Road Trip Packing List
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Who remembers road trips? We took road trips when I was a kid. I remember coloring in my coloring books and playing lots of games like ‘I spy’ and being totally and completely bored. I vividly remember, at 5 or 6, being mad at my dad for hitting a bump in the road that made me ‘mess up’ and color outside the lines. I also remember asking him, ” Daddy, PLEASE tell me when you are going to hit a bump so I can not get outside the lines.”
As a parent now, that packs tons of activities and games and music and audiobooks and DVDs, I just can NOT imagine a road trip without any of those things! I think to myself, “How did my parents survive???” LOL!
Whether you are heading out on a road trip with the kids or without them you’ll want to pack up all the things you need to make the journey as smooth and easy as possible. The perfect road trip begins with the perfect road trip packing list!
Summertime = road trips!!
Packing List for a Road Trip – Get the Car Ready
First things, first. Before you hit the road on your epic road trip you’ll want to gather all the best items and get yourself and the car ready.
Being on the side of the road is NOT a part of your road trip so do all you can to avoid that!
Take your car to your local shop.
*Get your oil changed.
*Make sure all the tires have the right amount of air pressure.
*Fill up with gas so you don’t have to do that straight away.
*Get the GPS ready. Go ahead and plug in all the points on your destinations for ease on your route.
Be ready for emergencies:
*Make sure you have a spare tire. Does it have enough air? How old is it? They DO have an expiration date – I learned that the hard way!
*Be sure to have an Emergency Car Kit that includes: fix a flat, flares, tools for changing a tire, jack, jumper cables, and roadside reflective triangles.
I love stopping along the way at quirky roadside attractions. There are a lot of fun things to see in the US! They are fun conversation starters and let everyone stretch their legs!
Packing List for Road Trip – Get the Inside of the Car Ready
While the ‘machine’ part of the car needs to work properly without issue, the inside is where you’ll spend all your time and it pays to take a bit of time to get organized before you head out.
Getting things ready inside the car – front seat:
*sunglasses – for driver and co-pilot
*drinks – caffeine can really be helpful on a long drive especially if you leave early in the morning
*snacks – things the driver can eat while driving like peeled orange segments and apple slices
*food – Save money on meals and have sandwiches ready for lunch.
*small basket of goodies (within arm’s reach if there is no copilot to help out) – tissues, chapstick, gum
*cord to let you listen to your music through the car radio
*GPS – make sure it is programmed and easily visible by the driver
If you are alone in the front seat you’ll need to be organized. It is hard to drive safely and keep things within reach. Without a copilot you’ll love this SIDE seat organization storage. It attatches to the passenger seat whcih keeps things from rolling around.
Getting things ready inside the car – the glove box
*Current insurance papers
*Phone numbers for AAA or roadside assistance
Packing List for Road Trip Success- Snacks for the Backseat
Snacks are part of a great road trip. As the saying goes, “No matter how old you are, road trip snacks should look like an unsupervised kid spent $100”.
Great tips for snacks in the backseat!
*Choose all time favorites.
*Dole them out on a schedule – a snack every hour or every 50 miles
*Beware crumbs. Choose messy snacks with caution. For example We do NOT allow the tiny nerd candies in the car!
*Give drinks with thought. Free access to liquids means more potty breaks and more diaper changes.
*Purchase family sized bags of snacks for savings and then separate into small Ziploc bags.
*Food allergies – When one family member has food allergies then everyone needs to be careful. The car is a small space so we have a NO nut policy for road trips to protect our allergic son.
*Keep some healthy snacks so everyone stays healthy on the road. We like to keep a cooler with Naked green juice. Everyone drinks some every day. Then, in spite of the fun snacks, everyone also gets some nutrients and vitamins!
Packing List for Road Trip – Apps
Apps can be a great tool for any road trip. Use them to get the very best information for your trip and make the entire journey smoother in every way. This is another thing I can’t imagine living without. How did our parents know where to eat? Where to buy gas?
*For the cheapest gas along your road trip route, try the app Gas Buddy!*Where should you stop along the way I-95? Find out what is available at the upcoming exit using the app iExit.Just as the name suggests, find out what is along the way with the app alongways.Keep all the cool stuff you have planned organized with the app TripIt.Are you foodies? Want to try some new grub on your epic road trip? This app will show you all the cool food places you’ve seen on TV – TVFoodMaps for Android.OpenTable allows you to find great restaurants and make reservations.
Packing List for a Road Trip – Where Should You Stay?
Finding the perfect place to stay along the way is part of the fun. Sometimes waiting until the last minute and finding the perfect place to stay whenever you decide you have had enough driving for one day.
When you have kids, sometimes it is the best to have a prearranged place to stay. I prefer to play everything out carefully so I will have chosen our hotels before we even leave! If flexibility is a big part of your road trip give these apps a chance to help out!
Find out which hotels have open rooms tonight and a great deal on them with these apps
The Travelocity app is proud that you can get ‘mobile only’ special deals!
If you are planning from home before you leave try Trip Advisor.
Trip Advisor – I’m a Trip Advisor level 6 contributor and I love trip advisor.
Get a great deal on local activities and food with the Groupon app.
Packing List for Road Trip – Entertainment for the Kids!
Getting this part right on getting ready for a road trip can make ALL the difference between a fantastic road trip with the family and a nightmarish whine-fest that makes you wonder why you ever agreed to this cross-country horror show being trapped in a tin can with the unhappy kids!
Be ready. Be very ready. Be super duper ready. The more stuff you have ready to keep the kids busy the better!
Firstly, think open-ended.
Toys and items that can be used in a wide variety of ways are the best choices. One of my personal favorites for a road trip for any age is a package of pipe cleaners (or chenille stems). Use them to create items of all sorts like animals, chains, eyeglasses, and jewelry. Give the kids a package and see what they come up with! I love how they have sparkly ones. Wiki Stix is a new version of chenille stems that have a tacky stickiness to them. These are great for imagine fueled creations.Secondly, use this time to talk!
Tell stories, and ask for stories. Let the kids talk about anything and everything. Everyone feels valued and loved when they are listened to. I love this book that gives you some conversation starters.
Tell them what it was like when you were a kid. Mine couldn’t believe that I didn’t have a microwave oven when I was their ages. Describe some of the clothes you wore in middle school. I had to describe the knickers of the 80s! Remember having to call someone until y answered because there was NO answering machine? Your kids don’t!
CLICK HERE – Activities for Preschoolers during a Road Trip
Packing List for a Road Trip – How to Stay Organized
Keep toys from falling onto the floor out of reach of little hands with a little desk. I love this one by Kids Travel Play.I like to use these ‘behind the seat’ organizers for the emergency stash. I put wet wipes for messes, Kleenex, paper towels, and plastic trash bags in the pockets. Also, umbrellas and phone chargers are easily organized this way.No Man’s Land in the Back Seat
Do your kids get upset over one child gets on the ‘wrong side’ of the car? What is it about the backseat territory? I remember a seam on the back seat of our car during road trips when I was young. If my sister (I’m sorry Cheryl! LOL) crossed over that line the whining began, “MOM! She is on MY side.” Weirdly, at the time this really did bother me. As an adult, I can not understand why that was such a big deal! LOL! The best way to not have the ‘she is on MY side’ battle in YOUR backseat is to put an organizer in between the two! Officially set up ‘No Man’s Land’ in the back seat. 🙂
Keep the trunk organized, too!
In the back area of a van or in the trunk of a car is the perfect spot for food you’ll access when you stop for gas or potty breaks. I love the cooler in this one! I like to carry a healthy ‘green’ juice from the Naked juice line which keeps everyone getting some great nutrition in an easy way.
Road Trip Packing List – Road Trip with the Pets
We love taking our pets with us when we travel. We have dogs and rabbits who just love to travel, too! Get the back seat ready for your pets to keep them safe and happy on the road.
Seat belts aren’t just for people! Animals need to be restrained, too. This is safe for the animal so it doesn’t get thrown around in the event of an accident. An animal that is restrained also will not interfere with the driver but distracting the driver. I love these choices for our bigger dogs. The 8 pound dog often rides in a kennel.
We like this dog safety vest even better. We have a wiggler and she likes to get out of her regular neck collar. So this harness keeps her safely attached.
Protect the back seat, to from your pup with this cool seat cover. I love how it keeps dog furr off the floorboard, too.Our rabbits travel in this kennel on road trips. I really like this kennel because it has a door on the top which lets the kids get the bunnies out for snuggles during the road trip.Animals need to stretch their legs just like people do! Rest areas are great spot for the whole group to get a little break from a long day on the road. Even bunnies can go for a walk on a leash!Puppy pads are a must for kennels for any animal. Even if you have a fully potty trained animal it is a whole lot easier to clean out an accident from a kennel when there is a puppy pad in it. I know this from personal experience. Trust me!!These travel dishes and bowls are great for making a road trip with the pets even easier!
Keep all the pet stuff organized with a little suitcase just for your pet! We LOVE suitcases of all sorts and need no encouragement to get another one, to be honest, LOL!! However; it really makes road travel easier when you have just one little bag to take into a hotel in the evening wtih all the pet stuff.The Dog Lovers Guide to Travel: Best Destinations, Hotels, Events, and Advice to Please Your Pet by Kelly E. Carter This great book will help you choose the best spots for traveling with your pet.Get rid of the extra pet hair with a cool pet hair brush.This is a great invention for the older dogs! We have one Sheltie that is 16 1/2 years old and she doesn’t get around like she used to. This type of pet gear travel ramp is just what she needs to get into the back of the van easily!
Packing List for Road Trip – When should you leave?
My husband’s dad famously started all family road trips at some ungodly early hour of the morning. They would put blankets on the back seat (this was in the days PRE seatbelts) and right when it was time to leave they would carry my husband and his little sister into the car and lay them down. This way, the kids slept for several hours. By the time the kids were awake and ready for breakfast, several hours had already passed.
We tried this once. We had an RV and were planning a long road trip from Denver, CO to Houston, Texas. The plan was to leave about 4:00 in the morning. We packed up the night before and were ready to leave at 4:00 the next morning. The animals were loaded up and the RV was warm and toasty since the heater was running. We grabbed the kids from their cribs and popped them into the car seats expecting them to either STAY asleep or go RIGHT back to sleep. LOL! Yeah, right. Our kids sprang to life, excited about the journey and were not in the least bit sleepy while I was exhausted.
So, if you are lucky enough to have kids that will stay asleep then an early start time would be great for you. If not, then you might as well begin the journey well rested since they aren’t going to sleep anyway.
Plan our your start time to your trip and make sure you won’t be passing through any large cities at rush hour. That could add hours to your journey and seriously add to your stress level. Avoid rush hour if you can!
If you plan on sleeping in the car – maybe you and the driver are switching places, then a pillow makes sleeping so much more comfortable. I personally like this one that attaches to the seatbelt.Here is another interesting kidea for a travel pillow. This one keeps your head from falling over too much and giving you that crick in the neck feeling.
Packing List for Road Trip – Back Pain
Do you get a stiff back or sore aching muscles from sitting too long? I sure do! That can make a road trip really uncomfortable. One of the best things you can do is schedule time to get out of the car so you can walk around a bit.
My husband and I have both had back pain and have tried every seat and lumbar support we could get our hands on. Here are a few favorites that helped us. Another thing that has really helped us is to use a foam roller at night in the hotel. This helps stretch out those tight muscles and really has given us a lot of relief. We take it on all of our travels now! A few minutes on this foam roller each evening can make a HUGE difference in your comfort level.Since you are just sitting anyway, try these balls to massage your feet! Why not get a little bit of delicious massage while you are on the road?
Packing List for a Road Trip – Books You NEED for a road trip
An absolute MUST for any road trip is an old-fashioned atlas. With all the GPS and mapquest type apps why do you NEED an atlas? Backup!! You need it for backup. Trust me when I say you’ll be desperate for one if your BPS looses its’ mind on your trip. I admit to being directionally challenged and have a hard time navigating. It isn’t that hard for me to get turned around even with a GPS, but once in a while the problems really IS the GPS and not me!! Having an atlas really is peace of mind.Listening to an audio book is a GREAT way to pass some time on a road trip. Be advsed that not all books are awesome read aloud. For example, some actors read too slowly for me and sometimes their ability to createa voices for the characters seems a bit lacking. Sometimes a book is actually BETTER when you listen to it than when you read.
A very, very long time ago, so long ago that my book was on casette tape and not disc, a friend loaned me A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton and a few more books in the series for my long drive. The books were absolutey memorizing and I would actually wait at my stop until we got to the end of a chapter before I wanted to get out! I was so enthralled with the books that when I got home I purchased the next few to read. I found them totally…..and surprisingly…..boring. They were SOO much better aloud! I highly recommend this series if you like mysteries.Are you road tripping with the kids? From middle elementary school age to high school the kids will love this series on Greek mythology with a mix of super hero tween action. As a parent I can attest to the fact that this is interesting and easy on the ears for parents, too.
Do NOT be afraid if you have seen the Percy Jackson movies – which are just terrible!!! The books are awesome and a MILLION times better than the movies.
Old Yeller by Fred GipsoRoad trips are a staple of growing up! Enjoy the journey.
Happy miles and miles of travel,
Natalie, The Educational Tourist