Survival Guide

How to pack your summer minivan so everyone’s happy (or at least less miserable)

July 11, 2017
Excited children and stressed parents driving overburdened car on coastal road to holiday destination
Steve Scott

Today’s minivans are no longer stodgy, dad-approved cubes designed for the sole purpose of taking third graders to and from practice, but sleek, practical and fully modernized vehicles designed for the sole purpose of taking third graders to and from practice. But they also work for vacations, which is nice, because they contain an awful lot of stuff and, if there’s room, people. Here’s how to maximize space in your summer road trip vehicle:

Electronic device: Three hundred years ago, in the ‘80s, travelers were required to pack for road trips by bringing a Walkman, 24 batteries, 30 cassette tapes, a pallet of comic books, an extra set of headphones and myriad Garfield collections, and that was just to make it out of Indiana. Sure, electronic devices may be shattering our attention spans into fragile bite-sized fragments of their former selves, but man, they make packing for road trips a merry breeze. I have found that one game of Goat Simulator can get two children through Tennessee and Georgia, and Georgia is like 16 hours long, so that’s simply technology improving our lives.

Many hundreds of chargers: The success of your road trip hinges entirely on two things: Readily available Cracker Barrels and operational devices. To arrive at a proper number of chargers to bring, take the number of people in your car and multiply it by 6. Then, put stickers on all of them, so you can identify which of your children/spouses is stealing yours.

Bag of processed snacks: We bring a bag large enough to nourish a horse, because God knows neither of my little princes can survive 20 miles without a pouch of Little Bites. We bring enough Little Bites that we could survive the Oregon Trail, unless one of us got dysentery. Little Bites do not cure dysentery.

Emptied Gatorade bottle for road pee: Boys only, probably.

Bag of fireworks from some gas station in Tennessee: These will be like 50 for the price of 3, and you simply cannot pass up that deal.

Spare tire: Make sure this is properly stowed and inflated, so if you blow a flat, someone will be able to quickly fix it for you.

Obligatory playlist of kids music: Oh sure, you could promise to listen only to audiobooks and a compromised list of music the entire family could enjoy, but that would make you a piteous liar. Make a list of two random Disney songs, a bunch of Taylor Swift and basically all of “Moana.”

Playlist of actual music for when that first playlist makes you want to murder your phone on the merciless concrete of I-74: Screw it, the kids can listen to the Kidz Bop version of “Dynamite” when they get their own Honda Odysseys.

Beach towels: To conserve space, roll them up and stash them in a suitcase. On the drive home, make sure to drape them over everything, so you can enjoy the damp beach smell all the way home.

Golf clubs: The kids’ belongings will leave no room for these inside your vehicle, so just duct-tape them to the top.

Stuffed animals: To help teach our kids to pack light, we tell them to limit their stuffed animals, and they oblige by bringing only 16 each.

Mr. T’s Voice on Your Waze App: Seriously, if you get drowsy and put on headphones, nothing will terrify you awake faster than Mr. T shouting about hazards directly into your ears.

The children: They go in the back, if there’s space.


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