Dear Travel Mates,
Are you one of the thousands who are gearing up to do a road trip this spring/summer? If so, I’m here to help. I feel its my duty to share my list of ESSENTIAL THINGS you’ll need on your journey.
Before we get to that, a quick update on our travels.
This last month has felt like a tall glass of lemonade on a scorching hot summer day.
After a year of human starvation, we were surrounded by people who are precious to us. Our cups were filled, our hearts were warmed, our arms were put to good use. Life almost felt normal for a second.
As it turns out, our friends and family who live in the LA area all have pretty darn great lifestyles. And we got a full scoop of each with sprinkles on top.
First, we stayed at my dear friend Anna’s new ranch in Palm Springs. Walking from the guest house, across the putting green, past the regal cactuses and into her impeccably designed main house after a workout in the gym felt like I was on a luxury retreat. To keep it real we also played a mean nerf gun battle with the kids, took a bikeride in the hood, watched the kids play tennis while drinking wine, and had big delicious meals.
Then we went to my dear friend Erin’s place in the mountains of Idylwild. This is the kind idyllic town you fantasize about – an outdoor thrift store with worthy finds, live music by the ice cream joint, and a pottery studio where we spent many hours. Her house is perched on top of the mountain looking across the valley, with beautiful hikes right outside their door. The kids made waterfalls in the sloping mud, we all went on a hike through the rocks and creek, and had many delicious meals together including a second Seder.
Next stop was Augora Hills. My husband’s cousins, who I didn’t know well but after one week truly feel like family, live in a beautiful house with a pool and a jacuzzi. It was the perfect setting for an epic family reunion with my husband’s brother’s family who arrived to town too. We sang by the fire as the kids eyelids drooped, did a huge BBQ, and went on walks in the fields.
This month has been like soaking in a jacuzzi of love.
So now that you’re all up to date on our shmaltzy LA adventures let’s get to the important stuff – your list of travel item essentials.
Obviously, this is my take on the matter, but I did consult my family too. Your list will change depending on whether you RV it, how long you go for, and how old your kids are.
Travel Item Essentials Countdown:
20. Ice pack
You’d be surprised how many times we’ve used our ice compress- On my achy heel, on Tsuri’s achy shoulder, on the kids when they get hurt. A road trip means lots of sitting, walking, and schlepping. A good ice pack might be just the thing you need.
Because we only stay at each place for an average of one week, we inevitably have leftover food to transport. But that’s only one reason to bring tupperware on your trip. It’s going to be the container for your kids’ rock collection, your frozen bananas for smoothies, and your stand-in ‘junk drawer.’
18. Bungee cord
These things actually do come in handy. We use one to hold down our turtle back on top of the car and the other to hold our stuff from avalanching on top of whichever kid is in the back-back. We only bought one after leaving a trail of winter gear along the highway, but you might want to get yours ahead of time.
17. Computer Cover
When Tsuri ordered this last summer before we left I thought it was a cute purchase but not a necessary one. Now I get it. My computer would never have survived being climbed over, kicked in the nuts, packed in a scramble, and thrown into every new home if not for my cute pink plastic cover. Also, it makes me happy 🙂
16. Bathing Suits
This may seem obvious but it’s worth mentioning that the suits must always be packed ON TOP. There is a place to swim around every corner and the kids must swim in all of them, even the frigid ones. Brrr.
15. Coffee Machine
Believe it or not, not all Airbnbs have coffee machines and many are miles away from a Starby. If this simple thing keeps my husband calmer in the morning as the kids refuse to do school work, I’m in the middle of teaching a class, and he has a conference call in two minutes, then it’s essential.
14. Smoothie Machine
At this point you know that smoothies are my comfort food. I thought it would be enough to get one every now and then from a store but I was wrong. Making my own smoothie in the morning and taking it out to the beach, lake, or mountain has been my happy place. We got a personal one with a strong motor because I like them thick enough to eat with a spoon.
13. Board Games
We didn’t bring toys with us but we did bring games we could all play together. You know, in case we were craving even MORE together time. After a family whirlwind sometimes its nice to connect over some dice. We love the National Parks Monopoly, Machi Koro, and Lemonade Squeeze.
I know you know this, but I’m just reminding you that ALL snacks get eaten in the first hour. You MUST have a second stash of snacks for the fourth hour. We often go through a full bag of clementines, a bag of popcorn, a few apples, pretzels, seaweed snacks, banana chips, Ritz Crackers, and sandwiches I make before we push off. This is at #12 but it’s definintely a make or break on a road trip.
11. Bunsen Burner
We’ve only used this about five times, but when you need it, you need it. It happens when you’ve been driving for hours, arrive to a dingy motel on Route 66, are too exhausted to think, and the kids need to be fed before they go feral. You put them in front of the TV and make pasta. Oh, and ALWAYS have pasta.
10. Sound Machine
This one comes in handy when your hotel happens to be across the street from the Transcontinental railroad which goes through town EVERY HOUR on the hour all through the night, or when people talking loudly in the hallway, or when one kid wakes up way too early and the other goes to sleep way to late. You just don’t know what the soundscape will be like.
Basketball has been the equivalent of a dog park for us. If our kids don’t get energy out once a day they climb on the furniture and pee in the house (metaphorically speaking.) So we had to make space for basketballs even in our packed van. One for each kid, of course ?. Your thing might not be basketball, but the point is, find something that will get them moving outside.
8. Camera for Kids
My son and daughter both requested cameras for their birthday and it was the perfect thing. Having a camera adds purpose to their exploration into nature. My son is especially into capturing mountains in the perfect light and zooming in on birds.
7. Many Water Bottles
This one might be a no brainer but what I want to accentuate here is the amount of water bottles you need. When we’re about to take a drive we fill up at least 5 of them. In our family they aren’t each assigned to one person rather float around the car at different times. The kids drink a TON, especially with the endless snacking.
There are two items that most airbnbs don’t have: A peeler (or at least a good one), and a sharp knife. And there is nothing worse than badly peeled carrots that your kids reject, or trying to cut sweet potato fries with a dull knife when you are too exhausted to stand. So we travel with our own. Oh, and a can opener is a good idea too.
5. Playstation 4
Hooking up the Playstation to each new home we’re in is the boys’ way of peeing in it and making it theirs (so many dog metaphors. I want a COVID dog too!) After years of them begging we finally bought one before we left on the trip. It grounds them and gives them a sense of continuity. Or I’m just rationalizing the hours spent on it.
Before we left on this trip the kids read physical books. We moved to Kindles to save space and they’ve proven to be crucial. We get most of our books from Libby. The only bummer is waiting for them when there’s a waitlist. So of course we cave and buy them. But at least we aren’t schlepping extra baggage and that’s a win.
We’ve gotten much better at shopping for exactly 5 -7 days but inevitably there is food left over – condiments, butter, milk, eggs, frozen fruit. Our two coolers have been an essential element of “Moving Day”. You’ll need at least one sturdy sealed cooler for dairy and frozen stuff and another (ours is the soft kind) for leftover veggies and fruit.
Ps. Moving Day is an ordeal. Coming in a future post…
We’re coming down to the two most essential travel items….
2. Yoga Mat
My yoga mat and I have been very intimate on this trip. It’s MY way of making the space my own. That narrow bit of sectioned off floor saves me from losing my sh*t. When I’m exercising on it the kids mostly leave me alone. Or maybe I give myself legitimacy not to answer them. Point is, it is my personal most essential item on this trip.
And here we are. Did you expect it? Our number one essential item on the trip has been our Britta. It has saved us so much money, plastic, and time. We have no idea what the water quality is like in each of the places we’ve been to and we don’t care. We arrive at a place and immediately fill it up. And we all drink a ton. Turns out the west coast is as dry as an east coast autumn leaf.
Things you think you need but DON’T
- 1. Clothes
You’re going to have to trust me on this. You need way less than you think, and that’s AFTER you reduced your list. We packed meticulously and STILL have too many. Since it’s warm season now, here’s what you need:
4 short sleeve shirts
2 pants (no more! I was going to write one!)
1 long sleeve shirt
1 bathing suit
Go crazy on the underwear and socks
I hope you don’t read this and think – well, that’s Vered. She always wears the same two shirts anyway. And yes, that’s true. But for myself I would make an even SMALLER list.
- 2. All Your Vitamins
Just take the two or three essentials. Mine permanently sit in a big tupperware box at the bottom of the car. So
3. Camping Stuff
Maybe it’s just us. But for the one night or two nights that you MAY camp, its best to forget it. Any extra baggage means more packing and unpacking to get to essential stuff. Skip it!
Ps. we haven’t camped once on this whole trip yet and are still schlepping the gear
4. Your Version of a Meditation Pillow
Skip the thing that you romantically fantasize about when you think of your perfect trip. I saw myself meditating every morning on my cute pillow no matter where I was. Ha! Sometimes I do meditate, but I didn’t need the pillow to come along for the ride.
So what do you think, friends? Will this be your list too? Do you have anything to add to the list? I want to know! Comment below.