family road trip packing list

Family Road Trip Packing List for Comfort, Entertainment and Safety

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Summer, spring, winter, or fall, this family is always down for a road trip!  Over the years, we’ve gotten really good at knowing what we need to pack and all the family road trip essentials we need to bring with us.  Here is our family road trip packing list – and a free printable packing checklist too! 

What Should I Pack for a Long Family Road Trip?

Back of the Seat Organizers

The way my kids tear up the back of my front seats absolutely 100% makes car seat organizers a necessity. Not only do they protect your upholstery but they also place everything the kiddos need within arms reach.

Kid’s Travel Tray

If you’re traveling with younger kids, you’ll want to be sure to include a kids’ travel tray on your family vacation checklist.  It will give the kids a solid area to eat, do activities, or even lay on.

Car Seats and/or Booster Seats

Comfortable car and booster seats are paramount on a family road trip.  If it’s time to size up or upgrade, be sure to include a new car seat in your family road trip checklist. 

The Maxi Cosi Pria Max was my favorite car seat when Bug was an infant.  It was the only car seat she didn’t sweat [and then scream] in, so it is a family road trip essential. 

The Evenflo Chase Sport Harnessed Booster was our mid-range car seat. 

The Chicco Kid Fit 2-in-1 is the car seat we use now.  I didn’t think it was possible to love a car seat as much as I loved the Maxi Cosi Pria Max but yet here we are.  The Chicco is the best car seat on the market for kids over the age of 5-6.

Check out this detailed post if you want the inside scoop on the very best travel booster seats.

Family Road Trip Essentials for Comfort

Travel Blankets

Travel blankets are another important item on the list of road trip essentials for kids. Blankets make sure everyone is comfortable during the trip. 

Not only can you use them to cover up if it’s cold, but you can also roll them up to be used as neck support or lay them flat for a roadside picnic. 

The 4 in 1 Travel blanket is a favorite because it is multipurpose [it has pockets!], you can clip or slide it onto luggage, and it includes a travel pillow.

Neck Pillows

Neck pillows aren’t just good for trips on an airplane; they’re also a must on any road trip with kids checklist.  It avoids a case of flopping neck [you know – when their neck completely flops over in their seat] and adds an extra level of comfort to your travels.

  • The Trtl Travel Pillow has indisputably good reviews from others in our travel circle.  It wraps around your neck like a stiff scarf to provide support. 
  • The Travel Memory Foam Pillow is like your traditional pillow but perfectly travel-sized.  
  • Lastly, an oldie but goodie, the Airplane Travel Neck Pillow provides general neck support and is a great option, especially for older kids.

Refillable Water Bottles

We never travel without refillable water bottles so they definitely had to be included in this packing list for a family road trip.  

Any bottle will do, but these insulated Thermos brand bottles are the best and are the exact brand we use for our girls. They’ll keep your hot items hot and your cold items cold. Ice inside these bottles lasts the entire day. 

Kid Road Trip Snacks

My favorite subject for any trip: snacks!  Snacks are absolutely essential for any worthwhile road trip.

For convenience sake, try to stick with snacks that don’t require refrigeration.  Some great travel snacks are:

  • Gogo Squeez Yogurtz – This yogurt is shelf-stable and comes in a kid-friendly squeeze pouch.  No fuss and no mess.  My youngest goes bananas for these.
  • Dried fruit – cranberries, raisins, apricots, etc.
  • Salted nuts – cashews, pecans, or peanuts
  • Fruit leather
  • Pretzels
  • Goldfish
  • Boiled eggs*
  • Chips
  • Rice Krispie Treats
  • Chex Mix
  • Popcorn – or better yet – Pirate’s Booty
  • Tortilla roll-ups* – deli meat rolled into a tortilla
  • Butter croissants

The items marked with an asterisk [*] require refrigeration.  If you decide to travel with items that need to be kept cold, consider purchasing a travel cooler bag.  This CleverMade Collapsible Cooler Bag comes in a variety of colors, folds completely flat, and keeps things cool for hours. 

Don’t forget the ice packs!

Family Road Trip Essentials for Entertainment

Activity Books

Age-appropriate activity books are sanity-saving road trip essentials for kids.  The right one can occupy the kids in the car for hours.  Also, if you’re not a big fan of screen time, books mix things up a bit so they aren’t on their tablets the entire drive. 

Brain Quest books are a family favorite with a variety of educational activities all in one book.

Window Gel Clings

 For the younger little ones, you can help pass the time on family road trips by using window gel clings.  They are the same concept as stickers but much easier to clean up after.  Also, as a bonus perk, most of them are reusable so they can be used for the family road trip on the way there and the way back!

Family Road Trip Games

 Nothing ruins a family road trip more than kids asking the dreaded question every 2 minutes: “Are we there yet?”  Distract and entertain by providing plenty of family road trip games.  Here are some of our favorites:

Check out Family Vacation Critic’s list of the best road trip games for families for ideas.

Tablet, Smart Phone or iPod

 I know many parents limit their kids’ screen time, but if there is ever a right time for stretching that rule a bit, it’s a family road trip. 

Equip yourself with a Fire Tablet or iPad Mini, load it up with downloaded Netflix shows, and enjoy a quiet ride. 

Parenting hack: if you have a younger kid that wants an iPhone like their older siblings, get an iPod instead of a tablet.  It looks just like a real iPhone and keeps the kids happy!

Mobile Battery Packs

Keep everyone’s battery at 100% with a mobile battery pack.  Not only will this family road trip essential keep everyone’s tablets charged, but it also works with GPS devices and other small electronics you might use during your family road trip.

Charging Cables

Charging cables are definitely on the list of what to bring on a road trip for kids. This is the one item that we forget the most often, so it had to be included in this family road trip packing list.   

Be sure to purchase charger cords with braided cords so that they last longer.


 Allow everyone to listen to their entertainment in peace by investing in some headphones. 

These kid-friendly headphones are wireless and fit most 6 to 10 year olds comfortably.  Even my youngest, who loves to make everyone in the car listen to what she’s listening to, wears her kid headphones without complaint.

Phone Car Mount

Safety first!  Go hands-free by adding a phone car mount to the family road trip packing list.  It mounts to any surface in the car (there’s even a phone mount magnetic version) and lets you keep both hands on the wheel.  This is especially helpful if you’d like to vlog or record parts of your car trip.

Family Road Trip Essentials for Health & Safety

First Aid Kit

Kids are extraordinarily germy but their chances of catching the “ick” seem to multiply when traveling.  Ditto for injuries.  For that reason, we definitely recommend including a first aid kit on your family road trip packing list. 

Here are other tips for keeping kids healthy while traveling.

Disinfecting Wipes and Sprays

You’d be amazed at how dirty most surfaces are – even your own car.  And if it isn’t dirty at the start of the trip, there’s a good chance it might be by the time you reach your destination. 

Save yourself from the grime by including Clorox Disinfecting Wipes in your family road trip packing list. For those cloth surfaces that can’t be treated with a wipe, spray them with an antibacterial spray like Lysol Disinfecting Spray.

Motion Sickness Bags and Bracelets

 Does anyone else have a kiddo that’s prone to motion sickness?  If so, don’t forget the motion sickness items on the family road trip packing list. 

The motion sickness bags catch any accidents that might happen in the car [they also double as awesome trash receptacles for all those snacks] and are disposable.  The motion sickness bracelets are designed to prevent [or at least minimize] the feelings of motion sickness.

Miscellaneous Items

The other health and safety items you might need for your family road trip will depend on your family and your destination.  However, some of the items we also tend to include are:

  • Bug spray
  • Sunscreen
  • Hand wipes [I LOVE Wet Ones hand wipes and travel with them everywhere.]
  • Hand sanitizer

FREE Family Road Trip Packing List Printable

Still wondering “what do I need for a road trip with kids?” Download your free copy of my family road trip packing list printable below!

Family Road Trip Packing List Printable

What items do you include in your family road trip packing list?

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