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Family Road Trip Packing Tips and Checklist

By DesertMama


The tires have been filled, the oil has been changed, and the windshield wipers are ready for the bug battle of the century. Yes, it’s time for the family road trip.

As a mom, I’ve experienced my share of family road trips with infants and teenagers alike. Here are some of my first-hand family road trip packing tips to help you prepare for your upcoming adventure.


Banish the “Are we there yet?” with proper kid-friendly entertainment. For the little ones, bring along interactive games, flash cards, and new books to pique their interest. But feel free to get creative. On our most recent road trip I brought along a pack of colorful pipe cleaners. The end result was hours of designing. We made eye glasses, very scary monsters, and a garden, which was “planted” in the back seat pockets.


Car snacks are a road trip must have, but choosing the right kind is imperative. Skip anything gooey, sticky or that may melt in the car (like chocolate). As a matter of fact, forget the sugar-loaded treats all together since they only trigger unwanted backseat bouncing. Hardy fruit and veggies like baby carrots and grapes are a terrific choice (leave the bananas on the tree since they bruise so easily). Prepackage munchies like crackers and cereal in snack-sized zipped bags for easy snacking.

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Clean up

A roll of paper towels and a tub of handy sanitizer wipes should always be kept within arms reach when kids are in tow. From spilled slushies to car sickness, you never know when they might come in handy. You need to have something to put those soiled towels in, so don’t forget a handful of plastic grocery bags.

Dealing with Mother Nature

Let’s face it, when a boy wails, “I have to go to the bathroom – now!” pulling off onto the side of the road isn’t that big of deal. But when a girl says it, and you’re miles from civilization, it’s a different story, especially if your little one is in potty training mode. Of course, we all know certain potty times can be a problem with the boys, too. Aside from keeping them in training pants, bring along that cute little training potty, a tub of disinfecting wipes, toilet paper and a box of zipped bags.


Some other things to check off your list include toll booth change, car cell phone and DVD charger, and good conversation. Most of all bring your adventurous spirit – because adventure is what road trips are all about. But remember, even if you do forget DVDs or emergency toilet paper or anything else mentioned in this Family Road Trip Packing Tips list, remember you can rent and buy such things on the road. The most important thing is that you have the entire clan aboard – and with that, consider your road trip packing a success.

Road Trip Packing Checklist

  • Tricks and treats bag (new games, toys, snacks and any other magical distractions)
  • Updated maps or navigation system (When traveling, it’s worth it to upgrade to the latest software.)
  • Small cooler for upfront and larger cooler in the back filled with refill items
  • First-aid kit (with motion sickness relievers)
  • Road-side emergency kit
  • Wet wipes, paper towels or napkins
  • Trash bags
  • Flashlight
  • Cell phone and DVD player charger
  • Easy on/off shoes for the entire clan
  • Camera and video camera
  • Pillows and Blankets
  • Toilet paper (Have you ever stopped at a rest stop that’s out of TP? It happens.)
  • Training potty (if you’re kids are in that stage)
  • Laundry bag for dirty clothes
  • Laundry detergent
  • Laundry Basket (great for carrying lots of small bags into the hotel room or to the beach, plus I hear it’s handy for doing laundry. Luggage simply fits inside in the trunk).
  • Rolls of quarters (for tolls, laundry, gumball machines)

About the Writer

DesertMama (aka Beth Blair) is a former flight attendant who traded her wings for a laptop and now works as a freelance travel writer. She is also co-founder of You may learn more about her at

Photo credit: Maya Kruchancova

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