The list should be divided into categories: clothes and equipment (these are the things that go in the trunk, to be exhumed at your final destination) and the stuff that makes or breaks your travel time—food, entertainment, and car comfort. Older kids can each be put in charge of a category checklist as the car gets loaded.
When traveling in the car with small children, allow more time to reach your destination. Count on stopping every hour to stretch your legs and run around. Churches are good stopping spots if rest areas aren’t available, as they often have open, grassy areas and playgrounds. Traveling at night or during nap times is a good way to make up time. Put blankets, pillows, and any necessary stuffed animals in the back seat at the ready.
Your local party goods and dollar stores are perfect places to find inexpensive new forms of amusement. Wrap each new toy as a gift, to make the excitement last. Maze books, magic-pen books, stickers, a magnetic puzzle of the United States, even car bingo can keep everyone entertained. For long car trips, the book Miles of Smiles is filled with car games. Picture-puzzle books (like I Spy and Where’s Waldo) can be made into games as well: One person names an object for the rest to find in the picture.
Bring lap desks and art supplies for projects. Dated spiral-bound drawing pads can be a nice way to chronicle a trip, with each child keeping the finished pad (parents can annotate as instructed). Encourage older kids to journal with a cool pad and a set of gel pens.
Excerpted from the Second Edition of Moon Tampa & St. Petersburg.