There are some must-haves to making long road trips safe (no one jumps out of the moving van in a fit of craziness) and fun (no one decides to run away from home when the trip is over). Besides the usuals like flash lights, jack, first aid kit, cell phone, flares and maps here is a list of things I take on the road with us.
1. Wipes. You think you don't need them because you don't have anyone in diapers? Then think again! Especially handy if you have a bleeder: someone who gets a bloody nose when you look at them wrong. If you are planning any kind of altitude change you will want wipes - a bloody nose is just waiting to happen. Also good for when you children decide to roll in the dirt or smear their lunch all over themselves. And a good way to clean up after any "accidents" that driving long distances produces, if you catch my drift.
2. Pen and paper. Don't even look twice at the pencil. You are just asking for trouble. Unless you are packing a pencil sharpener with an enclosed shaver just stick to the pen. Not only is this good for keeping kids occupied in the car its also good for say writing down directions. Oh, you have GPS you say...take the pen and paper, trust me.
3. Plastic Bags. I am miss eco friendly, toting my own cloth grocery bags and using cloth diapers etc etc, but this is a necessity on a road trip Unless you want to be smelling that...whatever it is your smelling, stick it in a plastic bag and tie it up tight. Your other option is to toss the clothes or shoes or whatever in the nearest trash can and call it a loss. Suddenly that plastic bag is looking like a great option isn't it? I don't care how well you plan for motion sickness, doubling up on the diapers or making sure everyone goes to the restroom before you hit the road. Something will happen: a bird will do the deed on your favoritest sweat shirt or someone will step in "it". Just pack some up and hope you don't need it.
4. Snacks and water. Lots of water. I think its the living in the desert that has done it to me but I take water everywhere. It started out that I just needed a small bottle. Then a couple. Then the bottles got bigger. Now we are up to 2 gallons of water and everyone has their own bottle. On a road trip you might want to plan your route around the Water Mill sights. Snacks are for your peace of mind so you don't have to hear, "But I'm hungry!" Every 15 min starting at 4 pm.
5. Toys everyone can play with. By that I mean 1 thing that can be shared between all your children regardless of age. My last trip I decided to bring all our hand held games. These aren't Game Boys or Segas. No, I mean games like hangman, cars, sesame street, monopoly you get the idea. I guess it wouldn't have been a bad idea if all the games were the same game. Or if all of them had working batteries. But inevitably there were fights, "I want that game!" and "Make him share!" I am thinking next time around I will go to the $1 store and get a whole bunch of those puzzles in a square. Everyone has basically the same toy, there are no batteries and if you get bored with your you can take your siblings.
You might have noticed I didn't say to bring portable DVD players or CDs or strollers. I have noticed once you get out of your neck of the woods the windows become the kids favorite toy. If they were watching tv they would miss everything on the outside of the car. And if you are blaring music to top the kids then you are missing out on some of the funniest conversations. Once you get there these kids have been sitting for a long time. They need to run around, they need to be held. And besides you will need the space for a cooler or extra clothing.