Road Trip with Children Packing List for Safety and Sanity

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Road trips lure travelers with their promise of freedom, scenic landscapes, and quirky roadside attractions. Hitting the road can also mean seemingly constant potty breaks, sibling disputes, car sickness and backseat whining. Here are 10 things you need to pack to keep your family safe and sane during a road trip with children.

Road trip with children packing list - 10 things you need to bring for safety and sanity when traveling with kids!

Travel Toys and Crafts

Old school games like 20 Questions and the Alphabet Game can be entertaining, but eventually children will want something else to pass the time on the road. Before every road trip, I allow my kids to purchase one travel craft to bring along. A plastic travel soap box holds crayons nicely and can be used on every trip. Buy a special toy or two for each vacation but keep a separate stash of hidden travel toys to keep old favorites fresh. Check out our picks for the best travel toys and crafts for kids, from babies to teens.

Roadside Diversions

Don’t forget to bring some playthings for pit stops too. Mini bottles of bubbles, a beach ball, Frisbee, or jump rope can help kids get their wiggles out when you stop along your route.

Plastic Bags

Road trips with kids can be messy. A plastic grocery bag keeps trash off the floor and seats. I hang the bag in the backseat from the front arm rests. This enables my kids to deposit their juice boxes and snack wrappers into the trash themselves. Bring a few along so you can toss refuse at pit stops.


If traveling with young children, a bucket is a road trip must-have. Why? In case of car sickness or sudden boat of stomach flu. Older kids can probably manage just fine with one of those plastic bags but young kiddos aren’t great at aiming and shouldn’t handle plastic bags due to suffocation hazards. A simple plastic beach pail should do the trick.

Road Trip Playlist

Sure, you can listen to the radio. But a road trip playlist makes the miles more fun. Create a mix CD with family favorites or create a playlist for your smart phone or device, if your vehicle can play smart tunes through its speakers. Take a peek at these suggestions for family road trip music.

Audio Books

Audio books on disk (or via smart device) keep imaginations active and families entertained on the road. Save money by borrowing some fun books from your local library before your next road trip. You’ll love these audio books for road trips recommended by family travel experts.


Pack some healthy snacks and drinks for the journey. Suggested items include: fresh and dried fruits, cheese sticks, trail mix, and whole grain crackers and cereals. Pace your timing. Slowly give these out to your children throughout your ride to get the most bang for your snack bucks. You may want to bring along (or stop to buy) a “forbidden” treat or two to use as incentive for good behavior. Looking for more ideas? See these road trip snack suggestions.


It’s important to stow a pair of scissors in your car’s glove box for safety’s sake. Children sometimes do silly things when mom and dad aren’t looking…like get themselves tangled up in a seat belt. This can lead to strangulation. Read about firsthand experiences with seat belt near-strangulation accidents here and here. Then, pack a pair of scissors in your glove box!

Roadside Emergency Kit

You should always keep a roadside emergency kit in your car filled with bandages, medicines, a flashlight, and other useful items. Often these come with the vehicle, or you can purchase a pre-filled kit.

Puffs Softpack

When Puffs sent me a sample of their new Puffs Softpack, I immediately knew this soft-sided, box-free pack of tissues would be a wonderful thing to store in the car for road trips and every day drives.

Puffs come in handy for runny noses, messy snacks and spills. Normal tissue boxes are too bulky to fit, but the Puffs Softpack fits perfectly in a car’s glove box or seatback pocket.

Puffs Softpack - Perfect for a road trip with children!

For additional packing ideas, check out our full list of packing lists including our kids’ pack-myself list now!

Is there anything else you think we should add to our road trip with children packing list? Let us know in the comments below!

A Note from The Travel Mama: This post is brought to you in partnership with the makers of Puffs Softpack. I received compensation related to this post. All opinions are mine, as always. Top Photo purchased from Bottom photo by the makers of Puffs Softpack.

About Colleen Lanin

Colleen Lanin is the founder/editor-in-chief of As the author of her book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents not only how to survive a trip with children, but also how to love exploring the world with their offspring. Her stories have appeared online and in print for such outlets as the "Today" show,, Parenting Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Expedia, San Diego Family Magazine, and more. Colleen gives tips on television, radio, and as a public speaker. She has a master’s degree in business administration with a background in marketing. She lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

  1. We love family road trips, and swear by audiobooks to help the hours fly by. The Softpack’s are a great idea, as our tissue box always ends up pretty banged up by the end of the journey! Our car kit includes wet wipes too – good to have for spills and dirty hands.

  2. Amen to the garbage bag, audio books and a fun play list. We have an iPod loaded with songs for everyone in the family. We recently added Puffs SoftPack to our car. I love how it fits in the pocket behind the seat.

  3. Gallon-sized Ziploc bags to seal up stinky food until you can pull over to find a trash can! Hate to say it, but we bust out the iPad, too.

  4. Great suggestions! And make sure you can reach the critical ones without getting unbuckled or stopping the car 🙂

  5. Thank you Colleen!
    My husband and I will be taking a road trip with our 19 month old this weekend so this is greatly appreciated. I definitely have wet ones, puffs and trash bags on the list.

  6. Capitol Resorts says

    These are all good ideas! Especially the bucket and roadside diversions. Kids need to get out all their energy during a road trip, even if it means running around a rest stop for five minutes.

  7. Hilda Davis says

    Those tips are amazing! I am getting so frustrated by the thought to travel with my kids. I have no idea where to start from, what to pack etc. It is good to have some clever ideas how to arrange the packing process.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Hi Hilda – So glad you found these road trip packing tips handy. Use one of our printable packing lists to take the stress out of packing for a trip with your kids. Enjoy your travels!

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