Road Trip Packing List
Since our family loves to travel as often as we can, I thought it might be appropriate to share a road trip packing list for those traveling with young children. Big Brother is three and Little Brother is one, so when we pack, we pack with them in mind.
Traveling in a vehicle makes you think about what to take and what to leave behind, what to salvage and what to let go. Some cool things about road trips are: you can take what you want, stop when you need to, and have some flexibility when you get to your final destination. Unlike traveling by air, you aren’t limited by weight, number of carry-ons, carry-on items, or schedules. However, in either situation…you just never know how the trip will go until it’s underway.
To make things a little easier, I’ve decided to share some of the top items I would include on a road trip packing list. This post contains affiliate links.
Top Ten Road Trip Packing List Items
Food and Beverages Pack some for the actual journey and some for the destination. Snacks and sandwiches can go a long way when you are trying to cover a lot of ground. If you are staying in a hotel, take a cooler with ice and refrigerator items, along with a container full of some commonly used pantry items. This can save money on some breakfasts and lunches. If you’re staying in a room with access to a kitchen, take condiments to save money on duplicate purchases you don’t necessarily need to make. Also, consider taking some pre-made freezer friendly meals for dinners. Even if it’s just the main part of the meal (taco meat) and you have to buy the rest (taco shells, cheese, salsa), it’ll save you time at the end of a long day.
Kitchen Utensils Piggybacking on the previous item, this would include bottles, liners, nipples, bottle brushes, sippy cups, lids, and spout inserts, snack cups and lids, bibs, disposable or reusable placemats, paper, plastic, or reusable plates, bowls, cups, and utensils, can openers, bottle openers, and corkscrews. You know…that sort of thing.
Clothes If you are traveling with a baby, you may want to bring extra clothes in case of that unexpected diaper blowout or the routine spit-up sessions. Otherwise, kids can wear the same pajamas for a few nights in a row, jeans are easily re-worn without much notice, and if your children are similar in size and style, nothing says they can’t share for a few days. If you will have access to laundry facilities where you will be staying, consider bringing clothes for one-fourth to one-half of the time you’ll be away. This will save on space and you’ll never go without fresh laundry if you wash a few loads every couple of days. The added bonus for this scenario is that you have less laundry to do when you get home!
Medications and Toiletries When we travel, I feel like we pack a small medicine cabinet. Some situations can’t be avoided, but if you’d rest better knowing the exact temperature, pack a thermometer. Take acetaminophen and motrin, dosage cups and syringes, and any other medication, including ointments and topical creams, that they use regularly. This includes diaper cream. Have a small first aid kit handy at all times. (We like this one because it’s light weight and easily fits in backpacks when we’re out of the car, but has everything we need if we can’t get to the store right away.) In addition to medications for them (and you), bring toiletries for everyone! Write down a list before you pack of what you will need head to toe in the shower or bath for each family member. Then do the same for after bath time, before bed, and in the morning to make sure you have everything you’ll need to stay clean and healthy for the duration of your trip. Don’t forget to pack some diapers and wipes too.
Entertainment Everyone has a different opinion on what entertainment may mean, but when you have young children in a new and exciting confined space, and you’re likely to be a few feet from other random dwellers, you will want to have a few options for entertaining them. This may be books, quiet activities like play-doh or crayons, movies, group games, or even a few things to do outside, like blowing bubbles or writing with sidewalk chalk. We even did these leaf rubovers. You can’t, nor should you, take everything. There isn’t enough room and kids only need a few options to make a good decision. Plus…most of your entertainment should be the surrounding area in which you are visiting!
Destination Items Depending on your destination, you may want to bring a few items to save you some money when you arrive. For example, if you are heading to the beach, pack some beach towels, sand toys, swimsuits, and sunblock. If you have space, maybe some shade, a blanket, or chairs. If you are going to the mountains, don’t forget sturdy shoes and socks, a rain or snow jacket, and a child carrying backpack or heavy duty stroller. We love our BOB stroller! If it will be for sport, take along your bicycle and helmet or boots, skis, snowsuit, or snowboard.
Recording Devices If you’re like me, you want to savor each moment with a snapshot in hopes that one day your children will spend hours reading through a scrapbook or photo album about all the great things you once did. So, take the camera, batteries, battery charger, flip, or camcorder…whatever your pick is…to capture the moments. If you like to update everyone in your social networks as you go, your cell phone may come in handy, or a laptop, but don’t forget the connection cables and charging devices.
Sleep Aids We all know how great a good night’s sleep is. We also know how children without enough sleep can be a handful. This is even more so when the family is doing one activity after another day in and day out. No matter how tuckered out our kids get, we aid their sleep with a few favorite bedtime toys or books. I never assume that the hotel will have blankets for them, so they are brought along. For Little Brother, we still pack the portable crib. For both boys we pack the baby monitors and sound machines. The sound machines aren’t just to help them sleep, but they help to keep outside disturbances to a minimum during naps and at night. When we traveled abroad a few years ago, we packed a ton of batteries for the sound machines too. We have multiples of this sound machine.
Odds and Ends I highly suggest packing paper towels, napkins, zipper top storage and sandwich bags, a sponge, and a small container of liquid dish soap. You may be washing sippy cups or bottles in the bathroom sink with that sponge and liquid soap. If you’ll be at a hotel with a dishwasher and laundry facilities…pack dish detergent and laundry detergent, stain remover spray, and dryer sheets. You don’t have to take the large containers of all of these items. You can portion detergent out in zipper top sandwich bags and take a handful of dryer sheets. If you know you’ll have to handwash the essential clothing items and dry them in the room, bring a clothesline. This sounds strange, but if you manage it the right way, you’ll save yourself some packing space and money. Also, cleaning up on the go can be done with hand sanitizer or wipes…they aren’t just for dirty diapers.
An Open Mind It may sound silly, but you just have to remember that even the best plans can go astray when you’re traveling with children and you can’t get hung up on the things you might be doing if they weren’t with you. Many things can go wrong even if the trip is an adult-only excursion. You just have to go with the flow at times and rearrange your plans if necessary. To help in these cases, make sure you’ve done some legwork before your trip. Make a list of things you really want to see, followed by a list of things that would be nice to see, and then a list of things that you’d be lucky to see. Organize days in a fashion that uses your time well so you’re not driving around in circles or arriving after the attraction’s special event ends for the day. Remember that it’s not only about the destination and the checklist, but it’s about the time you’re getting to spend with your family. When visiting anywhere new, keep in mind that it’s just that…new. It shouldn’t be exactly how it is at home, in your comfort zone, and that uneasiness you may feel is part of experiencing something new. Take a deep breath, get in the car and roll with it!
Well, it looks as though my list of ten became quite extensive, but I sure hope it helps the next time you hit the road!
What are some of your must-have items for a road trip with small children?