Minimalist travel: surviving a road trip in a Mini Cooper.
In February of 2016, our family hit a fun milestone. Our first family vacation! We spent a week and half in sunny Florida with my parents. We visited Daytona Beach and ended the week in Orlando visiting Disney World! It was an amazing time, but it wasn’t without its challenges. You see, we don’t own a van or an SUV. We went to Florida and back in a Mini Cooper. You read that right. A Mini Cooper with 5.7 cubic feet of cargo space plus 2 adults, 2 kids, and 2 booster seats. So as you can imagine, I know a little bit about minimalistic travel 😉
I packed one suitcase for each of my kids. My mom got them kid sized suitcases (much like this one!) for the trip and were the perfect size for them to travel with and pack their clothes. My husband and I packed our things in a small suitcase, and I used one reusable grocery bag for toiletries all our toiletries. I also had my large Cindy Tote from Thirty-one, and my husband had his go-bag. As you can see, it didn’t leave room for much else. But we managed to get it all packed and had a great time! Here is how we did it.
Minimalist Travel Tips
My biggest piece of advice for minimalistic traveling is plan to do laundry at some point during your vacation. I know doing laundry during vacation doesn’t sound fun but it is the easiest way to minimize your luggage. I’m a firm believer that you need a down day on vacation which gives you the perfect opportunity to do laundry. We took along some of our DIY laundry detergent and did laundry right in the condo we were staying in.
The best way to make the most space in your suitcase is by using the KonMari method or another minimalist packing technique.
Movies and DVDS are a lifesaver on road trips. Cut down on space by getting a portable cd case so you can bring your entire DVD collection. I love this one!! Having one case with ALL the DVDs in it saves on time and sanity. No more hunting through a bunch of movies to find the one they want. Get your kids their own set of headphones and individual dvd players. Saves on fights and you don’t have to listen to their movies 😉
Having an iPad or tablet on a road trip is another great way for kids to pass the time. We don’t normally pay for apps but for our big trip to Florida we bought Minecraft for the iPad which was a big hit. Little surprises along your route will keep your kids exciting on your vacation. As you can see, I don’t think screen time rules apply in the car!
5. Smart phones
On our trip to Florida we gave our kids our old deactivated iPhones. These basically operate like an iPod and the kids were able to take pictures and videos while in the car.
6. Plan short days
We took three days to get from Wisconsin to Florida. The first two days were 6 hours and the third was just a short trip. This was perfect for our first road trip. It got them used to traveling long distance and what to expect on a road trip. On the way home they did make it about halfway before we had stop.
Find a hotel with a pool so your kids are able to burn off some energy when you stop for the night. Parents may just want to sleep when you stop for the night, but the last thing kids want to do is sit! Even a quick swim in the pool will do wonders for kids energy levels.
Truck stops and gas stations have come a long way in regards to the quality of snacks you can buy. Rather than packing a bunch of snacks, which may be cheaper but will take up a lot of space, buy snacks when you fill up with gas. Planning this extra money in your budget will free up space in your car.
One the best parts about road tips is eating! When you stop for meals make sure you don’t eat in the car. I know people want to just keep driving, but the extra time out of the car is good for your car and your spirit. You don’t get your car messy, you get to stretch your legs, and eat a meal with your family.
If you are staying in a condo or renting a house on vacation, it can be tempting to buy groceries from your hometown store. Don’t clutter up your car with groceries, but rather buy groceries when you get to your destination.
11. Car Seats
Our Mini Cooper has perfect seats for traveling, for the grown-ups anyway. Nothing is worse than being uncomfortable on a road trip. Before you leave, make sure your kids’ car seats are comfortable. It may require you to buy new car seats but it will be well worth it knowing the kids are comfortable.
12. Car Maintenance
Make sure you care is ready to hit the road by having an oil change, checking your tires and brakes, and making sure all fluids are sufficiently filled. Most cars today only have the basic gauges on it: fuel, odometer, rpm gauge. If you are mechanically inclined I recommend looking up an app that has a read out of your cars information: temperate, oil pressure and temperature. We used the OB2 fusion which “allows you to read OBD2 vehicle data directly from your iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad.” Our Mini Cooper doesn’t have more than the basic gauges which is hard for you to determine if something is wrong with the car. This app is just a lifesaver.
13. Have fun!
It’s family vacation but sometimes you get wrapped up in getting where you need to go instead of enjoying the ride. Make your road trip fun. Our family loves to listen to stand-up comedy on Pandora: Jim Gaffigan radio was a big hit. Crank up the tunes and dance in the car. Play silly road trip games. Listen to some fun audiobooks.
Road trips get monotonous, especially for kids. I recommend planning a surprise on your route. It could be a tourist stop, a new app, or a new toy to play with in the car. A couple of hours into the second day of our vacation we gave our kids two brand new DVDs. This small thing really pumped them up!
15. Don’t overpack
Even if you are traveling light, you still may have the tendency to bring things you don’t need. Our biggest mistake was bringing too much for our kids to do in the car. They were content with movies for the whole trip. Remember, as long as you are going somewhere with stores, you can stop and buy whatever you need. It may not be the best for your budget, but sometimes there is a price for your sanity. As Penn Jillette says, “I don’t go anywhere that money doesn’t matter.”
For more of my road trip tips, check out this post here.
Minimalist travel isn’t easy or for everyone but it is doable!! With these 15 tips you will be on the road enjoying time together as a family in no time. What are your travel tips? What hack has made your family vacation easier?