20 Things To Bring On A Road Trip: Essentials For Families

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Travelling with kids is never easy, especially when you’re planning a road trip and need to keep them entertained on long drive.

If you’re wandering what things to bring on a road trip that will not only keep the little ones engaged but also save you time, money, and save your sanity, then you’re in the right place.

lady haning out of car in the outback

We’re no strangers to a road trip. We spent 18 months road tripping Australia and 12 months road tripping the USA with our two daughters, so we’ve got the road trip packing list down.

Below I have listed my essential items for a road trip with kids, so you can make sure you pack everything you need.

Some of these will be things you have at home, others are items you may not have thought about, and some you’ll think are a bit random but hear me out – this is based on 2.5 years of continuous road trip experience.

Thank me later!

Family Road Trip Packing List

family having a picnic in the bush beside car

Let’s face it, you already know you need to pack a suitcase full of clothes and some bed sheets, but these are a few items you may not have considered.

Below are items that give you a little more comfort after a day of bouncing around on those corrugated dusty roads.

Here are some essential items for a road trip with kids to make your vacation a more memorable one!

1. Mini Micro Scooter

girl riding on a scooter

The son of some friends we made on our USA road trip had a Mini Micro scooter and we can’t believe why we didn’t get one for our girls sooner!

Savannah kept sneaking rides on it; it was her first time on a scooter and she learned how to ride it so quickly.

We later bought her a cheap scooter from Target and she could barely get it to move, so we upgraded her Mini Micro for her birthday and it was the best investment ever!

She LOVES it and it’s amazing how fast she gets around on it.

When sitting in a car all day, pulling over to let her whizz around on her scooter gives her time and space to let off some energy, and helped us embrace longer walks again as a family.

We bring her scooter everywhere on a road trip so she can zip around on that instead of begging to be carried. They’re small and easy to fit in your car too, whether you have an RV or a standard vehicle.

2. High Speed Blender

Without a doubt, the high speed blender is the best thing we’ve packed for our road trip. They’re heavy and expensive, but so worth it.

Health is priority for me, especially travelling with a need for gluten-free food. Having this blender means I can start my day with a green smoothie and make all sorts of goodies like raw caramel slice, chocolate balls and carrot soup.

I never want to travel without one again.

It’s one of those electrical items that’s rarely provided in hotels or even in Airbnbs, but one we use all the time at home.

3. Packing Cubes

I’m a terrible packer and organiser. I just throw stuff in and when I need to find something, my suitcase erupts and I get frustrated and cranky. Packing cells have saved my suitcase hell.

I have a cell for skirts/shorts, dresses, tops and underwear. I have them for the kids also.

If I planned it better, I would have colour matched them to the different clothes styles as I often have to open each cell to find out what’s in there.

4. Samsung Galaxy or iPad

A tablet is a lifesaver for traveling with kids, no matter how you choose to travel.

It gives them time to watch movies and play educational games and helps give us time out when we need it. It’s also been very helpful for Kalyra’s schoolwork and she loves to film her own videos and take photos on it.

We added an iPad into the mix to stop them fighting over the Samsung. However, I’m not an Apple fan at all so much prefer the Samsung Galaxy.

On a side note, if you’re getting a tablet for your kids, make sure to get some headphones to go with it – otherwise you’ll be listening to hours of Baby Shark songs from the back seat!

5. Heater and Fan

It didn’t take us long before we realised we needed some heating in the van at night.

If you’re planning a road trip for longer than six months, then you’re going to run into alternate seasons which means you need to think about warming up in the winter and cooling down in the summer.

We packed this heater and fan combo, which was a lifesaver on those freezing early mornings in some places. There’s nothing like getting out of a bed to a toasty warm camper trailer.

In some places a fan is completely useless, and there’s just nothing you can do to cool down that intense heat! However, the fan was much better than sitting in hot, stagnant air and has offered us a lot of relief.

6. Travel Pillows

If you’re road trip has a few long drives, then you’ll want a comfortable travel pillow for your kids so they can sleep comfortably in the back without straining their neck.

7. Backseat Organizer & Trunk Organizer

By now you’re probably thinking there is a lot to take with you and worrying about how to find everything.

Fear not, get a backseat organizer! These are a great way to keep things organized and so your kids can reach their things without needing to ask you.

You can put their games, coloring books and crayons, snacks and water bottles in handy pockets within arms reach of their seats.

In your trunk, get a trunk organizer so you can do the same thing. This will help you separate your day backpacks from your sleeping gear and breakdown items…

8. Breakdown Kit

No one wants to break down on their road trip, but you must prepare for the worst.

Our road trip necessities are jumper cables, spare tire, blankets and of course a mini first aid kit with bandages.

Hopefully, you don’t get a flat tire or have an accident, but we always find if we prepare for it we never need it.

9. Portable Charger

Don’t rely on your car battery to charge your phone! Get yourself a portable charger just in case.

If you’re playing music or audiobooks while on the road, this can drain your phone battery and you might need it for navigation.

10. Audiobooks

Kids need plenty of entertainment while you’re driving, so if you want to minimize the amount of time they spend looking at devices, download some audiobooks.

You can find audiobooks on many platforms these days, such as Spotify or Apple Music.

You can also download a free trial on Audible, Amazon’s audiobook service, and see how you like it.

11. Trash Bags

An essential item to add to your family road trip checklist is trash bags. This is not only for keeping your car clean, but for picking up your rubbish when you’re out and about.

Remember, leave only footprints, take only photographs!

12. Snacks

Chocolate Nut Protein Balls

Loading up your car with snacks, water bottles and food for the journey is a must. Get a cooler for the boot to keep sandwiches and fridge items cold.

Pack plenty of baby food and formula that your child wants, especially if you’re road tripping from a country outside your own, as the brand your babies and toddlers like might not be available everywhere.

Some snacks we like to give our kids on road trips are sliced carrots, pretzels, and sandwiches. This is because our kids like it and also they don’t make a mess on the back seat!

13. Car Seats

If you have older kids, you won’t need this, but of course for families with toddlers and small children you’re going to need to add your car seats to your list of family road trip essentials.

Assuming you’re hiring a car or RV and embarking on a road trip abroad, you’ll find that you have to pay extra to hire a car seat and it won’t be nearly as good or as comfortable as the one you use at home.

Save money on hire charges and take a car seat with you.

14. Travel Tray

Another useful item for kids on a road trip is a travel tray, which is essentially a table that sits over their car seat.

You can prop up a tablet, or give them a table to do some coloring on.

It will get used, trust me!

15. Toiletries

Load up your car with the must-haves in your toiletry bag, whether that be makeup related or simple hygiene items.

There will be times when your bathrooms are not stocked, or go to a public restroom and there’s no toilet paper.

Bring wet wipes and hand sanitizer, I guarantee you will use them!

16. Motion Sickness Tablets

This is something that you may or may not need, depending on how well you do with car rides.

I get motion sickness, so I always pack up motion sickness meds.

You do you.

17. Bug Spray

This is also destination dependent, but I don’t think there has been anywhere we’ve been on a road trip where we haven’t encountered bugs.

If you’re someone who loves nature and plan to do some hikes on your road trip, then pack some bug spray for those days out in the forest.

18. Portable Potty

Depending on how long your drives are, and if you’re little ones are potty trained, you might want to skip this.

When we road tripped with our girls when they were small, we had a portable potty, and it was such a lifesaver!

There were plenty of times when we were driving for hours without encountering a gas station or somewhere to use the facilities.

Think about where you’re heading on your road trip and whether this will help. They can be quite bulky, but I would say if you’re doing a USA road trip, it’s definitely worth it.

19. Nespresso Coffee Machine

Now, we didn’t actually have a coffee machine on our road trips, but if I did a road trip again, I would definitely pack one.

Friends of ours had a Nespresso Machine and they saved a ton of money making their own coffee each morning. They often made one for us too!

We are addicted to cappuccinos and have one almost every day. That’s a lot of money wasted on coffee.

If you have the same addiction, find room for a good coffee machine on your road trip packing list.

I’d prefer a proper espresso machine, but I think for a road trip they are too big and expensive.

20. Cold Press Juicer

A juicer is another kitchen appliance you might not think to pack but would be worth adding to your packing list.

We have smoothies for breakfast and juices for lunch or a pick me up snack. It can be hard to get the nutrition you need when travelling; a slow press juicer makes ensures pure nutrients are soaking immediately into your blood.

It’s another one of those electrical items you won’t find in an Airbnb or hotel room, so if you enjoy juices as much as we do, you’ll want to bring your own.

Don’t forget to visit the local farmer’s markets to stock up on the fresh produce!

Final Thoughts

family posing in front of Forest River travel trailer and Ford f250
Our Forest River travel trailer and Ford f250

So there you have it, those are the essential items you should bring on those long car rides and road trips.

Of course, you can also bring whatever toys or coloring books your children like, this list is just a list of essential items we would bring.

And of course, think about your destination before packing. You may find that a lot of these items you can pick up along the road.

We hope this helped you plan your packing list and gave you inspiration for what to take!

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