summer road trip picks

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Our kids aren’t even out of school yet, but we’re already mapping out the summer schedule. And the topic of road trips keeps coming up. Do you have any road trips on your summer calendar? I know I’ve mentioned it before, but we find road trips more relaxed and easier to manage than plane trips.

The whole idea of being able to jump in the car and go feels so romantic and adventurous. And even if I do a crummy job of packing, on a road trip, I know I can stop for forgotten essentials on the way. In fact, we’re already talking about what sorts of road trips we might make after we move back to the U.S.!

For those of you hitting the road this summer, when I imagine my idealized family road trip, this is what I would pack:

1) Binoculars.
The thing about binoculars is, if you have them with you, and they’re easily accessible, you’ll use them! You’ll explore your surroundings as you drive, and you’ll give in to the temptation to stop at every scenic lookout on the way. Which will end up meaning a better trip! Plus, they double as entertainment for the kids. This cheery yellow pair floats.

2) A weekend travel bag.
We love our luggage, but for a spontaneous road trip I like the idea of a stylish soft-side bag — something that’s not too big, so that you don’t overpack. This one by Rail & Wharf caught my eye.

3) A summery blanket.
Your kids will use it when they’re napping in the car. And it will be just the thing for an impromptu picnic on the roadside or at your destination. This turkish towel folds down simply without a lot of bulk, perfect for keeping in the car all summer without taking up lots of space.

4) A sun hat.
Yes, it will protect you from the sun. And yes, when your hair looks awful after a day jumping in-and-out of the pool, this will hide the mess. Wear a chic sunhat and a pair of shades, and you’ll be set for pretty much every summer situation. I love this stripe-y one.

5) A cooler or basket for snacks.
One of our favorite things about road trips is having easy access to food right there in the car, so we don’t have to depend on a drive thru. We like to keep a cooler stocked with goodies where the kids can reach it. This red one looks vintage and will make you feel nostalgic.

6) A Go Pro camera.
Do you know the Go Pro? It’s made specifically to film things like skiing, skateboarding, mountain biking, skydiving, etc. It can be strapped to your forehead like a headlamp so you can film what you’re seeing while you adventure. Ralph has one and loves it! Like the binoculars, if you have one, you’ll look for excuses to use it. You’ll sign up for wind-surfing, or go zip-lining at the ropes course, just so you can film it. And hey, whatever it takes to get you out there and adventuring is a winner in my book!

7) An activity book.
Yes, kids get bored on car rides. So we like to bring along entertainment. We’re big fans of activity/sketch books. They work for a variety of ages, so the kids can share them. The younger ones might treat them like a coloring book, and they older ones might follow the challenges and activities. We like this option from illustrator and children’s poet, Calef Brown.

8) A deck of cards.
A deck of cards simply comes in handy on a road trip. The kids might use the deck to entertain themselves — with a card game, or by practicing their cards tricks. And when you get to your destination, the grownups will use it for late night card games as well. They take up so little space, that we like to keep a deck in the glove box all the time. This deck by Helveticards calls to the designer in me.

9) A hoodie.
Summer trips mean you can get way with packing light. Swimsuit, t-shirt, beach-y skirt, flip flops. Done. But I also like to include a hoodie for everyone in the family. They just come in handy, don’t they? For changes in the weather, or for a cooler, late night adventure at the sand dunes. It’s nice to have an extra layer at the ready. This one has polka dots with smiley faces. Cute!

10) A beach towel.
Lastly, don’t forget to pack your beach towels. They’re sure to end up multi-tasking along the way, and they’re made to get beat up and hide the dirt, so you can use them hard all summer long. A stack of cheery beach towels sitting in the trunk of the car is a sign of good things ahead.

Now your turn: Tell me what I missed. What is your essential-can’t-leave-home-without-it road trip item? And where will you be driving this summer? I’d love to hear!

P.S. — Numbers 1, 2, 5, 6 and 8 would make great Father’s Day gifts!