Parent Travel Hacks: 5 tips to keep your car clean and fun on a family road trip

By Samantha Stevens, 23 Jun 2016 Car Advice

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Travel car hacks

Avoid the rubbish-laden carnage and hours of clean-up that often accompanies a road trip with the kids, with these handy tips for long-distance travel

Many quake in fear at the mere thought of a road trip with children. Echoes from our own youth of sibling scuffles, sickness struggles and ‘are-we-there-yet’ on repeat come back to haunt us as parents – not to mention the absolute mess it makes of our beloved car. But there are ways to lessen the pain and protect the car, without breaking the bank. Here are our top five DIY tips for a happier (and hopefully cleaner) car trip.

1. Before you pack
Allocate a labelled zip-lock bag per person for a full change of outfit, and have it handy in the cabin or right on top of the boot luggage. Spills, slips, and worse accidents can – and will – happen, and you don’t want to be on the side of the road rummaging through suitcases for more clothes. Parents often pack for the kidlets and forget themselves – things will get messy, so remember a change for mum and/or Dad as well.

And on long road trips, make up a small bag for overnight toiletries, medical supplies, and a car-sick bag full of feel-better bits and pieces as well as a clothes change. It’s so much easier to have the basics ready in a light and organised carry bag for those late-night motel stops.

2. Sheets on seats
Spills, crumbs and much, much worse will happen when you mix children with cars, and rather than risk a smelly, stinky car, get a fitted sheet or two and use them as a catching mitt for any projectiles. You can run two old singles or a queen or kingsize fitted sheet between the first and second row headrests and under the car seats (be sure to fit and measure up the holes you will need to cut for the seat belts and anchors ahead of time). This also allows you to stow things in the footwell underneath the sheets without risk of them getting dusted in detritus.

Go one further with waterproof plastic-backed sheets, which are less than $25 at most stores, or buy a pet hammock. Designed to stop puppies from both ruining your upholstery and from jumping into the front seats, they work quite well as beefier barriers for crumbs, flying toys and the dreaded projectile vomit while ensuring your rearward vision is unobstructed.

Waterproof pillowcase underlays are also super useful, as pillows on roadtrips usually become makeshift trays as well as drool catchers.

3. Seat-back organisers
You can buy car seat organisers from auto stores from about $20, or simply buy one of those cheap door frame shoe organisers or hanging bathroom bags and suspend it from the back of the driver or passenger seat. The pockets of shoe organisers are nice and deep, and bathroom bags usually have zippered compartments so things can’t fly out, and the essentials of toys, drink bottles, snacks, nappies/wipes and tissues will always be within easy reach. Remember; it should be secured top and bottom for safety, and to stop curious hands from pulling everything out.

4. Boredom busters
Place toys, snacks, and – if you’re brave – some art supplies within an arm’s reach of kiddy car-seats, using suction-cup shower caddies on the windows. Be careful not to overfill it, or place anything heavy or sharp in it, and fit it well away from where curtain airbags would be deployed in an accident.

For older kids, a backpack hanging off the back of the seat can also work. They can reach their fave stuff, and then pack it up and take it with them on stops. A backpack will also fit a clipboard with pencils attached on strings as an extra boredom buster for the arty types, and you won’t need an extra tray, or be rummaging in the footwell for fallen pencils this way. Encourage the kids to keep the backpack closed when they aren’t rifling through them for safety reasons.

5. Snacks
There isn’t really a tidy or safe way to feed kids in the car. However, children of most ages love being able to mix and match their food independently of their wise and knowing parents. Those really big monthly pill-boxes from $2 shops make for a great snack holder and double as a makeshift tray. You can creep healthy snacks – as well as treats – into the compartments. Where a bag of food can get ripped, rifled through without respect, and dropped or thrown, most kids seem to be almost protective of compartmentalised goodies. Hopefully, the way the pill-boxes open means less will be spilled if they do get thrown in the air. Or at another sibling!

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