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Top 30 Family Road Trip Essentials
If your family is anything like mine, then you probably know how absolutely critical packing lists are for any family trip. Whether you’re driving a few hours away for leaf-peeping, or to spend a weekend at the beach, packing lists are the key to making sure you don’t leave anything important behind. Remembering to bring your portable DVD player does you no good if you forget the DVDs!
After many, many family road trips over the years, I’ve compiled a list of the top 30 family road trip essentials. These are the items I have found to be necessary for ensuring a road trip that is enjoyable for both the kids and the adults. As you read through the list, you may be thinking, ‘I would never forget my phone charger,’ but you would be surprised what you can forget when you’re stressed or in a hurry. This list has saved my butt on more than one occasion, so I hope it proves to be helpful for you too. Happy traveling!
Here are our top 30 family road trip essentials:
These are tiny lifesavers on family road trips. Antibacterial wipes, towelettes that have been moistened with a bacteria-fighting formula, are great for sanitizing surfaces or washing hands on the go. These are especially handy if you have messy children who wind up with sticky hands every time they eat a snack!
This one may seem like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised by how many people forget to pack their phone chargers! Save yourself from the hassle of having to stop at a gas station for a mediocre and overpriced charger by double-checking that you’ve got yours before you head out the door.
Even before COVID-19, hand sanitizer was a good thing to bring on road trips, but nowadays it’s essential. Whether you’re stopping at a restaurant for lunch or at a rest area for a quick potty break, make sure to bring a bottle of hand sanitizer so everyone can sanitize before getting in and out of the car.
These handy gadgets are truly a lifesaver. Both Amazon and Samsung sell them for very reasonable prices, so I highly recommend investing in one tablet per kid prior to a long road trip. You can load tons of educational games and movies onto the tablets before the trip to provide your kids with hours of entertainment.
While keeping your kids entertained with their tablets is a beautiful thing, you probably don’t want to listen to Peppa Pig for the next eight hours. Make sure you pack enough headphones for each of the kids, to keep them happy and to keep you sane!
On any long drive, you’re bound to encounter areas where the cell service is less than reliable. Before your trip, make sure to download plenty of playlists, podcasts, and audiobooks to keep you entertained during the road trip.
It’s important to remember that while many destinations in the U.S. are open to travelers, safety precautions must still be followed. Face masks are currently a requirement in most public places, so make sure to bring a few extras for the trip in case anyone in your group loses theirs.
This one is super important for road trips that involve more than a few hours in the car at once. Make sure you have chargers for all of your devices (phones, tablets, iPods, etc.) that fit into the car. The last thing you want is for your kids to be fighting over the only tablet with battery life left.
Whether you opt for the classic bug spray or the fancy mosquito repellent bracelets, make sure you bring some form of mosquito repellent. The last thing you want on a family road trip is a car full of itchy kids miserably scratching at their bug bites.
When you’re on a road trip driving through areas your body isn’t used to, it’s not uncommon for it to stir up your allergies. There’s no need to go overboard on tissue (we’ve all been there), but you should definitely bring at least a pack or two in case anyone needs to blow their nose during the drive.
This is arguably the most important part of any family road trip, at least in the eyes of the kids. Can you imagine the looks on their faces if you had to tell them you forgot the snacks? The horror! Healthy snacks like trail mix, fruit, cheese cubes, and peanut butter crackers are great for keeping kids satisfied without resulting in a sugar rush.
Better for the environment, easier on your wallet! By bringing along reusable water bottles on your trip, you can avoid making stops for expensive and unhealthy drinks. Simply fill up the bottles before you head out and you can refill them for free at rest areas along the way as needed.
This is essential for keeping your drinks and snacks cold during the trip. If you plan on packing sandwiches, fruit, or anything else that you would prefer to keep cold, a decent cooler is the way to go. You can find inexpensive coolers of all sizes, depending on how much space you need. Plan ahead to make sure you have one that will work for your family road trip.
You never know whether or not someone will accidentally get a minor cut during a family road trip. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, so it’s a good idea to keep a compact first aid kit in the car. I recently created a car survival kit with Cricut. I plan to take it with me on all of our future road trips. You can find affordable kits on Amazon and at most drug stores. Let’s hope you don’t end up needing it, but if you do then it will be a lifesaver.
Air conditioning is a blessing on any long car ride, but it can also cause the air inside the car to get pretty dry. To avoid anyone getting chapped lips during the trip, bring some high-quality lip balm along for the ride. Good options include Aquaphor, Burt’s Bees, and Palmer’s.
These are tremendous lifesavers for families who go on road trips often! Backseat organizers provide kids with one place for everything they might need, from granola bars and water bottles to Mad Libs and their tablets. By utilizing one of these handy organizers, you can avoid having to pull over to search all the bags for your child’s favorite snack or toy.
While it’s nice to let the kids entertain themselves with their iPods and tablets for part of the ride, the main purpose of a road trip is quality time! You can find free printable car games online that give the whole family fun ways to pass the time together.
If you think you can’t get sunburnt in the car, think again! Sunscreen is helpful on any family road trip, even if you plan on staying in the car for the majority of the time. Make sure everyone lathers up before the ride and don’t forget to bring sunscreen along to re-apply throughout the trip.
For your littlest ones, extra diapers are an absolute must on any family road trip. However many you think you’ll need, just go ahead and double it to be on the safe side. Depending on where you’re traveling to, it may be difficult to find diapers at a store.
This is a must for headaches and upset tummies, which are common symptoms of car sickness for both kids and adults. Make sure to bring medications like Tylenol, Motrin, Tums, and Dramamine along on the trip for anyone who might need it.
On any long car ride, it’s inevitable that you’re going to need to make some stops. Not just so people can use the bathroom, but so everyone can stretch their legs! Bringing a frisbee can be a great way to let the kids move around for a little bit while you’re stopped at a rest area.
Not only are sunglasses essential for the driver so they can see where they’re going when it’s sunny out, but they are essential for the passengers as well! Depending on the time of day you’re driving, the sun can be a real pest. Protect your eyes and your children’s eyes by bringing along shades for everyone in the car.
In the event that you lose service, your phone dies, or your car’s GPS starts acting up, you don’t want to be driving around in circles. Print out a map with directions to your destination and bring it with you, just in case technology fails you.
Car Trash bags
Whether you’re using an actual trash bag or a grocery bag, make sure you have some kind of bag designated for trash that everyone can use. When you’re exhausted after a long trip, the last thing you want to do is go digging under all the seats for snack wrappers, empty boxes, and banana peels.
I am convinced that it only rains when you aren’t prepared for rain. I’ve learned to always keep umbrellas in the car! Even if the weather forecast calls for clear skies, it’s better to be prepared than to get soaked running from the car to the restaurant or hotel.
Cars are not known for being the most comfortable places to take a nap, but family road trips can be exhausting! Make sure there are enough neck pillows and blankets for all of the passengers so that everyone can get cozy when they’re ready to get some shut-eye.
While it’s perfectly understandable that your crew may want to wear flip flops or cozy slippers during the car ride, make sure everyone has a good pair of sneakers to walk around in. Whether you’re traveling to the mountains or the city, decent walking shoes are a must.
Parents, these are for you. Long drives can be incredibly tiring, making caffeine a must for many of us. Bring along an insulated mug so that if you need to stop at a gas station for coffee, you can fill up your own thermos instead of using a disposable cup. This cuts down on waste and keeps your coffee hot.
Before your trip, make note of any electronics you plan on bringing that require batteries for power. You will want to be prepared by bringing a bag of extra batteries in case any of those electronics need new ones during your journey.
For many kids, and even some adults, motion sickness is inevitable. While this most often manifests in the form of a headache or upset stomach, it can sometimes lead to getting physically sick. Our youngest child gets sick on road trips. There are ways to avoid motion sickness. But it’s always a good idea to be prepared. We never leave home without motion sickness bags (or as we like to call them—barf bags) in case anyone gets sick along the way.