How do you plan a long road trip essentials with kids?
Long road trip essentials with kids require some planning and packing, but long trips with the whole family can be fun! Before hitting the road and starting a long drive, talk to your kids about where you are going and the anticipated time in the car. If you have older kids, let them help pack their car bag with favorite books, audio books, toys, activities, and a few healthy snacks. Young kids can also go through their toys and select a few favorites. Allowing them to fill the back seat with their favorite things and comfy items is always a good idea.
All family members can get excited about the trip ahead and feel like they have a sense of control over their activities in the car. You may want to pull out some special books set aside just for the trip or grab some exciting snacks from the grocery before you leave is a great way to build anticipation. Consider packing your car, visiting the gas station and prepping snacks before travel day to save time.
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Consider sharing a map of your route with your kids. You can highlight cities you will be traveling through and talk about landmarks you will see along the way. This can serve as a distraction during your trip, and will remind your kids of the progress you are making along the route. You may also want to map out pit stops along the route if you are traveling for a long time.
For instance, when we travel through Louisville, we always point out the huge bridges, the Louisville Slugger museum with the giant baseball bat, and the horse pastures. This teaches our kids a little about some Kentucky history while reminding them that we are closer to our destination.
When thinking about road trip essentials for kids, consider eating and sleeping schedules and how your children will travel best. Some families swear by traveling at night to ensure less traffic on the roads and children sleeping in their seats. That doesn’t work for our family, but we do find that starting out early in the morning ensures more chipper moods. 🙂 We have the kids set out their clothing the night before and make sure all of our bags are packing ready to move in the morning. Breakfast is served in the car, and we attempt to roll out before 9 AM, if humanly possible!
Of course, remind all of your kids to visit the restroom before you leave and make sure babies/toddlers have on fresh diapers. I also make sure my big kids understand that once the toddler falls asleep in her car seat, we stop for nothing, so be prepared for the long haul during naptime!
How do I organize my own car for a road trip with a toddler?
Important road trip essentials for kids and toddler travel include considering seating. Think about your toddler’s car seat position in the car and make sure you can easily reach him or her. If you have multiple kids, think strategically about which older child will be the most helpful to the toddler. I usually put my oldest and youngest together in the middle aisle with our two middle kids in the back row. That way, my oldest can help the toddler with getting snacks, reading books, or singing songs and help ensure the best road trip outcome.
If you don’t have older children to help keep your toddler entertained, consider leaving an extra spot open next to the car seat. You may need to move to the back to sit next to your toddler to keep them distracted and comfortable during the drive.
Toddler Road Trip Essentials
Packing for a toddler or little kids on a road trip means you need a whole list of things including toys, snacks, and activities. Most toddlers have an attention span of 2-3 minutes, so consider that when you are planning your trip. A toddler is also enjoying their newly gained independence, so just plan on needing some stretch breaks where your little ones can run around and be free. Road trip breaks are never a bad idea!
You may want to consider stopping at a rest area with lots of grass for toddlers to run around versus a restaurant where they will be confined to a high chair. Pack an easy picnic and take advantage of the fresh air. You could also scope out local playgrounds along your route and plan a stop there to break up the trip. Also, remember to pack a change of clothes for any accidents that occur.
Best Travel Toys for Toddlers
The following items include some of our favorites when road tripping with toddlers or young children.
Magnetic Doodle Pad
Melissa and Doug Sticker Sets
Melissa and Doug Water Wow!
Lift the Flap Books
Flat Surface for Drawing or Playing
If your young kids or small children need a flat surface for drawing or playing on the open road, consider having a car seat travel tray on your family road trip packing list. I like the one below because it keeps snacks, art supplies, a sippy cup, books and more easily accessible for young children, ensuring a more successful road trip!
How do I make my child comfortable on a long car ride?
In order to make your kids comfortable on a car ride, have them put what they are bringing in the car the night before you leave and check out their space. If they overpack, they may feel claustrophobic so help them edit their packing.
Consider including a small soft blanket on the trip to keep them warm and cozy. Help them select comfortable clothing and shoes that slip on and off easily for getting in and out of the car. Include any stuffed lovies and favorite items that remind them of home.
Prep the car by emptying out trash and cup holders and fill thermoses with cold water. You might also consider purchasing a car seat organizer, like the one below, to provide easy access to toys, games, snacks and drinks.
What should a tween bring on a road trip as a Road Trip Essentials for Kids?
The great thing about tweens is they can pack their own bags! Our 12 year old typically packs several books, gum/candy, a sketch pad, fresh colored pencils, a Nintendo Switch with several games, and a pack of colored postcards that she can color and send to our friends during our trip. We also bring along a charged cell phone with some downloaded movies and podcasts that she enjoys, along with headphones.
What snacks should I bring for a long car ride with kids?
Car rides are all about fun snacks! This is when we pull out favorites that our kids don’t normally have at home. I usually run to the grocery store before travel day to grab snack bag sized portions of animal crackers, cheese crackers, breakfast bars, gum, gummy bears, cheese sticks, Pop Tarts, lollipops, and chips. You may also want to buy a quick sandwich option, like Uncrustables or Lunchables, if your kids prefer those. Consider your younger children’s fine motor skills when packing their snacks. The last thing you want is a frustrated toddler on the road!
I also grab easy plastic lunchbox containers and use them for picnic lunches. Typically, we pack turkey and cheese sandwiches or peanut butter with cinnamon, baby carrots, apple slices, raisins, cheese and pretzel sticks for a portable lunch option. If you choose to pack juice boxes, also consider grabbing some juice box holders like the ones pictured below. That way, you aren’t dealing with squeezed juice all over car seats or clothing!
Remember to also pack garbage bags to corral trash during your family road trip. You can throw them away along the route at your next pit stop or public restrooms.
Kids can fill up their water bottles before we leave, and I will throw in some lemonade pouches for a quick, fun drink to have on the road. Soft sided coolers provide a nice, easy option for transporting food during your trip and don’t take up as much space as their hard plastic counterparts.
What do I need for a long car ride for entertainment in Road Trip Essentials for Kids?
For entertainment for your kids, I think it’s different depending on the child and the age category. Here are some of our favorite general items to pack for entertainment on a road trip:
- Coloring books, crayons
- Little People, small animals
- Doodle Pads
- sketch books
- sticker books
- colored pencils, crayons
- Wikki Stix
- portable charged devices with movies and games downloaded on them
- Nintendo Switch with charger
- portable DVD player with charger
- DVDs from the library
- Blow Pops, Twizzlers
- gel stickers for car windows
- snack bags to hand out snacks easily
- snack cups, sippy cups, water bottles
- downloaded books on devices or books on CDs for mom and dad
What should you wear on a long car ride?
Think comfort when dressing your kids on long car rides. Breathable clothing that can be layered are best. Cotton shirts, soft shorts/pants, socks, and slip on and off shoes make the trip easier. Consider packing an extra set of clothing for little ones in case of spills or accidents.
Throw in comfy blankets and favorite loveys for nap times in the car. Be sure to throw in wipes and hand sanitizer to keep things clean during your journey. I also like to have extra grocery bags available for trash pick up and in case of car sickness.
If you have a toddler who is potty training, be sure to pack extra diapers or pull ups, outfits and perhaps a portable potty seat. Lining the potty with a diaper can ensure absorbency if you have to use it during your travel and can be tossed easily along the route.
Extra Road Trip Essentials with Kids
Here are a few more items to throw in the car when we travel with kids:
- plastic zip baggies – I find all sorts of uses for these: doling out snacks, sealing up stinky trash, leftover snacks, etc.
- First-Aid Kit – fill this with band aids, Neosporin, Children’s meds and pain reliever for adults
- small scissors
- atlas – I use this to point out our travels for our kids and as a back up, in case our phones fail and we need to plan our route
- headphones for each child with back up batteries
- portable device chargers and headphone splitters
- jumper cables
- waterproof picnic blanket
- napkins, tissues, Wet Wipes
- Dramamine chewables for motion sickness
- jump rope and a beach ball for rest areas, truck stops, and breaks
I hope this list of Road Trip Essentials for Kids helps you in your planning your next travels with your family! Hop over to my other post on more tips for traveling on a plane with your kids!