Road Trip Essentials with Kids

Going on a road trip with kids is super exciting but can also be a little stressful. The stress and mental load of preparing for and being on your road trip can greatly be decreased by keeping in mind these road trip essentials.

I have broken these road trip essentials with kids down for you into manageable parts that will keep you organized before and during your road trip as well as help you to be better prepared for challenges during your journey.


#1 Planning Your Road Trip

Before we embark on a road trip, I ALWAYS plan out the drive. First, I make a plan for where we will stop for the night. Secondly, I map out any particular stops we want to make on our road trip.

I usually make a hotel reservation ahead of time for a place to stop overnight during our road trip. I do this for a number of reasons.

One, I like to have a goal as to how far we are going to get for the day.

Second, I don’t want to have to worry about not being able to find a place to stay for the night especially if it is a busy time of year.

Finally, I try to pick a hotel that is near somewhere that we may want to visit or spend some time during our road trip. 

Besides planning where we are going to stay each night during the road trip, I also like to plan out any additional stops or attractions to visit during our drive. 

Boy standing in the Tri-state Marker near Joplin, Missouri where Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri meet.

#2 Packing For Your Road Trip

After I have determined where we are going to stay each night of our road trip, then I can start packing our suitcase for those particular stops.

I like to use packing cubes to keep our family organized during the trip. This is especially helpful when we are stopping overnight during a road trip.

I would rather not bring our entire suitcase inside the hotel each time we stop so instead, I use packing cubes that are labeled for that hotel stay so I can bring a smaller suitcase or bag inside with just the things we need for the night. 

I will even label the packing cubes with the name of the hotel where we are staying or the city we are stopping so I know what to bring into each hotel .

If you are looking for some great packing cubes for your road trip, I have linked some of my favorites below.




#3 Snacks For Your Road Trip

When you are on a road trip, it is essential that you have plenty of snacks for everyone to eat. 

Bringing your own snacks will save you money on your road trip. My kids ALWAYS want a snack while we are driving so it is a huge money saver to bring our own instead of stopping and buying them at a gas station. 

Additionally, bringing your own snacks can save you time so you do not have to make extra stops during your drive to pick up something to eat.

Another benefit of bringing your own snacks is that you can have better control over what your family is eating. If you want to make sure your family is eating healthy, then you can bring your own healthy snacks

I usually let each of my kids choose a snack that they would like to have in the car. This gives us a variety of snacks, and everyone should feel special that they got to choose something they like. 

Sometimes I buy multi-packs of snacks from the store to bring while other times I pack my own little baggies of snacks. 

I usually put my snacks in my favorite white plastic bins. This keeps our snacks organized and makes them easy to carry into wherever we are staying.

If there are any snacks I want to keep cool, I use this insulated cooler tote bag. It is perfect for storing snacks and other things, and it is so easy to carry around.

Insulated tote

Our Favorite Road Trip Snacks

If you are needing some ideas for some snacks to bring on your road trip, below are some of our family’s favorite road trip snacks.

  • Bananas
  • Pretzels
  • Cereal
  • Goldfish
  • Mini muffins
  • Homemade snack mix
  • Grapes
  • Popcorners Chips
  • Crackers
  • Cheese cubes
  • Applesauce Pouches
  • Yogurt Pouches

#4 Activities for Your Road Trip

For any road trip long or short, it is always imperative to have some activities or ideas of ways to keep everyone entertained. 

I always pack a binder full of activities that are age appropriate for each of my children. These activities may include word searches, iSpy road trip activities, coloring pages, tic tac toe, and hangman, for example.

Download my FREE 10 page road trip activity printable below to add to your binder of activities!

Additionally, I give each kid their own 9X6 notebook that they can use to write and color in. They absolutely LOVE having their own little notebook for the road trip. These notebooks come in a variety of colors so each kid picks their own color. They fit perfectly into each of their backpacks as well!

Also, each kid has their own ipad or tablet to use during our road trip and headphones to go with it. The kids each pick a couple of shows or movies they want to download to watch. 

We also come up with a road trip music playlist that we will listen to as a family once or twice during our journey. This is a great thing to put on when people are getting bored or if tensions are beginning to rise in the backseat. 

You would be surprised how some fun upbeat music can change the mood and lift everyone’s spirits. It is also a fantastic way to pass the time. 

Road Trip Tips

  1. Make a list and check it twice

A week or two before your trip make a list of everything you will need. Making this list ahead of time will decrease the mental load and stress of things when you are packing for your trip and loading the car. Double check your list to make sure you have everything.

  1. Plan some stops ahead of time

I think having a couple of stops to look forward to along the way during your road trip will not only help break it up for everyone but also make it more enjoyable. 

  1. Label everything you can

 I cannot tell you how many times I have packed things for a road trip and then in the chaos of loading the car or even in the midst of the car ride, I cannot find what I brought. Put things in bins, packing cubes, tote bags, etc. and label each one. This will help you find things later and make life a whole lot less stressful. 

  1. Figure out something special to pull out or do when everyone is losing it. 

Maybe that thing is a special food treat. Or maybe it is a little present the kids can open that would entertain them for a while. 

It could also be as simple as a special announcement about something awesome that you are going to do on your trip that is a surprise for the kids.

  1. Have lots of snacks and water, too.

If there is anything I know about traveling or doing anything with kids, it is that they always want snacks. Make sure you are stocked full of snacks to hand out. Eating snacks also serves as good entertainment while on your car ride.

Additionally, I purchase a bunch of water bottles ahead of time and keep them in a bin in our car. This will save money so we don’t have to buy water bottles at a gas station. Also, it will save time not needing to stop for a drink if someone is thirsty.

  1. Do a car clean up during stops for gas. 

One thing that triggers me whether I am at home or in the car is messiness. I suggest at every stop for gas to have everyone collect their trash to throw it away. Additionally, have everyone tidy up their area in the car. This includes putting all items in the correctly labeled bin or tote that it should be in. 

Tidying up the car a little bit along the way will just keep things more organized for everyone and help reduce stress. 

  1. Be flexible 

My favorite tip for everything is to be flexible. Another thing that I know about traveling with and doing anything with kids is that you need to be flexible and ready to pivot when things go awry. 

It is always valuable to have a plan, but it is perfectly okay to have to adjust that plan too. 

  1. Have some fun! 

Car rides can sometimes be very long and stressful especially if you add in some slow traffic and some challenging moods. Try to stay calm and keep a positive attitude.

Also, remember that the road trip isn’t 100% about the destination rather it is about the journey. Enjoy that journey. If you see something that looks interesting, stop and check it out. If tensions are high, get out of the car and go on a little walk. Don’t be too rushed but take a deep breath and embrace the adventure of it all.

Labeled white bins with supplies for a road trip.

More General Tips to Make Your Road Trip Go Smoother

For me, it is all about decreasing the mental load. The day before or the day that you are leaving for your road trip can feel very overwhelming and stressful. Below are a few more tips to help decrease this mental load and stress. You can never have too many tips, right?

  1. Clean your car BEFORE you load your car. This will allow you to start with a clean slate. Wash your car. Clean all of the garbage out of it or anything else you do not need in it. Vacuum it.
  2. Make a plan for WHERE you are going to put everything in your car. For example-the labeled snack bin goes in behind the passenger seat. This will again help you to find everything quickly.
  3. Use sticky notes while you are packing to help you remember to pack or bring something. Sometimes you might be doing some laundry last minute, and you need to add something to your suitcase or maybe you need to put something in there that you use up to the last minute. Having sticky notes to remind you will decrease that mental load.
  4. Have a bin or tote with a change of clothes for everyone. Maybe put these in a packing cube. You never know when you may need a change of clothes and you will have it ready to grab if you need it quickly.
  5. If I am stopping overnight during the road trip, I make a list of everything I want to bring into the hotel. Sometimes you don’t need to bring your entire car inside the hotel so make a list of totes, bins, bags, etc. you want to bring in and then you can quickly grab each one especially if they are labeled. 

For more packing advice, check out my post Must Have Travel Items for some more great ideas!

I hope these road trip essentials with kids help guide you as you plan and embark on your road trip. 

SAVE and PIN this post to refer to it for ALL of your road trips. SHARE it with a friend or family member too! May you love your adventure. KW

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