Good morning from Michigan!!
A summer stop in Michigan has long been on my travel bucket list and we are finally here! We are all looking forward to a relaxing, slow-paced, water-and-sun-filled-but-not-scorching-hot week.
When we planned this whirlwind road trip, we knew we would go to Florida to visit family (and for Dave to hop down to the keys for the opening of lobster season, something he looks forward to with intensity all year long :)), then we would finish up in Minnesota for a wedding. That was honestly the extent of our planning. Normally, I am a fairly organized, detailed planner for our trips but I found myself burnt out from homeschooling + blueberry farming + a huge design/renovation project + all.the.things as this trip approached. So, we hopped in the car, bought an old school Atlas (so we could visualize our routes -> highly recommend!) and headed on our merry way.
Our first thought was to go up the eastern coast after leaving Florida with Niagara Falls as our main destination, then a quick stop-over in Michigan before finishing the trip in Minnesota. This itinerary would have meant something like 45+ hours of in-the-car time and zero down-time. No bueno for this crew.
So, we switched it up and came straight to Michigan from Florida. Because I tried to book a place to stay just last week, I had a really hard time finding anything reasonably priced and in a good location. I searched and searched and finally scored a cute little cottage on a canal (not right on the lake but at least we have water in the backyard so the boys can fish) on VRBO.
We drove into town last night right as the sun was beginning it’s slow descent. As we passed harbors full of sailboats, water glistening under the orange-hued sky, we fell hard for Michigan. I’m fairly certain we’re all going to like this slice of America.
I received several questions on Instagram after I posted a picture of my favorite packing cubes (along with the fact that I only packed one suitcase for six people for three weeks), so I thought I would do a quick post on my packing tips for road trips.
Pack for a week.
No matter how long we are gone (four weeks in South Africa, for example), I always pack for one week per person. We are traveling for three weeks on this trip and each kiddo has 5 shirts/shorts or dresses per person + 2 swimsuits. Charlotte is the only one who has specific PJ’s because she refuses to wear “day time” clothes to bed. Everyone else has comfy travel clothes that can also serve as PJ’s.
Washing machines are a must.
We stop over in hotels for a night or two during long haul drives, however, the majority of the time, we stay in AirBNB or VRBO houses/condos at our destinations because hotel rooms become quickly cramped with six people and we need our space. I always make sure the house has access to a washing machine. (A dryer is a bonus when traveling internationally and never expected). This is critical and helps keep clothes packing to a minimum!
Skip the extra shoes.
For summer trips (including our South Africa trip), I pack one pair of slip-on shoes (flip flops and/or crocs/tevas for kids) and one pair of sneakers. That’s it. For this trip, I did include a dressier pair of shoes for Dave and I for the wedding we will attend. Shoes can take up a lot of extra space and I’ve learned that, 99% of the time, my entire family will only wear the easy slip-on, comfortable shoe option. Flip flops are great for in the car, easy to take off and put on for quick bathroom stops while driving.
Packing Cubes are your friend.
Each person has one large and one small packing cube. Large cubes contain all shorts, shirts, and dresses. Small cubes hold swimsuits, undies and socks. I have a fairly large suitcase that holds all of our cubes and I simply throw the cubes in, zip it up, and go. When we arrive at our destination, cubes either come out and go into dresser drawers (I keep clothes IN cubes during the trip to minimize repacking time – after laundry, clean clothes go back in appropriate cube), or they remain in the suitcase depending on the set up. In the current house we’re staying in, there is a large walk-in closet big enough for the suitcase to be open on the floor with cubes stacked inside. Super easy unpacking and re-packing! (I use these cubes).
Pack a cooler.
We pack a cooler for road trips full of water, grapes, cheese sticks, pj&j’s and other essentials for the drive. The cooler does double duty when we go to the beach for the day – we can pack waters and snacks for the beach.
Travel Bags for littles.
I have tried everything for packing car-entertainment-essentials for the littles. Cubbies, plastic totes, backpacks… you name it. This time, I snagged little pull-top bags from the Target dollar aisle and they’ve worked perfectly! I fill them with coloring books, crayons or markers depending on the child:), non-stick non-drying molding clay, books, tablets, stuffed animals, and notebooks. My big kids have had so much fun keeping a journal of where we’ve been in their notebooks. Each time we drive through a new state, they get out their notebook and write down the state name. I also encourage them to write additional notes and/or draw pictures of what they see. But, let’s be honest, that typically doesn’t happen. They love making the list of states though so I’ll call it a win. 🙂
Happy road-tripping, friends! We’re off to soak up these last precious weeks of summer!!