With more families now hitting the road versus the skies or seas for their summer vacations, road trips are quickly regaining their popularity.
And in case you’re thinking that being trapped in your compact SUV for hours on end with your family sounds like an act of torture rather than an intentional choice for much-needed downtime, I’m here to tell you that family road trips can really be run and relaxing. Yes, even with little ones!
But you’ll need to do a few things upfront in order to keep the peace and the fun flowing on your next family road trip. And it’s about more than packing entertaining toys for long car rides to keep them busy.
Here’s a list of road trip essentials for kids to keep your little ones quiet and happy so you can concentrate on getting to your ultimate destination!
Or if the car is your destination as you travel, these family road trip essentials will make your trip so much more enjoyable…for everyone.
And please know that this post isn’t going to tell you what to pack in your suitcases or in your usual toiletries. I know you’ve got that covered. This is everything else you’ll need on your road trip that you may know have thought about.
1. Pack Healthy and Portable Snacks
Healthy Snacks are a must on a road trip of any length. Eating junk food and convenience foods can make you and your kids feel sluggish and even lead to tummy troubles (if you know what I mean) if they normally eat a balanced diet at home.
Here are a few of my kid’s favorite healthy snacks to add in your cooler for easy access.
- Plenty of fresh fruit that’s easy to eat in the car like apples, pears, clementines, all kinds of berries, and bananas.
- Pistachios. These are packed with fiber and nutrients to keep them satisfied. I just recommend the shelled ones to cut down on mess in the car.
- Kid-friendly protein bars. I love Zbars because they taste like a sweet treat but they’re filled with fiber and protein and low on sugar.
- Packs of trail mix.
- Breakfast biscuits.
- Make your own crustable sandwiches using a sandwich cutter.
- Cranberries and/or raisins. Just don’t let your kiddos eat too many all at once as they can really get things going if you know what I mean!
- Water. I’d recommend putting cold jugs of water in a cooler and refilling personal water bottles for each child to cut down on water bottle waste.
If you don’t like the idea of so much waste from the snack-sized packs of food, you can save waste and money by purchasing the large packages and making your own portions using eco-friendly snack bags.
This trunk organizer is the perfect solution to store all your family’s drinks and snacks either in the trunk or it works even better if you simply place it on the floor below their feet for easier access.
2. Travel sized toiletries are a must for cleaning on the go.
On your road trip, you’ll likely see many restrooms and experience many gross emergencies in your car needing these supplies.
I’ll spare you all the gory details but I once had to wrap my then 1-year-old daughter in bathroom paper towels like a mummy and carry her from our hotel’s lobby restroom back to our car following check-in after a long road trip. This basically involved an ill-prepared mother (me) whose baby had an epic blow-out and left her phone in the car alone with any wipes, diapers, and change of clothes.
Hey, I said ill-prepared. And let’s not forget that this lobby was one of those giant fancy lobbies that take forever to walk through so the situation was uncomfortable to say the least.
Aside from your usual toiletries, here are a few highly recommended items that are non-negotiable, especially if you’re traveling with babies or toddlers.
- Large hand sanitizer bottle
- Sanitizing spray to disinfect hotel rooms and other places
- Large sanitizing wipes for hotels and restaurants.
- Alcohol-free, kid-friendly sanitizing wipes for hands.
- Shower wipes for unexpected messes or blowouts or if your family is camping.
- Wet bags for soiled or wet stuff to wash later.
- First aid kit for minor injuries.
- Sunscreen and bug repellent.
- Bath or beach towels.
- In the days of COVID, you’ll want to pack extra gloves, masks, and trash bags.
- And don’t forget extra rolls of toilet paper just in case!
3. Books, Tech & Toys to keep kids entertained and learning
I remember reading during very long car rides as a kid and my books were my best friend! Sure, those were the days before tablets and smartphones, but I’d like to believe that my books would still be my favorite.
Here’s a list of great books that will keep your kids happy and quiet but also learning about kindness, compassion, friendship, and diversity. Those are all great things!
If your kids have tablets and/or phones you’ll want to be sure they’ve packed their own headphones for everyone’s sanity. And if your kids want to watch a movie on one device, headphone splitters can make that happen.
For all the toy and travel activities for kids check out this amazing list of resources.
Give each child their own backpack to fill with fun stuff and no more.
4. Chargers for all your devices
Having changers for all your family’s devices is huge so check those no less than three times before you leave! But also having car chargers for the trip is also essential.
If your family needs to charge a lot of devices, you may want to invest in a 5 port charger that will charge them all at once! Game-changer.
5. Extra items to consider
Here are a few items that aren’t totally necessary but may add to the fun and adventure of your family’s next road trip.
- A large blanket for impromptu picnics or other outdoor activities.
- Glowsticks for little ones in a new place at night.
- Pack and play to serve as a baby or toddler bed. I always brought mine!
- Travel-sized coffee maker for your hotel room.
- Paper maps just in case you end up in a dead zone.