Family Road Trip Essentials

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Whether it’s a drive up to your parents’ house for Thanksgiving or a summer trip to the Grand Canyon, all family road trips have the same foundation. If done well, they can make for some of the most fun and treasured family memories. It all comes down to keeping the kids happy and occupied—just be sure to prepare for any hiccups you might have along the way. Apart from the luggage you would normally take on your trip, make sure you have these essentials to keep everyone smiling from start to finish.

Family Road Trip Essentials

Boredom Banishers

The quickest road trip buzzkill is hearing your kids whine from the backseat, “I’m so bored, are we there yet?” You can easily prevent this with a little proactivity. Tablets and DVD players are great for older kids; they’ll be set for the whole ride with just a handful of movies. But for kids under five, you might need to get more creative.

You’ll want to bring toys to keep them occupied, but definitely leave the noisy ones at home. Stuffed animals are a great choice, and they also double as pillows. Coloring books can be tricky, especially for the little perfectionists out there. Activity books, however, are a road trip godsend. You can also find magnetic versions of toys and games they already enjoy so it’s harder to lose them in the crevices of the car. Don’t underestimate the power of classic road trip games—have some family bonding time and teach them “I Spy” or the alphabet game.

Versatile Sleeping Gear

Depending on the length of your road trip, you might need to think about sleeping arrangements in between points A and B. Most older kids are fine with sleeping bags on your hotel room floor. But for babies, a portable travel crib is an absolute must. It’s safe, lightweight, and easy to transport. Plus, it can also double as a convenient play yard for long breaks at rest stops or friends’ homes. Ensuring that everyone in the family gets a good night’s sleep is essential for a fun road trip, so don’t skip on sleeping gear when it could make everything more enjoyable.

Car Seat Organizers

These handy contraptions help keep the peace, keep things quiet, and ensure siblings don’t pester each other the entire trip. No one will lose their toys or snacks when they have plenty of pockets to put all their goodies in, and you won’t have to blindly fish around on the car floor for lost toys. Investing in a few car seat organizers can go a long way, and you’ll be grateful for how much cleaner the car will be once you return home.

Family Road Trip Essentials

Extra First Aid Precautions

On top of the standard bandages and disinfectant, you should pack some added essentials just in case someone gets injured. Things like sunscreen, vitamin C packets, ice spray, sickness bags, and ibuprofen tablets are all super smart road trip additions.

Snacks and Treats

Kids with full bellies are kids that aren’t going to whine as much. Bring a travel cooler and stock it full of water bottles and juice pouches, fresh fruit, string cheese, applesauce cups, and pre-made sandwiches. Also bring trail mix, crackers, and some sweet treats as well to surprise them with as soon as they start squirming. You can leave behind the Tupperware and bulky food containers; all you need is a box of resealable sandwich baggies. Don’t forget the trash bag—this will save you loads of time on clean up.


Save yourself the headache and bring some headphones that will work with all the electronic devices you’re bringing for the kids to use. You definitely don’t want to be listening to their shows the entire drive, so make sure you grab pair of ear buds for them before you leave. To go one step further, you can even buy noise-canceling headphones for your baby so the kids can be as loud as they want and without waking the sleeping tot. Sounds like a dream, right?

No matter the occasion, you’ll always have fond memories of your family road trips. You may find that years down the road, you remember more details about the actual drive than you do about the vacation itself. Invest in your family time, every minute, even on long car trips. It’s the small moments of giggles and sleepy chats that will make you want to plan vacations with your loved ones over and over.

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Tags: family, travel
Barb Webb. Founder and Editor of Rural Mom, is an the author of "Getting Laid" and "Getting Baked". A sustainable living expert nesting in Appalachian Kentucky, wen she’s not chasing chickens around the farm or engaging in mock Jedi battles, she’s writing about country living and artisan culture.
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