Last month when we returned from our three-week summer adventure to Michigan and Wisconsin, reader Kristin T. commented on Facebook that she would love to read a blog post about prepping for longer road trips: “I’m interested in meal planning, grocery shopping, storage of food, etc.” It was a great post idea, so we were happy to oblige. 🙂 This is Part One of a two-part series related to planning and executing a longer road trip. For Part Two, click here.
So how do we plan and prepare for our longer road trips? I’d like to say it’s all a well orchestrated process that goes so smoothly we never have any glitches, but that’s just not life. 🙂 But we do try to put enough planning into the process that we minimize the chaos. And that means we have to start the whole process months in advance.
6-12 months before the trip:
- Decide on your destination! All trip planning must begin with a healthy degree of daydreaming about the places you’d like to visit. Throughout the year I save ideas on our Pinterest boards so when we begin to research a destination, I have a wealth of resources about possible destinations.
- Do your research on where to stay. Jarrett is the family trip-planning guru and he has shared in a few previous posts about his “system” for plotting a trip. Check out this post about how we plan our camping trips, then this post about why we use Good Sam Trip Planner, and then this post about Jarrett’s three trip planning essentials.
- Make reservations: Most campgrounds begin accepting reservations six to 12 months in advance. Since some campgrounds will fill up quickly, it’s essential to know what those reservation windows are, and then make sure you put a reminder on your calendar so you don’t forget!
- As you make trip plans and reservations, we find it helpful to print off that reservation information and add it to a binder that we take on our trips.
- Do you need to request any information or maps from travel bureaus? If so, doing so now means it will all arrive well before you leave.
1 month before the trip:
- Will you need to kennel a pet while you are gone? If so, now is the time to make a reservation.
- Will you need someone to mow your grass? If so, make arrangements.
- Finalize your travel itinerary: Do you need to purchase any event tickets ahead of time? Do you need to make sure you bring any special discount passes?
2 weeks before the trip:
- Create a meal plan for your trip. I find great recipe inspiration over on Pinterest, where I’m always saving new ideas. (I also share a lot more tips and tricks for menu planning over on this post.) As you create the meal plan, determine what ingredients you already have at home and create a grocery list for what you still need.
- Take inventory of what you have in the camper and add to your shopping list anything you need to restock–things like toilet paper, RV potty pacs, soap, foil, paper products, etc.
- Take the tow vehicle in for a check-up and oil change. Make sure the tires are in good shape.
- Do a walk around of your camper, inspecting for anything amiss. Be sure to check that the tires are also in good shape. If you have time, see if there is anything you can purge from your camper cupboards and compartments to lighten your load and eliminate clutter.
1 week before the trip:
- Take care of having the mail and paper held, or make arrangements for someone to collect them while you are gone.
- Leave a house key with a trusted friend, family member, or neighbor. Last year while we were gone, the water main line broke in our front yard. Although our friend had access to the garage, no one had a house key to get in to check for damage. We rectified that situation by making a new key to give to friends to always keep at their house.
- Have the kids pack their travel activity bags and any DVDs they want to bring for the car ride. Depending on the length of the trip we help the kids decide how much “stuff” to bring–from their favorite stuffed animals to little toys that will keep them entertained on rainy days in the camper. On our West trip we let each child pack toys in bins that slid under the dinette. We discovered, however, that they really didn’t need all those things, and on future trips we cut back on how much they brought. We also keep a cupboard full of “camper” activities; more on that here.
- Go grocery shopping for everything that is shelf stable, can be frozen, or stays fresh for a long time. When I come home from the store, I often load the shelf stable canned goods directly into the camper, but I hold off on anything that might melt or degrade in the heat. Bring as much of the dry goods/shelf stable food you will need for the trip as you can fit in your camper. If you are limited on space (or you are concerned about overloading the camper), then focus on taking the items that might be harder to find or a lot more expensive elsewhere.
- Bathe any pets that will be going with you.
3 days before the trip:
- Do laundry.
- Pack clothes. Either create your own master packing list, or use our printable here. (TIP: We’ve learned from experience that as long as you have room in the camper, take more than you think you will need.)
2 days before the trip:
- Pick up any fresh ingredients you still need for the first part of the trip.
- Prep any food that you can ahead of time, such as washing fruit, cutting up produce, marinating meat, and pre-measuring out ingredients into small containers or zippered baggies. For more on this, see my earlier post here.
- Turn on your camper refrigerator.
Last day before the trip:
- Load the food into the camper’s cupboards and refrigerator. Our camper has one long pantry cupboard where we store the majority of our shelf-stable food. We also added cupboard doors below the dinette benches so we can store food in plastic bins under there as well.
- Do any final loads of laundry: Since we only have about a week’s worth of shorts and pants, we can’t afford to leave any of them behind on our three-week trips. So the night before our trip I do one final load, and then everyone wears those clothes the next day.
- Tidy up the house: After a long road trip, the last thing you will feel like doing is cleaning when you get home.
- Go through your last minute “to-do” list. I have a master list I use before every trip and it includes things like, adjusting the thermostat, double checking that windows are closed and locked, and leaving lights on timers. I will soon be adding this check-list to the free printable pack, so if you are not yet an email subscriber, be sure to sign up so you can get access to it too.
And now … hooray! It’s adventure time! Go have fun!