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Family Travel Planning Made Easier

What to Pack for a Family Road Trip

You’re really going to do it. Yep.

Take a road trip.

With your kids. Gasp.

Road tripping with kids can be challenging and stressful. But, with the proper preparation, it can also be fun, and you will create lifelong memories.

What does the preparation look like? What things should you think about and pack?

Read on for all of The Family Backpack’s best road trip packing tips.

Before you set out on a road trip with your family here are things to consider packing:

  • Atlas to view alongside your digital maps. (Sometimes it may be difficult to see the overall distance you are traveling and where you are in the big scheme of things. Kids also like to look at atlases.)
  • Extra baggies(You may use them for various items like sea shell collections, extra food, etc.)
  • First aid kit. (Ensure it is stocked.)
  • Flashlights for kids to use at night. (Such as these that come in various colors with a wrist strap. Great for kids at night, and each can have his/her own.)
  • Flashlight or headlamp for the car. (It’s inevitable you’ll be searching for something at night and you may need a flashlight in addition to your car’s interior lights.)
  • Headphones. (Ensure they are in working order).
  • Facial tissue, a couple of rolls of paper towels and toilet paper. (These may come in very handy!)
  • Travel batteries for your phone. (Portable charger that is charged.)
  • Headphone splitter so two kids can watch the same show together.
  • Diapers. (If your kids are in diapers remember to include nighttime diapers and swim diapers – even if you don’t think you’ll be swimming).
  • Wet wipes. (a couple of packages – no matter your kids’ ages – these are great for cleaning messes in the car, wiping hands, etc.).
  • Bath and/or beach towels. (These are great for so many reasons, and especially if you stop at a splash pad, beach, or pool along the way.)
  • Light-weight balls. (During a long car ride, consider stopping at rest areas or truck stops to find some grass and toss a ball. It helps both the driver and the kids get some fresh air and gives everyone a chance to stretch and release some pent up energy!)
  • Glow sticks. (These are great if your road trip continues after dark and are a nice perk for kids who are sleeping in an unfamiliar setting.)
  • Anker Magnetic Cell phone mount. (It’s easy to lose your phone in a car especially on long trips when the car gets full of “stuff.” It’s also easy to forget your phone in the car when traveling because you are multitasking as you leave your car. But when you use this easy-on and easy-off magnetic holder, your phone stays in plain sight, and you definitely won’t lose it or forget about it when you leave the car. It’s great if you’re using your phone to navigate.)
  • Garbage bags for each kid. (Give each child their own garbage bag. When you stop along the way for gas, this makes it easy for them to empty out the car. They take ownership this way and feel responsible for their personal space.)
    (TIP: Let your child “own” their space in the car. Allow them to keep it clean and organized…or not! You can encourage them, but let them use the space the way they want. They are the ones who have to sit in it for hours. If you want to organize it for them have them help you, so they understand what goes where and why.)
  • A small broom. (When traveling to a beach, this is very helpful. Seats get filled with sand and having a broom makes it super simple to get those tiny grains out of the crevasses of the car seats.)
  • Small plastic see-thru containers packed with:
    • Energy bars, nuts, and snacks
    • Travel books, puzzles, games, washable markers, etc.
  • A gallon or two of water. (to refill water bottles or rinse hands).
  • A small cooler with snacks such as travel-size applesauce, yogurt, cheese sticks, etc.
  • Pillows and small blankets. (It’s inevitable the kids will fall asleep while you’re driving. They get cold, and you need to keep the temperature cool so you can stay awake while driving.) List continues below…

  • A waterproof picnic blanket. (This can come in handy when you have impromptu picnics. You may be able to sit under a tree and have a few snacks near your car to break up the drive. One side of the blanket is soft for seating; the other is waterproof which helps if the ground is wet.)
  • Lightweight backpacks for each child.
  • A notebook for each child for whatever they want to use it for.
  • iPads or electronic devices. (We love our iPads and other devices, but we also like to limit their usage on a road trip. When on a road trip we usually set a limit of iPad or electronic device usage for reading or playing games only after sundown when the car is dark.)
  • A big bag of bubble gum. (We wouldn’t usually suggest candy or unhealthy food, but during road trips, bubble gum can be a special treat. A big bag lasts a long time, and kids only need one piece to feel as if they are getting a big treat. When it starts feeling like the driving will never end, a piece of gum will go a long way hopefully giving them another hour’s worth of patience. And it helps the driver too because chewing helps you stay aware and awake.)

When you’re on your road trip, inevitably there may be things you’ve forgotten. Ideally, you’ll be able to stop along the way and purchase what you need. Save a master list of the items you have both packed and forgotten for your next road trip. This list will be helpful and continue to get perfected the more times you travel.

Download a printable version of this list: 

Road Trip Packing List | The Family Backpack.

We also have a guide to packing and unpacking that will help make all your family trips easier.

What items do you take on family road trips that are must-haves?

Happy road tripping!


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