Family Road Trip Packing List (+ Free Printable Packing Checklist)
Are you looking for a family road trip packing list printable to read and cross-check before your upcoming road trip?
Look no further, because as seasoned-road trippers we’ve developed the ultimate road trip packing checklist that includes all of the important items you’ll need for the best road trips!
Our family road trip checklist includes the perfect combination of road trip essentials, as well as food, fun, and entertainment!
By using this guide, we’ll ensure that you bring just enough and never too much when planning the ultimate family road trip.
Use our FREE printable road trip packing list pdf, and expert travel tips to feel confident while gearing up for your next family road trip!
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Planning a Family Road Trip
Despite the rising gas prices, road trips are still an ideal way for families to travel and to explore the beautiful countryside.
Along with being able to be on your own schedule, road trips allow you to pack more things, as well as to make pit stops and see other places and communities along the way.
With so many amazing benefits to family travel in general, ask yourself the following questions when planning a family road trip:
Who is going on this family road trip? What are your children’s ages and how well do you think they’ll do being confined to sitting in one place for a lengthy amount of time?
What type of vehicle are you driving? Is there enough room for everyone, including all of your gear, to ride comfortably to and from your destination without being too squished?
What type of road trip are you looking to take? Will you be making stops and doing activities along the way, or is your road trip simply a means to get to your final destination?
How far will you be traveling on your family road trip? How many hours will you be on the road, and how can you best split up the trip to make it into an enjoyable experience?
By answering these questions while planning a family road trip, you will identify any obvious red flags.
Once you’ve gotten the preliminary kinks worked out, it’s time to move on to packing for the most epic family road trip experience ever.
Road Trip Packing List For Families
When stressing over the road trip essentials that must be packed for adults, kids, and pets, it’s easy to forget about preparing the most important thing – your vehicle!
In other words, when crafting the perfect road trip packing list for families, think first and foremost about the safety and maintenance of the car, truck, van, SUV, or RV that you’ll be traveling in.
Taking care of your vehicle and bringing along the following items to ensure your safety are essential components of a successful family road trip!
In fact, being prepared for the potential of a roadside emergency or flat tire is one of our most recommended tips for planning a family road trip!
Along with checking your tire pressure and all fluid options (radiator, windshield fluid, brake, oil, and transmission) prior to departing, it’s a good idea to bring the following packing list essentials:
- Driver’s license
- Credit card
- Car insurance and travel insurance information
- Spare set of keys
- Rental contract (if applicable)
- Roadside assistance contact number
- Car manual
- Spare tire
- Reliable jumper cables
- Roadside emergency kit
Winter road trips come with their own set of challenges and successes.
When traveling during the winter when driving conditions are much more unpredictable, be sure to follow a specific winter road trip packing list for optimal preparation and safety.
General Essentials For A Road Trip
These family road trip essentials are the bread and butter of comfortably navigating yourself to and from your chosen destination.
It is very important to have an adequately charged Smartphone for the entire duration of your trip, especially if you are using a navigation app for directions.
Having both a phone charger and a supplemental battery pack provides additional security when relying on battery power for any and all of your electronic devices.
Likewise, comfort items such as pain relievers, sunglasses, and neck pillows are basic road trip necessities included on our printable road trip checklist.
- Luggage (clothes, shoes, jackets)
- Car seat and baby gear
- Smartphone and charger
- Car mount phone holder
- Portable battery charger
- Navigation app(s) for directions (Our favorite is Google Maps and the Waze app.
- Pen and notepad
- Cash and change for tolls
- First aid kit
- Toilet paper (for bathroom emergencies)
- Sunglasses (I always wear these!)
- Neck pillow and blanket
Here are the clothes we recommend for each person, stored in packing cubes, of course:
- A pair of shorts per day
- A t-shirt/tank top per day
- 1 pair of underwear per day
- 1 pair of socks per day
- 2 pairs of lounge pants
- 1 long sleeve shirt
- 1 sweatshirt
- Swim Suit
- Running/hiking shoes
Along with using packing cubes for our clothing, we use these clear multi-purpose organizer pouches (size large) to store all of these loose extras:
- Travel size body spray/perfume
- Razor/shave gel
- Face wash/moisturizer
- Hair brush/comb
- Hair ties/clips (I love these ones for fine hair!)
- Styling products/hairspray
- Curling iron/straightener (if needed)
- Contact lens solution/supplies (if needed)
- Prescription medication (if applicable)
- Over-the-counter pain relivers and stomach medications
- Motion sickness medication
- Sunscreen + LipBalm with SPF (This is one of my favorites because it smells like summer!)
Baby and Toddler Gear
If your baby or toddler is still rear-facing in their car seat, be sure to equip your vehicle with a crash-tested, shatterproof car mirror that can be used to keep your child in view.
Other road trip baby items include:
- Diapers, wipes, and changing pad
- Change of clothes
- Bottles, milk, formula
- A cordless bottle warmer
- Blanket or special toy
- Car window sun shade
- Infant/child doses of pain relivers
In addition, if your baby or toddler uses a pacifier, purchase a washable pacifier clip before road tripping.
This will save you from having to strain to reach the pacifier should it fall from their mouth.
Next, if you happen to be taking a road trip during the process of potty training your toddler, the most essential item to bring along is a portable potty chair.
Select a travel potty chair that takes up minimal space and has an inner container that is easy to empty and clean.
Last, road trip snacks for toddlers have to be easily portable, not too messy, not too crumbly, and somewhat healthy in order to prevent sugar overload.
Be sure to pack dried cereal or crackers in spill-free snack cups.
Likewise, store all liquids in a spill-free sippy cup.
Food & Drink Packing Lists for Road Trips
A good amount of time and effort should be spent planning the food and meal components of your family road trip packing list.
Bringing along the best road trip snacks and meals serves many important purposes in ensuring a more seamless road trip.
Not only do road trip foods help fight boredom, but they cut down on the cost associated with buying food at gas stations or somewhere else on the road.
Likewise, portable meals prevent prolonged pit-stops for dining and help you avoid the not-as-healthy fast-food trap.
Additional planning tip: When creating your road trip list, be sure to plan for the expected mess or accidental spill that is bound to happen when eating with kids in an unconventional space.
- A large cooler and ice
- Reusable water bottles
- Travel mug
- Paper towels or napkins for spills
- Hand sanitizer
- Wet wipes
- Ziplock bags
- Our favorite homeade snack mixes
- Non-sticky, mess-free snacks and treats in individually portioned bags like dried fruit, granola bars, beef jerky, string cheese, crackers, and veggies. Organize the snacks into 2 bins (as pictured above), one for the way ‘there’, and one for the way ‘back’.
Bonus! Click here for your very own printable Road Trip Food Checklist pdf that includes the best on-the-go road trip snack and meal ideas!
Tips for Traveling with Food
1. Use up your most delicate fruit first when going on a road trip.
In other words, start by eating bananas and berries, then move on to more sturdy products such as apples and oranges that don’t spoil as easily.
2. When it comes to road trip food, tortillas, pitas, or other sturdy flatbreads work better to bring along than do loaves of bread. They take up a lot less room and do not risk getting smashed.
3. When packing a cooler with items that need to stay chilled, be sure to lay the ice on the top, versus the bottom of the cooler.
This is because cold air sinks and will, therefore, disperse itself more evenly if laid on top of the food.
4. Aim to open the cooler only 1 or 2 times a day in order to maintain its refrigeration and keep the ice from thawing.
5. Also, make all food, including snacks, easily accessible throughout the duration of your family road trip.
This prevents someone (likely mom or dad!) from having to constantly bend over the back seat or stop to open the trunk every time hunger or boredom hits.
6. Avoid bringing anything made of glass on your road trip, including glass food containers. Glass is heavy, bulky, and very dangerous when broken within the confines of your family vehicle.
7. Assemble and bring along a road trip kit with the following road trip essentials for spills, clean-ups, and car sickness:
- Anti-bacterial wipes
- Hand sanitizer
- Garbage bags
- Ziplock bags
- Napkins/paper towels
- Saltine crackers and motion sickness medicine
8. Each time you stop while on a road trip, don’t forget to pitch any garbage that has accumulated.
This prevents build-up and smelliness.
Fun Things to Pack For A Road Trip
The best way to happily survive long drives is to pack entertainment items such as road trip games and activities that are kept within easy reach.
Depending on the ages of your kids, the activities to bring on a road trip will vary, which is why we’ve dedicated an entire article to road trip activities for toddlers!
Perhaps our best tip for children of all ages, however, is to assemble road trip goodie bags filled with age-appropriate trinkets and treats to surprise them.
A great option is to give them a new goodie bag every hour to keep their anticipation and curiosity high.
*Get our complete guide on how to make road trip goodie bags here!
- Audiobooks and podcasts
- A music playlist
- Tablet/electronic device
- DVD player and DVDs
- Kid-size Bluetooth headphones
- Favorite stuffed animal
- Hand-held toys that don’t have small parts
- Car-friendly activity and coloring books
- Crayons, pencils, and pens
Additional Road Trip Games
Along with books, electronics, and our infamous road trip goody bags, our family loves to play good old’ fashioned word games while cruising the countryside.
The best word games to play in the car with kids have flexible playing rules and can be played by all ages.
Likewise, they are meant to be more of a time-filler versus an actual competition in order to keep things fun and lighthearted (which will keep the bickering at bay!).
If you are into keeping points, however, all of these word games to play in the car can be adapted to have a winner and loser.
Check out our article on our favorite Road Trip Word Games that include detailed instructions for these classics:
- The Alphabet Game
- I Spy
- Going on a Bear Hunt
- Think Fast!
- Word Trail
- Would You Rather?
- Car Spotting
- Name That Tune
- 20 Questions
- Celebrity Name Game
- The License Plate Game
Miscellaneous Road Trip Items
There are many other important things to bring on a road trip that should be included on your road trip packing list.
Consider the weather, where you are going, what you will be doing, and how much space you have in your vehicle.
After all, with the limited space offered by a family vehicle, packing for a family road trip can be a daunting task.
Remember, the key is to pack just enough, but not too much, while still remembering all of the essential road trip items listed above.
Miscellaneous road trip packing list items may include:
- Destination specific items (i.e. items from our family camping checklist and additional things to bring to the beach)
- Pet supplies (kennel, food, leash)
- An umbrella
- Window shades
- Travel binoculars (especially if road tripping through National Parks!)
- A Ball or frisbee
- Duct tape (it fixes everything, right?)
- Swiss army knife
- Folding chairs
Winter Driving Items
As mentioned, though we have an entire article dedicated to our winter driving checklist, key items include:
- De-icer windshield washer fluid and aerosol windshield de-icer
- A snowbrush and ice-scraper due
- Car battery booster pack
- A folding emergency snow shovel and traction mats
- Fuel line antifreeze
- A waterproof blanket
- Jacket, hat, mittens, and snow boots
- Extra food and water
1 Week Road Trip Packing List
Planning ahead is especially important for long road trips.
If you’re going on a cross-country road trip, or plan to be on the road for a week or more, you’ll still need to account for the size of your vehicle when deciding just how much you can bring along.
In addition, if you don’t plan to stay in a hotel room along the way, you’ll need to account for car camping or camper van supplies.
Car camping supplies include:
- A tent (Did you know that they make tents that actually connect to your personal vehicle?)
- Sleeping bag
- An eye mask to block out light
- Sleeping pads or a light air-mattress
- Hand pump
- A reliable cooler that keeps food cold longer
Keep in mind that you can usually park overnight at Walmart, Sam’s Club, Costco, Home Depot, Camping World, and a few other big box stores.
Rest stops are a good choice too.
RV and Camper Van Supplies include:
- Bedding, blankets, pillow
- Hanging toiletry bag
- Eyemask and ear plugs
- Hanging storage
- Bag for dirty clothes
- Portable fan
- Deck of cards
Long Road Trip Planning Tips
It is essential to have a detailed itinerary for long road trips, but don’t overload your timetable with too many activities so that you feel rushed.
Keep a flexible schedule so you can stop wherever you want, and still have plenty of time to enjoy the scenery.
For more scenic routes, try traveling on backroads instead of the highway.
If you love natural beauty, this is the perfect road trip for you.
Next, for road trips lasting longer than 1 day, it is extremely important to have a fully-charged Smartphone in your car, as well as a backup paper atlas or paper map.
Use your Smartphone to check the weather condition as well as to navigate and avoid road accidents and closures. You can also use your Smartphone to find local businesses and restaurants or to book a hotel room mid-route.
After all, having a great night’s sleep is another essential long road trip tip.
A minimum of four hours of sleep is needed to avoid drowsy driving, and a full eight hours or more is recommended.
Depending on the length of your trip, if you’re unsure about the amount of sleep you’ll need, you can delay your journey.
If you’re not sleeping well, consider waiting until the morning before you start the trip.
Finally, when driving long distances, find a single place to stop at every 100 miles or two hours. You can use apps to find the best gas station, eat a meal, and take a break.
Road Trip Packing List Printable
In conclusion, before you start packing for your road trip, consider the weather and how long the journey will take.
Perform an inspection and maintenance check of your vehicle and put safety at the forefront of your mind.
Once your vehicle is fully loaded with all of your gear, be sure that you have full visibility out of your mirrors and through the rear window.
In other words, don’t stack things too high, and don’t pack so much that your view is obstructed.
Last, if you’re on a true road trip, you shouldn’t be in too much of a hurry to get from Point A to Point B.
Slow down and prevent yourself from becoming distracted while driving by silencing your phone and by driving with 2 hands on the wheel.
Along with food, water, snacks, and a phone charger, our other road trip essentials are found here!
Do you have a favorite road trip in mind? Likewise, can think of any additional items to add to this road trip packing list? Please leave a comment below so that we can be sure to add them!Jen
If you enjoyed our Family Road Trip Packing List, click here to check out our related posts:
- Top 10 Tips for Planning a Family Road Trip (And Enjoying it Too!)
- 18 Amazing “Are We There Yet” Road Trip Activity Bags
- Best Road Trip Activities for Toddlers to Keep Them Entertained
- Road Trip Food List: Best Meals and Snacks When on the Road
- Top 16 Tips for Flying With Kids & Ways to Keep them Calm
*Before leaving, be sure to check our Travel Resources Page to find our exclusive travel discounts and to book hotels, rental cars, and guided tours.*
This list is quite helpful. This will undoubtedly be helpful because we have more summer road excursions planned around Europe. In addition, I’ve read a blog ,that features posts regarding travel tips.
Thank you! I hope that you are able to put this helpful list to use with your upcoming road trips!
This is such a great family road trip packing list! We’ve forgotten a spare set of keys before and this is a great reminder!
Thanks for reading! My husband is the one who is always very conscious about bringing the spare keys 🙂 Losing keys would put a huge damper on any family road trip 🙂
This is such a useful list. We’re planning more road trips around Europe for Summer so this will surely come in handy.
Awesome! Road trips around Europe….that sounds so amazing! Happy and safe travels to you!
What a great checklist! I’m always forgetting things whenever we go on road trips.
Astrid, thanks for reading! I’m glad that this road trip checklist will come in handy for you!!
We sure do love a road trip!! And this is a fantastic resource! Very thorough and helpful- thanks Jen!!
You’re welcome! I know that you are a fan of packing lists too – they are so helpful!
Harmony, Momma To Go
I am literally sitting here taking notes- had to add meds to my list, dramamine for my son and advil for all just in case. For summer 2020, add face masks to the list. I bought a box of disposable ones to keep in the car just in case (we have resusable ones otherwise)
Ooo….having a box of disposable masks on hand is a GREAT idea! I am going to have to remember that when we take our road trip in July not knowing what places will still be recommending vs. requiring masks then. THANKS for the tip!
This is such a comprehensive list. We never go on a road trip without snacks and water! Plus wet wipes and good playlists and audio books are a must too.
Thanks for reading Debbie! I remember when our kids were younger and their hands would get messy from food and snacks in the car – Wet Wipes really came in handy then 🙂