Road Trip Essentials For Moms? I’ve Got You Covered!

by | Jul 12, 2020

The Ultimate Checklist to Get Your Family Prepared to Hit the Road!

Attention all Moms!!! If you’re needing a list of road trip essentials, I’ve totally got you covered!

I know people haven’t exactly been taking a lot of trips in the last 6-7 months. Life has been so strange.

But I’m under the impression that more and more people are starting to hit the road for some fun!

It’s about time! Life can’t stop forever!

Time for a crazy family road trip.

Woohoo!

But since young kids are involved now, you can’t be quite as spontaneous as before when it was just you and your spouse.

You need to do some good old fashioned planning.

Time to make a list!

And I have the perfect one for you.

*This article contains affiliate links which means I may make a small commission from any items that you purchase.

Road Trip Essentials!

Car

Your road trip essentials should include a few things for your car!

Have the oil changed and the tires rotated the week before you leave. (Assuming this hasn’t been done in a while).

If you’re too busy to get it done during the week, put that on your husband’s honey-do list!

Make sure you have a small trash can with extra trash bags on hand for all the garbage you will be collecting with various food stops, snack trash, diapers, etc.

It’s also handy if anyone in your family has a tendency to get car sick.

If you don’t already use a car trunk organizer, this is a great one! You can fill it with the necessities: jumper cables, towel, car jack, tire changing tools, extra coolant, wet wipes, paper towels, etc. Super handy!

Car Trunk Organizer

If you have time, clean out the car prior to the road trip. You can even have your kids help you as an incentive to be one step closer to leaving on vacation!

Activities for Kids

A good list of road trip essentials should include activities for kids.

This particular list is tailored to younger kiddos.

Low Maintenance/Easy Activities

I like activities that can be done by kids with little to no help from parents. And zero clean-up! Who wants to think about another thing to clean while you’re in the car? I don’t!

LCD Writing Tablet

These are SO cool! Kids can write and draw and then with a click of a button it erases. So great!

Sticker Books

This is a great activity for kids ages 6 and up. Addie has a paint by sticker book and it’s a great activity for her. Your kids need to be able to recognize their numbers to do this one!

Water Wow Pad

These are so fun. Make sure that before you hit the road you fill up their pens so you’re not having to do that in the car. Great for the car and on an airplane! Melissa & Doug make a variety of these. This particular pack is about dinosaurs, space, and adventure!

You can also never go wrong with books or blank paper and a pen!

Surprise Bags

I love this idea! A friend of mine used these with her girls and it worked really well.

She went to places like Dollar Tree and bought activity pads, books, toys, and special snacks that she knew each of her girls would enjoy.

Every couple of hours each child would get to open another surprise bag and spend some time either eating or using the new item.

This helped the time pass in the car, provided some “landmarks” for them to look forward to, and was even a behavior incentive.

She put the items in brown paper bags and passed them out at predetermined times.

It worked like a charm!

Personal Technology

Everyone knows that personal technology should be included on a road trip essentials list. It’s definitely on mine!

Whether your car is outfitted with a drop down movie screen or each child has their own iPad, if you’re heading out on a road trip it’s important to make sure you’ve packed everything. Don’t forget all of the chargers!

These devices should be easily accessible during the trip.

There’s nothing worse for a child (or a parent!) when the iPad is requested and it’s either dead or the headphones were left at home.

Major packing fail!

Make sure that you pack all devices, chargers, and headphones that are necessary for moments of peace and quiet.

Some vehicles come with wireless headphones, but if you are lacking that luxury, this is our favorite brand!

Addie’s Favorite Wireless Headphones

When we go on road trips, we try to have Addie do anything and everything before technology is allowed, but we usually have at least an hour where she can use her iPad.

That means my husband and I get an hour to chat it up in the front.

It’s a win-win!

Comfort Items

I’m not just talking about binkies and loveys.

Teenagers like neck pillows and wearable blankets. Everyone has their thing.

But seriously, comfort items are very important.

For our family, Addie always has to have her blankies. She has slept with them since she was a baby and we never forget them.

Whatever your child’s comfort item is, make sure that it’s packed.

You know you can’t just run to Walmart and try to recreate the beloved Sloth stuffy.

Even if it looks the same, it’s not the same.

Remember, many of the comfort items have to be packed the morning that you leave so make sure that on your list you remind yourself to grab those things that morning!

*Packing Tip: When I am checking off my list, I cross off things as I pack them in bags, and I put a box around items that need to be thrown in the car or a suitcase at the last minute. I box the items so that they catch my eye as I’m scanning my list. It helps me remember when I’m running around trying to do 8,000 things before we leave.

Food/Snacks

This is a big ticket item on a family road trip!

And there’s nothing more annoying than forgetting to make the bag of snacks accessible in the car.

Put it where you can reach it.

Snacks For Kids

Road trip essentials for every family include snacks for the kids. Snacks can lead to quiet children!

Ideally for your kids it’s nice to have individual snack boxes or bags for them.

Whether you write their names on Ziploc bags or you have little lunch bags with each of their snacks, just make sure that you know where the snacks are so you don’t go crazy when the troops get hungry!

Addie’s at the age where she likes to pack her own snacks, usually peanut butter crackers, cheerios, a Z-bar, and a fruit strip.

I always pack extra snacks for her too! Sometimes she’s too excited and will forget.

*Packing Tip: For our road trip food, we usually pack one cooler bag and 2 other bags with all the other stuff. In the cooler bag I’ve found that these cold items are useful on long road trips: yogurt pouches, cut up veggies, apple slices, string cheese, and extra water bottles. Our other bags contain all of our snacks, bread, peanut butter, etc.

I’ve found through trial and error that there are some must haves for my own sanity on road trips.

These items include: paper towels, wet wipes, plastic silverware, paper plates, bag clips (to clothes all those chip bags!), plastic cups, and extra Ziplock bags.

Favorite Brand: Sistema!

My road trip essentials include divided containers!

This is my absolute favorite brand. It is so helpful when you have a child who doesn’t appreciate her food items touching. LOL!

*A lesson from my past: Every summer growing up my family used to drive to Estes Park, Colorado and stay for a couple of weeks. An amazing vacation!

One year my brother thought it would be a great idea to pack a container of deviled eggs to snack on in the car.

I’m pretty sure you can imagine the smell any time that container opened up with 6 people packed in the car. Gross!

That was the one and only time we ever brought eggs.

Note to self: Pack things that won’t make your car reek when opened!

The Hotel Bag

So over the years we have learned from experience that when we are stopping for the night on our way to the final destination, it’s nice to have one bag that contains most of what we need.

Rolling Duffel Bag

This one is a great option! I like duffel bags that have a variety of pockets for toiletries, laundry bag, etc.

Obviously if you have 4 kids you will probably need more than one bag, but you get the idea.

What we do is have an overnight bag that contains a change of clothes for each of us, jammies, our toiletries, and this sound machine.

Addie’s Favorite Sound Machine

We have this exact model in black. This is a great alternative to using a fan!

All of our overnight necessities are in the hotel bag, so we are able to leave the big suitcases in the car.

It’s nice to not have to unpack everything only to have to put it all back in the car the next morning.

The hotel bag saves us time and energy the next morning!

Suitcases or Duffel Bags

Everyone has their own method of packing for their kids and themselves.

The important thing is to get it done.

I am someone who needs to start packing a week before the trip in order to not forget anything.

I usually write out the list, do any last minute laundry I need during the week, and then cross off things as I go.

Addie is at an age where she likes to pick out her clothes so I’ll tell her things like, “Go get 6 pairs of shorts,” and she will run to her room, grab the shorts, and come put them in the suitcase.

She’s a great helper!

*Packing Tip: Bring a couple of mesh laundry bags for all of the dirty clothes your family will accumulate throughout your vacation. There’s nothing worse than having to throw dirty socks and underwear back in your suitcase with all your clean clothes. Nasty!

Favorite Laundry Bag

I pack these every time we go anywhere! And after we get back from our trip, I try to put the bag back in the suitcase so it’s there when I need it the next time.

*Packing Tip: Bring along some hotel entertainment! There can be lots of downtime in hotels, and you can’t always take the kids swimming.

Last summer on our road trip we packed a deck of cards, a roll of masking tape, and some paper plates.

Sounds strange, I know!

Addie got to use the masking tape to create her own maze in the hotel room, and we also used it to make a giant tic-tac-toe board on the carpet.

Lots of ways to keep the little ones entertained aside from everyone watching TV!

Packing the Car

In our family, I pack all the clothes and food, and Jesh packs the car.

His mind works like a perfect game of Tetris, and I gladly let him pack the car.

There are a few things to keep in mind when loading it all in.

Items For Kids Accessible

It’s always a great idea to have a small backpack for each child that can be right beside them in the car.

It can have their comfort items, individual snacks, devices, books, etc.

A change of clothes is helpful too.

Basically it’s their car bag, and it can equate to your peace of mind!  

Addie’s Favorite Backpack

Snacks and Food

Know where your food is and make sure it’s within your reach.

Also, if you have things like bread, don’t put that bag under heavy items. Food bags are great to go on top of a case of waters, or a big cooler!

Keep snacks in the front seat as well so you and your spouse don’t have to share with your kids.

It’s okay to have stuff just for you!

road trip essentials

Know where your food is and make sure it’s within your reach.

Hotel Bag

When we pack our car, everything that we know can stay in the car overnight is towards the back, and the rest of the stuff is towards the front.

The hotel bag, pillows, pack n play, etc.

Obviously if you have infants and toddlers you will be bringing in way more stuff!

First Aid Kit

It’s nice to have a basic first aid kit on hand for any scrapes or mishaps during your journey.

Ones like this one contain most of what you need!

You can write down destinations, landmarks you pass, restaurant stops, ridiculous fights and family moments, and even share about people that you meet.

It’s great to write it all down and then use it later when you’re wanting to create a photo book with all of the awesome unforgettable moments!

You’re Almost Ready to Go!

If you’ve made it through the entire article, your road trip essentials should be taken care of!

This is probably not an exhaustive list of what you should pack, but I think it’s a great start.

Check things off as you go, make your last minute amazon purchases (but don’t wait too late), and get excited for a fun family vacation.

And if your kids are old enough to handle some responsibility, have them help you knock out the list.

Happy Packing!

~ Lisa

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Feel free to comment below with any other packing must-haves for the car!

20 Comments

  1. Melisa

    This is a perfect list for young kids. It absolutely helps on road trips.

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Thanks Melisa!

  2. Linda Egeler

    I hate to admit this, but I am a fully grown adult and I don’t like my foods to be touching each other! I am so looking into Sistema!

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Love your honesty Linda! Sistema is seriously the best. We are currently on day 2 of a road trip and we’ve used the divided container for our daughter both days!

  3. Michelle

    Great list. I also found the car booster back pack really helpful

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Thanks for reading and commenting! It’s always nice to be as prepared as possible, especially with kids!

  4. Donna Garrison

    Great list of ideas to make sure our next road trip goes smoothly. I love the masking tape idea and surprise bags, so fun. Sometimes it’s those little things that make a trip special. And anything to keep the kids entertained and out of mischief is a win in my books.

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Totally agree! So glad you found it helpful. We are actually leaving on a road trip tomorrow and the masking tape is already packed!

  5. Savvy

    This is a very helpful article! You got our future road trip covered! Better pack more than less when travelling with the little one!

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment! I hope the next time you take a road trip you feel extra prepared. =)

  6. erin

    Great tip, especially the hotel bag! WE’ve also done the surprise bags, but we usually spread our trips over a few days so the boys get a different surprise bag each day. Stickers are a huge hit too! Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    • Lisa

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the article! I hope the hotel bag comes in handy the next time you take a road trip with the family.

  7. Sarah Styf

    Good list. One of our travel go-tos is audiobooks. They keep the whole family engaged and help to prevent brain drain during vacation 🙂

    Reply
    • Lisa

      We love audiobooks too! Thanks for the reminder about those. =)

  8. JENNIFER GULIZIA

    Great tips! We are hoping to do several road trips this winter!

    Reply
    • Lisa

      So glad you found this article helpful! Have a great time on your road trips.

  9. julie

    It sure makes for a better trip being prepared with everything you need!

    Reply
    • Lisa

      I agree! When it comes to traveling with kids, better to be way too prepared than not! Thanks for reading!

  10. Kiri belcher

    This is such a good article, so many useful tips! You have all the road trip essentials covered!

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Thanks for taking the time to read this and comment!

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