Family Road Trip Packing List for Sanity and Safety

This family road trip packing list will help keep your crew content and safe on the go. Road trips promise freedom, scenic landscapes, and quirky roadside attractions. Hitting the road with children, however, can also mean seemingly constant potty breaks, sibling disputes, car sickness, and backseat whining. For a smooth car journey, be sure to pack these road trip essentials for kids.

Use this family road trip packing list for your next car trip with kids
Use this family road trip packing list for your next car trip with kids (Photo credit: HayDmitriy,

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1. Travel Toys and Games

Old-school games like 20 Questions and the Alphabet Game can be entertaining, but eventually, kids will want something else to pass the time.

Before every road trip, I purchase at least one travel craft for each of my children. A plastic travel soap box holds crayons nicely and can be used on every trip. Buy a special new toy or two for each vacation, too.

Store a separate stash of hidden travel toys to keep old favorites fresh on each trip. Need some suggestions? Check out our picks for the best travel toys for kids and the best travel games for toddlers to teens.

Bring outdoor toys for road trip stops
Bring outdoor toys for road trip stops (Photo credit: LanaStock,

2. Pit Stop Playthings

Keeping kids content inside the car is important but don’t forget to bring some outdoor toys for pit stops as well. Mini bottles of bubbles, a beach ball, Frisbee, or jump rope can help kids get active when you stop along your route at rest stops and parks.

Make time for play during your family road trip
Make time for play during your family road trip (Photo credit: alenkasm,

3. Plastic Trash Bags

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

Be sure to keep a bucket within reach
Be sure to keep a bucket within reach (Photo credit: kitchbain,

3. Bucket for Motion Sickness

If traveling with young children, then a bucket is a road trip must-have. Why? You’ll need this case of car sickness or sudden bout of food poisoning or stomach flu. Older kids can probably manage just fine with a plastic bag, but young children aren’t great at aiming and shouldn’t handle plastic bags due to suffocation hazards.

A simple plastic beach pail should do the trick. Keep the bucket within arm’s reach. It won’t do you any good buried under a pile of suitcases in the trunk. Learn tips for avoiding motion sickness before you hit the road.

Listen to music during a road trip with a baby or toddler
All ages love to listen to music on the road (Photo credit:

4. Road Trip Playlist

Sure, you can listen to the radio. But a road trip playlist makes the miles more fun. Create a playlist for your smartphone and plug it in for the whole family to enjoy through the car’s speakers (if your car offers this technology). Choose songs that appeal to all family members, so everyone is excited to listen along.

Audibooks make time on the road zoom by
Audiobooks make time on the road zoom by

5. Audiobooks

Audiobooks are a must for any family road trip packing list. Stories keep imaginations active and families entertained on the road. Save money by borrowing some fun books from your local library before your next car trip. You’ll also love these audio books for road trips recommended by family travel experts.

Road trip snacks are essential
Road trip snacks are essential (Photo credit: serezniy,

6. Travel Snacks

Pack some healthy snacks and drinks for the journey. Suggested items include fresh and dried fruits, trail mix, and whole grain crackers, and cereals. Keep a cooler stocked with items that need cooling like hardboiled eggs, cheese sticks, sandwiches, and juices. Slowly give these goodies 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 an incentive for good behavior, too. Looking for more ideas? Take a look at the best travel snacks for kids.

Keep scissors in your glove box for safety's sake
Keep scissors in your glove box for safety’s sake (Photo credit: ibphoto,

7. Scissors for Safety

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 one mom’s account of a near-strangulation seatbelt incident. Then, pack a pair of scissors in your glove box!

Pack a roadside emergency kit for your family road trip
Pack a roadside emergency kit (Photo credit: VadimVasenin,

8. Roadside Emergency Kit

You should always keep a roadside emergency kit in your car filled with bandages, a flashlight, and other useful items. Add a pre-filled roadside emergency kit to your family road trip packing list.

Travel medications for family road trip packing list
Keep medications handy (Photo credit: mcherevan,

9. Medications Within Reach

Keep a stash of medications within reach. Any prescription items, like an asthma inhaler, should be kept close for handy retrieval.

Also pack in your purse or day bag some motion sickness medication like Dramamine for Kids, an antihistamine like Children’s Benadryl Chewables in case of an allergic reaction, and pain/fever reducer like ibuprofen. Even if you have these medications stowed within your luggage, you’ll want easy access to these medicines should a need arise during your family road trip.

unplugged road trip activities for kids
Discover unplugged road trip activities for kids (Photo credit:

Learn More Tips for Traveling with Kids

Want to keep your kids off tech when traveling? Take a look at these unplugged road trip activities.

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

Your family’s travels will be easier and smell sweeter with these handy vacation laundry tips.

Want to save money on your family vacation? Of course you do! Read these tips for saving money when traveling with kids.

Essentials to Pack for a Road Trip with Kids

Save this Family Road Trip Packing List

For future reference, save this list of packing essentials for family road trips. Simply pin the image above to Pinterest. We hope you’ll follow Travel Mamas on Pinterest while you’re at it!

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

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  1. These are great list of items to bring during a family trip. I also do a checklist so I won’t forget any. Thanks for your tips!

  2. Great tips – planning ahead with this list will save a lot of grief on the road! Having the medications within reach is an excellent point. We once had to stop and find a pharmacy to buy antihistamine lotion when my daughter’s fingers started to swell on a road trip. Fortunately we were able to find one quickly but it would have been less stressful to have had some handy in the car!

    1. Oh my! I’m glad you were able to get your daughter the medicine she needed. Antihistamine really is one of those things we should always carry with us — traveling or not. Allergic reactions can be so scary!

  3. Road trips with the whole family can definitely become chaotic! These are all such great tips and tricks for having a great time.

  4. This is a great list! I did an 18 hour road trip with my kids last summer and definitely made sure to pack most of these, thankfully. I wish I would have thought about the motion sickness bucket! Hahaha

  5. You know, I never thought of it but it is a good idea to keep a bucket in the car (and a disposable bag) just in case. There’s no pulling over sometimes when a kiddo gets car sick!

    1. And even if you can pull over, they sometimes can’t make it out of the car in time! We pulled over a lot for my motion sickness-prone daughter when she was little, unfortunately.

  6. Such wonderful tips Colleen! I never thought about carrying medicines but I can see those can come in so handy sometimes. Will pack it for my next trip without fail now on!

    1. I’ve made the mistake of packing medicines in the luggage instead of in a day bag and then we had to pull over, pull all of the suitcases out and rummage around to find what we needed. So much better to keep medications handy!

  7. I fear that by the time it’s safe for us to take road trips again, that I will forget everything I need to do. This is a great reminder.

  8. I love this list. I think it’s great that you included safety items on this list. I see a lot of lists that seem to leave that off, but it’s key with children.

  9. This list is a must before any family road trip! It’s so easy to forget something important and end up in the middle of nowhere in panic or with grumpy kids.

  10. 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.

    1. 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!

  11. 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.

  12. 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.