Wondering what to pack on a road trip? We have taken many family road trips over the years with our family of five and each time I use my road trip essentials packing list to make sure we are prepared and enjoy the ride.
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Parents are often surprised that I enjoy taking family road trips with my husband and 3 kids. I really do love them. There is no better way to discover a new destination then driving through a city or town.
If you do a little prep and planning the drive can become part of the vacation and are often some of the best parts of the trip. We have done big road trips that were over 20 hours of driving and smaller ones that were only 3-5 hours.
There is something special about spending time on the road as a family. You begin to discover different parts of your destination and it can be an unexpected adventure.
I am not looking at road trips with rose colored glasses. We have had our share of meltdowns. Kids complain, they argue, and motion sickness has been an issue, but it really bonds us and creates funny and lasting memories.
I love being in the car discovering new destinations but it is so important to prepare before the trip. To do that I created a list of road trip essentials for families that help everything go smoothly.
Here are our favorite family road trip tips that have helped me get through 10+ hours in the car with the family and can help you plan a successful family road trip.
What to Bring on a Road Trip
When planning a long or short family road trip there are some basic road trip necessities. The things that will help you get through any mess along the way and keep the kids entertained. Here is our road trip essentials list!
All Kinds of Bags!
I always pack extra bags for any messes or accidents along the way. These have saved me on so many occasions and come in handy more times than you would expect. We have used them for food, art supplies, toy storage, etc. Also bring a sharpie to label the bags!
- Ziploc gallon bags or sandwich bags
- Eco-friendly options : I have not used the Eco-friendly ones yet but I am working on incorporating more reusable products into our travel and these looked like a nice option.
Motion Sickness Supplies
We have never used any medicine for motion sickness but we have a few things we do to prepare for when it happens. It helps to be prepared if you know your child is prone to motion sickness. You can also use the bags for garbage on the drive.
We always pack reusable containers for snacks and drinks on the road. Water is our choice for drinks on road trips and having a reusable water bottle has made a big difference. I also often bring large bags of snacks that I can divide up on the road using the snack containers.
Road Trip Snacks
It wouldn’t be a proper road trip without awesome snacks. I bring a bunch of snacks my kids like and I try to include cut up fruit, grapes, and carrots. Its fun to go to the grocery store and allow each kid to pick out a snack they really like. When we get tired I bring out a special treat. Sometimes its a lollipop or candy, sometimes cookies. Just something to make the trip feel special.
Our favorites are listed below.
- Trail Mix
Essential Road Trip Extras
These are things I like to have on hand to keep the car clean and organized through the trip.
- Baby Wipes
- Hand Sanitizer
- Paper Towels
- Change of clothes depending on the age of your kids.
- Something to organize it all. I like Clever Made because the baskets close up when you are not using them.
Your Favorite Family Movies
When we plan a long road trip I will pick up a few new movies or let the kids each choose one for the drive. If it is a weekend trip we borrow them from our local library. A lot of the stores have a $5 bin for movies and it is a great way to introduce them to different/classic stuff. My kids have really enjoyed discovering Looney Tunes. Another option is renting from Redbox, just be sure to check that your destination has a drop off box close by.
Read our list of Favorite Movies to Watch with Your Family.
Jammy Jam or The Ultimate Play List
A Jammy Jam is my families take on the classic “mix-tape”. It is a must have for any road trip. We have been making them every year since 2008. My husband and I have a running list of music that we put together year round and then create a cd(or playlist) for the road trip.
Often we pick favorites that we grew up with and mix it up with music the kids like. It is something we always look forward to. My favorite part about it is listening to the music when we get back and throughout the year. It brings back great memories!!
Activity Books for the Kids
- Create Your Own Activity Packets- I try to make fun packets for my kids on most trips. Sometimes I will add coloring sheets of states we drive through or license plate bingo.
- Journal pages are also great and can be used for any age. The big kids can write and the little kids can draw pictures. These are also great as a keepsake when we return home. We like this travel journal too!
- Sticker Books
- Activity Books
- Sketch Books/Coloring Books
- Art Supplies
- Check out these car games for kids to print at home.
Something Special From Home
Having something special from home can help your family feel better on long drives. It also helps in hotel rooms for a child that may feel home sick. For my kids this includes pillow, blanket, and their favorite stuffed animal. It can also be a action figure guy or a doll. Anything that makes your kids happy.
Road Trip Checklist
This road trip checklist goes over the must do things to make sure your car is ready for your road trip.
- Check weather on your route.
- Check construction along route.
- Fill your gas tank the day before.
- Clean your car the day before. This makes it much easier to pack the car.
- Check tire pressure, washer fluid, and oil before long drive.
Be Patient and Enjoy The Adventure
Remember the reason you planned this family road trip in the first place…to have a family adventure! The journey can be part of the trip and a little patience can go a long way in keeping the drive fun.
Yes they will have to use the bathroom(a lot!), they will want snacks, and need things during the drive. If you approach it with a fun attitude and make it an adventure you will find that it can be enjoyable and you will create memories that will last a lifetime.
Family Road Trip Itinerary Ideas
- Southwest Road Trip: 9 Days, 3 States, 1 Amazing Family Vacation
- Family Road Trip to Myrtle Beach
- Road Trip to Pigeon Forge Tennessee
- Hershey Weekend Getaway