Even getting in the car doesn’t always mean we’re ready to go—many times we’ve started driving only to circle the block and return for sunglasses or water bottles or books on CD. But eventually we’re able to hit the road, and it always feels great!

Preparing Your Departure

As the time to leave approaches, decide how you’re going to travel.

Families do this many different ways:

  • Leave at 4:00 a.m. to let the kids sleep in the car.

  • Leave early enough to drive all day and still have time for activities.

  • Leave after work and drive late into the night.

  • Drive all night while children sleep.


Whatever your plan, allow extra time for rest stops, meals, or emergencies. Everything takes longer when you’re traveling with children. And, unless you’re a genuine night owl, don’t drive too late at night for safety’s sake.

Packing the Car

If you’re leaving early in the morning, pack your luggage in the car the night before. Leave electronics and valuables to pack in the morning, but make sure you have space for them. You will be amazed at how long it takes to get everything in!


Once you’ve packed everything in your car or in your top carrier, check to make sure the driver has good visibility. Don’t block the back window!

Getting Ready

Make sure your food is ready to go. Do you need to make sandwiches and put them in a fridge for the next day? Do you need to refrigerate drinks so you’ll have cold drinks for the road? Do you need to slice fruit or buy vegetables? Do you have ice or cold packs for your cooler?


If you plan to leave early in the morning, decide whether to feed kids before you leave your pack breakfast for the car. You may also want to lay out everybody’s clothes to make the morning go faster.

Last-Minute Tasks

As you’re preparing to leave the house, go back one more time to sweep the house and make sure everything is taken care of.

  • Look for anything you forgot to pack.

  • Check your fridge to make sure you haven’t left your travel food.

  • Take care of perishable food. Freeze or throw away leftovers. Give away food that might go back, such as milk, bread, or produce.

  • Lock doors and windows.

  • Make sure that sliding doors and windows have a bar or extra lock to keep them from being jimmied and slid open. If you have a home security system, turn on the alarm before you leave. Turn off lights and turn down the heat or air conditioning. Send your children to the bathroom one last time—they’ll be asking to go again far too soon!



This article is an excerpt from Loralee Leavitt and Rick Walton's Road Tripping: A Parent's Guide to Planning and Surviving the Annual Car Trip.
Like the article? We bet you’ll love this book:
Imagine driving down an empty road in the middle of nowhere, your spouse asleep in the passenger seat, kids fighting in the back, two more hours to the next hotel you hope has a vacancy, you’re s...
Road Tripping

Loralee Leavitt

Loralee Leavitt destroys candy for the sake of science, drags her family on long car trips, and enjoys all sorts of other family adventures. She writes about family subjects such as science experiments, budgeting, finding inexpensive alternatives, tr... Read More




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