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Family Road Trip Packing List: 9 Essentials for a Successful Trip

Welcome to the essential family road trip packing list. We are sharing exactly what you need to pack in order to be prepared to hit the road with kids.

Family packing the car for a road trip

Is your sense of adventure calling?

Hitting the open road can be a great experience for any family, and taking a road trip is an opportunity for family bonding and it can create unforgettable memories for the whole family. 

As a mom of four young kids with extended family that spans from the east coast to the west coast, I’m no stranger to long car trips.

As we’ve crisscrossed the country over the years, I’ve found that a good family road trip packing list is one of the keys to making long hours in the car more manageable. 

This doesn’t mean that your family’s packing list has to be elaborate.

In fact, the more you plan ahead, the more you’re able to simplify the process and make sure you bring only what you need.

Before you head out on the open road, use this printable road trip packing list as a guide to make your experience one to remember.

Top Items for Your Family Road Trip Packing List

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1) Snacks

Keeping the family well-fed is one of the keys to a peaceful car trip. Packing a variety of snacks in the car keeps everyone happy, and it cuts down on expensive trips through the drive-thru. 

Not sure what to bring?

Consider items that are nutritious and filling, but also easy to eat on the go. Simple ideas include:

  • Apple slices
  • Grapes
  • Carrot sticks
  • Beef jerky
  • Trail mix

While it can be tempting to save lots of fun sweets for the trip, this isn’t always the best idea. In our experience, lots of sugar rushes don’t bode well for a relaxing and enjoyable car trip.

2) Technology

We don’t do a ton of screen time in my household, but I do make an exception for long car trips.

When the kids are cranky and tired of sitting in the car, putting on a movie can be a big help. 

We have a car DVD player so that everyone can watch the same thing, but depending on your ages and setup you may opt for each child to have an individual tablet (we love this kid’s tablet)

If that’s the case, have a backup battery pack or portable charger on hand to ensure that you’re not without power when you need it most.

3) Travel Games and Activities

Road tripping is fun, but long hours in the car can quickly become tedious, especially for children.

Travel games can go a long way to help pass the time. These screen-free activities are a good option when everyone is bored and looking to do something fun and competitive.

The key is to find games and activities that don’t have a big board or lots of pieces. Instead, bring a deck of cards and play card games.

Other good options include activity books like

Pack some blank notebooks for drawing on paper or these window markers to up the fun factor.

4) Outdoor Items

Some of the best road trip memories we have with our kids don’t involve reaching our destination.

Instead, they’re the fun and unexpected exploring we did along the way. 

As you plan your road trip, take a look at the map and notice any parks you might pass along the way. Pack some outdoor supplies so you can stop and explore as you pass through these pit stops.

These can be simple items, like a frisbee or a football.

When you have kids who need to burn off some steam, a quick rest stop off the highway can easily turn into a game of catch. 

Over the years I’ve found that these kinds of energy outlets for my kids are so important on long trips.

Whether it’s just a simple activity like kicking a soccer ball, or a more time-consuming one like an afternoon hike and a picnic, it’s crucial to pack things and plan enough time to get out and enjoy your surroundings along the way.

5) First Aid Essentials

Of course, with all that outdoor exploring, you do run the risk of a mishap.

Scrambling over rocks can lead to a scrape on the knee, or a nasty sunburn.

A first aid kit is one of those must-have items you shouldn’t travel without.

Keep the usual items like bandages and antibiotic cream on hand, but also stock it with sunblock, insect repellant, and disinfectant.

You don’t want to spoil a good trip because you’re unprepared.

6) Car Seat Bin or Organizer

Help make the trip feel special by giving a special car seat bin or organizer to each child. Fill it with things they’ll use only on the trip, like snacks, games, and books. 

This serves the two-fold purpose of giving your kids something special for the trip that they can look forward to digging into, while also (hopefully) helping to contain a lot of the mess that can occur when you’re packing a lot of different items for your trip.

7) Extra Paper Goods and Utensils

When you’re packing for a family road trip, you definitely want to have everything you might need; either as a convenience or in case of emergency.

In my experience, that means having lots of

  • paper towels
  • napkins
  • paper plates
  • sandwich bags
  • and plastic utensils on hand

Even though my kids are older I always keep some baby wipes in the car for quickly cleaning up messes. 

8) Motion Sickness Supplies

Even if you’ve never had a child get car sick before, it can’t hurt to be ready just in case.

The last thing you want is to ruin a perfect road trip because you weren’t expecting a child to get sick.

Keep essential items in the car like bags, baby wipes for cleanup, and extra changes of clothes for everyone

My youngest gets carsick easily and these motion sickness tablets work like magic.

9) Car Safety Kit

The final step in accounting for your family’s comfort and safety is making sure that you’re prepared for any emergency with your vehicle.

Create a car safety kit just in case the unexpected happens and you get stuck or have a breakdown.  

What to keep in your kit?

Start with the essentials, like flashlights, batteries, and a portable charger. Keep a paper map handy as a backup should your phone or car GPS stop working. Also make sure you have a spare tire in the vehicle, along with all the tools you may need should you get a flat.

Final Thoughts About Packing for a Family Road Trip

Don’t be scared or intimidated at the idea of taking a road trip with your family. In my experience, it can be lots of fun and a surefire way to make great memories.

The key to success in in the right preparation. 

Plan ahead of time and grab this printable road trip packing list with items like the ones listed here. When you’re well prepared, you’re far more likely to have a positive experience overall. Plus when you only pack the essentials, you’ll have room to pick up some fun travel-friendly gifts along the way.

Happy travels! 

Related Road Trip Posts:

Family Road Trip Packing List Essentials

Bridget Sielicki

Bridget Sielicki is a busy wife and homeschooling mom of 4. She’s been juggling working from home as a freelance writer and raising her kids for the past ten years, but she wouldn’t have it any other way. She started The Freelancing Mama to offer support and ideas for other women who want to find a way to work from home while raising their children.     

The Best Family Road Trip Packing List (with free printable)

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