What to Pack for a Road Trip

What to Pack for a Road Trip

Road trips aren’t just for your girlfriends anymore! They can be a fun and exciting experience for the whole family. You can explore the country while you spend quality time with your kids. 

What I especially love about road trips is that they allow you to be flexible with your schedule. You also have the freedom to bring what you want, without worrying about having to check bags or fit everything in a carry-on bag. 

But knowing what to pack can be overwhelming, especially for first-timers and parents with kids. So, today I’m sharing a round-up of items that you should pack for a road trip.

family road trip essentials

What to Pack for a Road Trip

Road Trip Essentials For Adults

These are my road trip essentials for adults that will help to make the trip easier and more comfortable, both on the road and once you arrive at your destination:

  • Travel pillow
  • Sunglasses
  • Headphones or Airpods
  • Clothes (at least one outfit per day of your trip)
  • Shoes (flip flops, sneakers, hiking boots, etc., depending on your plans)
  • Bathing suit (if you’re going somewhere you can swim)
  • Kindle (or other e-reader) or a book
  • Packing cubes

Road Trip Essentials For Kids

Similar to the items listed above, these must-have items for kids will make your road trip much more enjoyable:

family road trip essentials

Essential Items To Pack For A Family Road Trip

Don’t forget to pack these must-have items for your family before you embark on your road trip:

Miscellaneous Items To Pack For A Road Trip

In addition to the items listed above, be sure to pack the following essential items before you hit the road. Ideally, you won’t need many of these items, but it’s better to be prepared.

How To Pack For A Road Trip

How To Pack For A Road Trip

Consider Taking Your Car In For A Pre-Trip Inspection

All this talk about the ultimate road trip packing list essentials can make you forget about one very important detail: your car. Several days before you load everyone up for a memorable road trip, it’s a good idea to take your vehicle in for a pre-trip inspection. 

Call your local car mechanic and see if they can check your brake pads. Many mechanics offer this service for free, but even if you have to pay a small fee, it’s worth the peace of mind before a long road trip.

You can do a bit of an inspection yourself at home too. Check the treads on your tires, as well as the tire pressure to make sure they’re good for the trip. Also, be sure to make sure you won’t need an oil change soon and that you have plenty of windshield wiper fluid. 

Clean Your Car

You wouldn’t believe the difference it can make when you clean your car before packing it for a road trip. Cleaning everything out, vacuuming and wiping down the interior, and cleaning the windows gives you a blank slate to work with. 

You wouldn’t believe how much of a difference it can make when you start your road trip with a clean car. You’ll be much more motivated to keep it that way too. 

Pack Strategically To Maximize Space

Pay close attention, because this tip was a total game-changer for us. It applies just as much to packing your car as your luggage. 

First of all, whether you have a large vehicle with plenty of space for everything, or a small car with very limited room, the goal is to maximize space. One of the best ways to do this is to take advantage of spaces that you wouldn’t ordinarily think of. For example, you can use a car ceiling cargo net pocket to hold miscellaneous items you want to bring on a road trip, like diapers and wipes, a change of clothes, or pillows and blankets when they’re not being used. 

You can also consider using a water-resistant roof cargo box. They’re great for big families or long road trips that require a lot of luggage. They allow you to store bulky items on the roof of your vehicle rather than in your trunk or shoved somewhere else inside of your car.

Other great ways to maximize the space in your vehicle include storing extra shoes underneath your car seats or using a backseat car organizer for your kids’ items.

To maximize the space in your luggage, I always recommend rolling clothes, rather than folding them. Also, packing cubes are a must-have for making the most of your luggage space and keeping your things organized.

Double Check That You Have Important Documents

The last thing you want to do is wind up hundreds of miles away from home, only to realize you left important documents behind. Before you leave, double-check that you have your driver’s license, car insurance card, registration, and any documents you might need for your vacation reservation.

How To Pack For A Road Trip
Pack Drinks And Snacks For The Trip

I recommend using a portable travel cooler for food and drinks on the road. You’ll want to use one that can be folded up and put away when you’re not using it. Then, depending on where you’re going and how long you’re staying, you might also want to pack a hard-sided cooler with additional food and drinks for when you arrive. 

Pack plenty of water bottles to ensure you stay hydrated on a long road trip. If you struggle with getting your kids to drink plain water, pack a handful of drink mix packets. They take up very little space and come in a variety of flavors.

Packing enough snacks and drinks will help you avoid relying on gas stations or fast food restaurants to feed everyone on the way to your destination.

Use Bins And Containers To Stay Organized

Packing your car for a road trip can feel like a game of Tetris. So imagine how much harder it would be to load everything up when you have a bunch of loose items. Save your sanity by using bins and containers. I like to use large plastic storage bins and a big trunk organizer to give everything a place to go for the trip. It makes it a lot easier to find things too.

Pack An Overnight Bag

Depending on how far you have to drive, I highly recommend packing an overnight bag to give you easy access to the items you’ll need for an overnight stay at a hotel. This will save you from having to unload and unpack everything in your vehicle just for one night. Pack an outfit for each member of your family, as well as a toiletry bag with toothbrushes, toothpaste, and other must-have items.

Wear Comfortable Clothes

If you’re going to be spending a long time in the car, you want to be comfortable. Encourage everyone to dress comfortably. Breathable cotton shorts or pants and t-shirts are perfect road trip attire. For a winter road trip, dress in layers or pack jackets and hoodies. 

Also, be sure to wear the right shoes. Flip flops are great for summer road trips because you can easily slide them on and off, but in the winter you’ll want to travel in a warmer pair of boots or sneakers. 

My Tips on How to Plan a Road Trip

Plan For Frequent Breaks

Depending on the age of your kids, I highly recommend planning for frequent breaks as you make it to your destination. Toddlers and young children tend to get restless when they have to sit in the car for a long time. Older children will probably also appreciate the chance to get out and stretch every now and then. You should expect to stop every few hours for a bathroom break regardless.

You can plan to stop at rest areas or parks along your route to give them the chance to run around and get some energy out. Try to find good places to stop and eat lunch or dinner, whether you eat what you’ve packed or sit down at a restaurant for a meal. 

Consider Driving Through The Night

Driving through the night isn’t for everyone, but it can be a total game-changer for some families. This is a great tip for road trips that would otherwise have you driving all day long.

You can either leave late at night before everyone goes to bed, or you can leave in the middle of the night after getting the little ones out of bed and straight into the car. The goal is to encourage the kids to sleep at least most of the way through the trip, but it also means one or both parents will have to sacrifice a solid night of sleep. 

Schedule Around School/Homeschool

Whenever possible, I like to schedule road trips around my kids’ school schedules. This ensures that they won’t miss anything important or get marked for unexcused absences. 

If you can’t or don’t want to wait for a break, I recommend keeping open communication with your child’s school about how they can stay caught up on schoolwork. Then, you can either plan to make up what they missed as soon as you get back, or even work on it while you’re away.

Road Trip Packing List

Road Trip Packing List
What are your road trip must-haves?

Was there something I included that made a big difference for you? Tell me about it! Or, maybe you have a tip or suggestion to share for families planning a road trip! I’d love to hear from you!

For more travel tips, as well as a bunch of info related to all things motherhood, head over to the blog!

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