take a throw-up bucket.  Trust me:  you may never need it, but the one time you do, you will be.  So.  Grateful.  We currently use a nifty red container that once held ice cream.  It’s the perfect size, and its presence in the car helps me breathe easier on roads through mountains with hairpin turns or through European tunnels that go on.  And on.  (And on.)

Four. Take ‘interventions.’ Aspirin or ibuprofin for headaches or cramps. 7-Up & saltines for unhappy tummies. A supply of Kleenex for all the obvious reasons. Soap or antibacterial gels or lotions for similarly obvious reasons.  Kids’ pillows/blankets from home make the car feel more cozy; moreover, they do a nice job of delineating ‘boundary’ lines between bodies, the result being that kids feel less jealous of their own ‘territory’ (because it’s clearly staked out).

Pic of car_0989

Five. Stop frequently. Believe it or not, I consider this a key part of packing–a way of frontloading the trip.  Stopping breaks up the drive and gives everyone a chance to enjoy the scenery. We stopped in a small hillside town in the Spanish Pyrenees–Punt de Bar, population 18. We met a gentleman who makes goat cheese. We tasted his cheese. We got to check out the view of the mountains from his cheese-making kitchen. The kids made friends with a big, beautiful dog whose breed I couldn’t guess but whose friendliness made him an instant favorite. We laughed at the riotous birds whose country-fied chattering never stopped.

Town on a hill_0907

Gate in Bar_0933

Millay by door_0976

Six. Very important. Keep a small notebook and a pencil handy, for jotting down the names and descriptions (and, if you’re in Europe, the dates!) of the places you see.

Happy travels.  (And stay tuned for stories of ours!)

(Town:  Punt de Bar, in the Spanish Pyrenees, population 18.)


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