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Our “Road Trip Survival Guide”

Road tripping is an awesome way to explore the country. I wanted to write out what we brought and why and how we survive on the road. …. I don’t have much on how to keep the kids from fighting or going crazy in the car… that will forever be a mystery.

What we brought:
With borrowing a Honda Civic there isn’t much space. It is saving us tones on gas so it is totally worth it, but we didn’t bring anything extra. Here is what we did bring:

1. 2 tents-Big one for when we are camped for several nights or have time to set up, little one for short stops, late nights, or full campgrounds that only have small tent sites left. One medium easy tent might be better but we already had the other two.

2. 4 camp chairs. We haven’t used these as much as we thought. The kids have small ones so they are easier to pack. Maybe we wouldn’t bring them again… still up in the air on that. At the campground it is nice to have somewhere to sit, but we haven’t spent much time at the campground except for sleeping.

3. Thermo rests. We have 1 real, brand name, thermo rest and it works awesome (especially since it was already used and from a garage sale when be bought it). We have another knock off brand one that is new and already leaking air bad. The kids just have little sleeping pads.

4. Bedding-We have two good adult sleeping bags. The kids have their kid sleeping bags but we brought them a moving blanket for underneath, a wool blanket and another cheaper adult sleeping bag for the top. We brought our pillows and I made small camping pillows for the kids.

5. Clothing-A suitcase would never fit in the trunk so we packed our cloths in the cloth (reusable) shopping bags that squish good. We have enough shirts, socks and underwear for a week but less pants because they are bulky and can be used more than one day. 2 sweaters and 2 pairs of shoes per person. We also have 1 of the outfits dressy for church or a nice restaurant. The weeks cloths range from hiking to nice, warm to cold.

6. Food-There really isn’t room for food. This has been practice during the trip but we are trying to keep only a few meals ahead in the car. It is easy to really pack up on snack stuff but it takes so much space so we just have a few things at a time. There is lots of grocery stores everywhere just off the road. We haven’t had trouble finding stuff anywhere yet… but in national parks it is way more expensive. We always have tea, sugar and lemon or lime for our water bottles. Salt, mustard and ketchup in small packages.

7. Cooking-Stove, fuel, pot and pan with lids to keep out the bugs, matches, small plastic plates, bowls, small cups, forks and spoons for everyone, 2 spreading knives, 1 sharp, 2 big metal stirring, cutting board, can opener, flipper, collapsible washing tub, small soap, and dish rag. We pack the food in a cloth shopping bag and the cooking stuff in another. These bags don’t crush but there isn’t any extra storage container space wasted. It is easy to pull stuff out of the trunk too, all in their own bags.

8. Medium sized cooler. We found a taller, narrower one that would fit between the two car seats and doesn’t take near as much space as a standard size one. Often it is empty and we can pack other stuff in it. Peanut butter, jam, hummus and lime juice is the most common.

9. Bath bag-soap, shampoo, 3 towels, basic make-up. Nothing fancy, no blow dryers or curling irons.

10. Basic camping stuff-flashlight, headlamp, first aid including pain meds, band aids, charcoal (great for digestive problems that always seem to hit sometime on a trip), rope and cloths pins for clothesline, matches, wipes and hand sanitizer. Should have put in a small hammer for tent pegs but we forgot this time.

11. Hubby has all his camera stuff

12. Kindle with all our books

13. Kids each have a small bag for toys.

….. We are only picking up very small souvenirs. Pictures and memories are the best!

Most of our campgrounds were reserved before we left, especially for the weekends because that is when they fill up. We tried to stay in National Parks when we could because we got a National Park Pass. If there wasn’t national parks where we wanted to stay we checked with state parks. There is different fees for different states which could make the night more expensive (entry fee plus camping fee). All the states that we have stayed in have ways to reserve their campsites online, often through other companies. Campsite fees are usually around $20 a night but can range up and down by at least $10. There are lots of other private campgrounds like KOA and others but they seem to be more expensive, way more tacky, less private etc.

Laundry and Showers:
Every place is different and these aren’t as reliable as I would like. All national parks have had options for these but they are usually charged, and possibly offsite and run privately. For laundry this is fine but it is kinda weird with showers. We shower and do laundry whenever we find it because we are never sure how easy it will be at the next stop. We do laundry every 3-5 days (we get showers most days). We brought a bag of detergent, it is crazy expensive from a laundromat.

Simple is key, otherwise the cooler is always overflowing and there are lots of extra leftovers hanging around. We do boil-in-a bag rice with cans of beans and a small jar of salsa. Makes a good protein/carb meal that doesn’t take much space. The kids really like ramen and canned veggies. No protein and very little nutrients in the ramen but makes for a warm meal. We do lots of apples, carrot sticks, hummus, nuts, and bars. Most breakfasts are peanut butter and jam sandwiches in the car driving to our next place or heading to hike. We stop at restaurants and fast food, especially when driving all day, when needed. We budgeted $30 per day for the 4 of us (so about $50 per day including lodging). So far, on this trip we have stayed under. Visiting my dad and other friends and family along the way is great for good, home cooked food. We end up out driving or exploring most of the day so we have used the stove much less than we thought we would. It is just to hard to set up at rest areas or picnic places, and takes twice as much time.

I have thought I would love to do the RV thing and travel the country for a year but RV’s are so much more expensive. Besides the obvious thousands of dollars to purchase it there is also the huge increase in gas costs. We are getting between 30-40 mpg in this car. It would probably be 3 times as much with an RV. The campsites for RV’s are also more expensive by probably around $10 a night. The other thing we have noticed especially on this trip, is that there are lots of scenic roads, bridges mountain passes that RV’s aren’t allowed on because of size or steep roads. So, for now, we are happy with camping and exploring as long as we can.