This road trip packing list for families is all you need to have a great vacation on the road. From road trip essentials to items that just make the trip more fun, this packing list will help you have a great time and be prepared.
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 packing list essentials to make sure we are prepared and enjoy the ride.
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.
Family Road Trip Ideas
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 on the open road 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.
If you are looking for ideas for your next family road trip check out Best Southwest Road Trip Itinerary, New York to Florida Road Trip Itinerary: 13 Tourist Attractions on the Drive from New York to Florida, and 8 Awesome Stops for a Family Fun Tennessee Road Trip.
We have visited national parks and theme parks, sometimes both in one trip! Once you decide where you are going you can start planning with what to pack for your road trip.
Here are our favorite family road trip tips that have helped me get through a long trip of 10+ hours in the car with the family and can help you plan a successful family road trip.
Family Road Trip Checklist
When planning a long car ride there are some basic road trip necessities. These are some of the most important 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 plastic 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 plastic bag!
- 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.
- Small grocery store bags
- Motion Sickness Bags
- Motion Sickness Bands
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. It is a great idea to bring a trash bag to keep messes at bay.
- Snack Containers
- Water Bottles
Road Trip Snacks
It wouldn’t be a proper road trip without awesome snacks. I bring a bunch of healthy snacks and treats my kids like.
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. Keep them close for easy access.
- Wet Wipes
- Cell Phone chargers
- Hand Sanitizer
- Paper Towels
- Toilet Paper
- 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. I usually put them in an easy reach spot so I can get everything we need during the drive without stopping.
- Roadside emergency kit
- Trash Bags
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.
We also be sure to upload movies from Netflix or Disney+ for our drive.
Jammy Jam or The Ultimate Playlist
A Jammy Jam is my families take on the classic “mix-tape”. It is a must have for any road trip. This can be made as a playlist. Older kids and young kids love adding their favorites to the list..
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.
- Audio Books
Something Special From Home
Having a 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.
Also remember any personal items you may need for the long drive.
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.
- Make sure car seats are secured and cleaned.
- Clean your car the day before. This makes it much easier to pack the car.
- Check tire pressure and be sure you are prepared for flat tires with a spare tire. Consider purchasing AAA.
- Check washer fluid and oil before long drive.
- Input your destination into google maps and consider using a paper map if you are traveling somewhere with bad cell service like the mountains.
Decide How Long You Will Drive
If you are planning a family road trip you need to decide how long you will drive each day. Determine what the extra cost may be to stay in a hotel and price out the gas for the trip.
It helps to look on the maps at gas station stops and hotel stops to plan your route. The last thing you want is to get stuck in the middle of nowhere.
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. Some of the road trips we have gone on have made the list for our best family trip.
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
Another Post You May Like: Our 50 State Family Challenge
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Leah has been traveling with her family of 5 since 2012 and sharing her expertise on planning family vacations and visiting theme parks since 2016. Leah has been featured in Visit Rochester, Undercover Tourist, and Home Publications. She has worked with brands like Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, Hersheypark, Toyota, and various Tourism boards and destinations. Leah creates family travel itineraries based on real trip experiences with her family. Her guides and tips help others plan great family vacations. Learn more about Leah and Five for the Road.