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!

And given that the holidays are just around the corner, this post could not be more timely.

Life can’t stop forever people!

Time for a crazy family road trip.


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!


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.

Car Trunk Organizer

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!

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, then with a click of a button erase it.

We just spent 4 days on the road going from Texas to Illinois and this tablet was a life-saver!

I love things that have zero prep. Since I’m a homeschool mom, I wrote math problems for Addie on the tablet, had her do some writing, etc.

It was the perfect travel accessory for a 6 year-old!

Sticker Books

This is a great activity for kids ages 6 and up. Addie has a sticker by number book and it’s a perfect activity for her. If your child has a long attention span and enjoys fine motor activities, this one is great! Your kids need to be able to recognize their numbers to be successful with this activity on their own.

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. This activity is great for the car and on an airplane. Melissa & Doug make a variety of these!

Another activity that stands the test of time is just blank paper, a clip board, and a pen.

If you have a child who’s into writing and drawing, this simple activity can occupy

them for hours! Addie had a clipboard on our road trip last month and wrote down

license plates, state names, different animals, etc. Great choice!

Surprise Bags

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

She goes to places like Dollar Tree and buys activity pads, books, toys, and special snacks that she knows each of her girls will enjoy.

Every couple of hours (or maybe twice each day depending on the length of the drive) each child gets to open a new surprise bag and spend some time either eating or using the new item.

This helps pass the time in the car, provides some “landmarks” for them to look forward to, and can even be a behavior incentive.

She puts the items in brown paper bags and passes them out at predetermined times.

Definitely a fantastic idea!

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 any 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

These headphones are super cool. Addie knows how to control the volume, and she loves that they are wireless. She doesn’t have to mess with tangling cords!

My tip for packing these is to make sure you charge the headphones the night before and store the USB charger cable for the headphones and the iPad charger in the same bag.

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.

On this last road trip, before Addie could use her iPad she had to read 1-2 chapters in her book. You’ve never seen a kid get their reading done so fast! It was a great incentive.

Because Addie was happily occupied, Jesh and I got to have some great conversations up front. A win-win for everyone!


We love listening to books in the car. It helps pass the time and keeps everyone engaged,

including the driver! The possibilities are endless for great audiobooks. Some of our favorites

are Adventures in Odyssey, Magic Tree House, Boxcar Children, and Hank the Cowdog.

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.


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.

On our most recent road trip, I had a gallon-sized Ziplock bag that had individual bags of all kinds of snacks for her. It was clearly labeled Addie’s Snacks and I told Addie that she was free to get what she needed (in moderation!). She loved the independence!

*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. This last time, I clipped a clothespin to each chip bag so I was sure to have enough. They came in handy for sure!

Favorite Container Brand: Sistema!

My road trip essentials include divided containers. Sistema is my absolute favorite brand. It is so helpful when you have a child who doesn’t appreciate her food items touching. LOL!

I love that when lunch comes around, I literally take the container out of the cooler and hand it to her. Mealtime in a snap!

The Hotel Bag

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.

Case in point: The most recent trip we took, we did not use the hotel bag on our way to Texas. Annoying! On our way home, it was Jesh who specifically asked if we could do one bag for the hotel.

It made a huge difference! Make sure and use a duffel bag with a variety of side pockets for toiletries, a 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 realized that the cold air from a box fan gives us scratchy throats in the morning, so a great alternative is a sound machine that makes the loud noise of a fan.

Great compromise! And it’s way easier to pack than a big bulky fan. We have this exact model in black.

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! I cannot recommend this idea enough!

Packing: Start Early!

Road trip essentials for me includes packing early. It’s a must!

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

A packing tip that I’ve found very handy is to bring a couple of mesh laundry bags for all the dirty clothes that 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!

I pack one of these mesh laundry bags every time we go anywhere! Normally right after we get back, I try to put the bag back in the suitcase so it’s there the next time I need it.

*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. We used the plates and tape for a giant game of tic-tac-toe!

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, a water cup, 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

Since Addie is homeschooled, her backpack contains some of her books and math activities for her to do in the car.

When picking out a backpack that’s good for a road trip, it’s important to get one that’s both sturdy, roomy, and has side pockets for water bottles, a bag of pens/markers, and other fun things! Addie loves bags with lots of pockets!

Snacks and Food

Road Trip Survival Tip: 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 everything 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. A kit like this one contain most of what you need.

Don’t forget to pack a bag with medicines, a thermometer, vitamins, etc. The last thing you want is to have to spend triple the amount at a gas station for some pain relievers!

Travel Journal

You may not be into journaling, but I highly recommend grabbing a small notebook and throwing it in your purse or duffel bag.

My mom has kept a travel journal from all of our crazy family vacations over the years, and it’s been fun to hear her share some of the wacky stories with us! Things we would never remember otherwise.

Also, if you like to make photo books of your travels, writing things down in a journal is a great way to get all the details nailed down. When it comes time to make the book, you just have to choose the right pictures because you already wrote down all the good stuff!

You’re Almost Ready to Go!

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

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!


  1. Kelly Bolen

    These are amazing tips and tricks for kids!!! Love the water pen/pads! Wish those were around when my kids were little!

    • Lisa

      Thanks Kelly! Having the right things to entertain kids in the car can make things go so much smoother!

  2. Charissa

    These are all great tips for road tripping with kids! I’ve seen the LCD writing things like 100 times and thought about getting them and never did. It may be time to finally give those a try! (We love those water pen coloring pads too, by the way!

    • Lisa

      The LCD writing tablet is a real winner! No mess, no fuss, no problems!

  3. Ayanna

    So many great items. I definitely need to get a laundry bag and travel journal for our next trip.

    • Lisa

      The laundry bag is so helpful!

  4. Genesis

    Audiobooks were the saving grace for our family trips! It makes it so easy to pass the time together. Also, that car organizer was super cool! I love the idea!

    • Lisa

      We are big fans of audiobooks. We are supposed to take a road trip this summer out west, so I’m sure we will find some new books to listen to in the car!

  5. Linda

    Love your list, Lisa! We are so looking forward to making a road trip in the last half of the summer. With any luck, our new teen will be able to get his vaccine by then! And that reminds me that I should totally delegate some of this list to him when it’s time to pack!

    • Lisa

      Road trips are so fun!!! Enjoy every moment. =)

  6. Kimmy

    These are all great ideas. I will definitely be investing in a car trunk organizer before our next trip!

    • Lisa

      Thanks Kimmy! I hope on your next family road trip that car trunk organizer comes in handy!

    • Sankhamala

      Very helpful tips. Some of the items are new to me. Thanks for sharing!

    • Lisa

      Glad you found these tips helpful!

  7. Roshunda - Ms. Southernverse

    Hi Lisa, I really love the idea about having a Car Trunk Organizer to keep all my things in one place. I wish I would’ve had this on our road trip to Cornwall. You have some great tips. I’ve also written about road trip packing lists and we have a few things in common, but I like some of the variations you’ve listed on yours.

    • Lisa

      Thanks Roshunda! I’m so glad you found this helpful. I’ll have to check out your post on road trips!

  8. karine

    Car trunk organizer is such a gem! I love your ideas. Thank you for sharing 🙂

    • Lisa

      Thanks Karine! I hope you get to snag a car trunk organizer for your next family road trip. =)

  9. Harumi

    I’m not a mom yet, but I really love the surprise bag idea!

    • Lisa

      Thank you Harumi! I hope you get a chance to use those surprise bags someday. =)

  10. Andrea

    Great packing list! Your tip to draw a box around items that need to be put in last-minute is a good one!

    • Lisa

      Thanks Andrea! Boxing the last minute items is definitely a life saver for me. Blessings!

  11. Stacee

    Great tips! Makes me want to hop in the car and drive! 🙂

    • Lisa

      Glad you appreciated the tips! I hope you get to put them to good use soon. =)

  12. Disney Park Princess

    This post is perfect since so many families are driving instead of flying right now!

    • Lisa

      I’m hoping that this comes in handy with all the road trips coming up over the next 5 weeks. =)

  13. Melisa

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

    • Lisa

      Thanks Melisa!

    • Alicia

      I will be traveling to Arizona in 2 weeks. Its an 18 hour drive. With 3 kids, including 2 toddlers, this is so helpful!

    • Lisa

      Glad this article came at a great time! We just got back from a 4 week road trip to Texas. I can tell you from experience, the hotel bag was a life-saver, and having the snacks accessible made things way easier! Have a great trip. =)

  14. 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!

    • 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!

  15. Michelle

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

    • Lisa

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

  16. 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.

    • 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!

  17. 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!

    • Lisa

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

  18. 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!

    • 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.

  19. 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 🙂

    • Lisa

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


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

    • Lisa

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

  21. julie

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

    • Lisa

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

  22. Kiri belcher

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

    • Lisa

      Thanks for taking the time to read this and comment!

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