Family Road Trip Packing Essentials
Family road trip must haves By Erin Gifford
Going on a road trip? Check out this packing list first. (Flickr: State Farm)
Many of us will soon be packing up coolers and piling into minivans to take part in a time-honored tradition: the family road trip. There will be fun times, like when everyone plays along with the license plate game, and not so fun times, like when carsickness gets the best of one of your little ones.
As in many other situations, minimizing the less-than-happy times comes down to simply being prepared. Pack light, plan for potential vacation-busting moments and ensure that the kids have what they need to be your ideal travelers. Take a look at our list of packing essentials for your next family road trip.
Believe it or not, plastic bags (as simple as the kind you get at the grocery store) can make or break a family road trip. Use them to collect snack wrappers, sort recyclables and keep clothing and seat covers clean should a bout of carsickness quickly come on.
First Aid Kit
Blisters, sunburn, headaches, scratches. They all happen, though they’re easier to deal with at home, so make sure to bring along a first aid kit that includes bandages, antibiotic ointment, acetaminophen, antibacterial hand wipes, even sunscreen, bug spray and aloe vera.
Don't forget to pack healthy snacks! (Flickr: Global Panorama)
Kids will start asking for snacks before you even leave the driveway, so bring along healthy choices, like carrot sticks, grapes, cheese sticks, pretzels and water bottles. You’ll have happier, fuller kids if they aren’t loaded up with too much sugar and carbs.
The kids don’t need to play on their tablets during the entire road trip, but it is nice to enjoy an hour or two of silence as the kids watch a movie or play a few games. Bring along a charger to plug into your car, as well as a portable charger so you can charge devices on-the-go, when necessary.
Speaking of watching movies, bring along headphones, too. Small children don’t always like to use earbuds, so pick up some over-the-ear headphones. Even better, pick up a headphone splitter as well so two kids can watch a movie on one tablet when there’s only one headphone jack.
Coolers are great for keeping food and drinks cold so you don’t need to stop at a gas station or convenience store every couple of hours for new snacks or lunches. As a bonus, a hard cooler can serve as a bench when making stops at rest areas off the highway.
Activity Books & Games
Use Ziplock bags for a more organized packing. (Flickr: Jesús Gorriti)
Bring along age-appropriate activity books and games, along with pencils, markers and crayons, even scissors and glue sticks. One to check out is Carschooling, which encourages learning while helping kids brush up on math, science and reading. It’s a great way to avoid summer brain drain.
The gallon-size Ziploc bags are a great packing tool, particularly when traveling to a new city every few days. Pack one outfit in each bag and label the bags for each child. This way, you can put all the outfits you need for each city into one suitcase to bring into your hotel.
Bring along a big laundry bag to collect everyone’s dirty clothes each night to avoid having to do the smell test to determine what’s clean and what’s not so clean. Even better, bring along two laundry bags to sort darks and lights if you plan to do laundry while on your road trip.
Soccer Balls & Badminton Rackets
Kids can only be good car travelers for so long, so plan for stops at grassy rest areas. Bring along a mesh bag filled with various sports gear, like a soccer ball, a badminton set and velcro paddles with a tennis ball - anything to get your kids out of the car and active for 15 or 20 minutes before driving on.