Our Guide to Smart Packing for a RoadTrip

Packing for long distance travel with kids can be daunting especially road trips. Prepare for the worst, and hope for the best.

Failure to plan; is a plan to fail

Packing up the kids to drive to the grocery store can be hard enough; packing them up for a 2-week road trip can sound like a nightmare before any planning has even taken place. We have done several short and a handful of longer road trips; some successful and some I would rather forget. There are a few things to remember when taking little ones on road trips.

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In-car entertainment

First of all, it’s not just the road trips that needs to be accounted for, hanging around the hotel and touring need to be considered as well. I few items I have found that do double duty.

  • Tablet – we all have tech, don’t be ashamed to use it. It can make or break the last hour needed to get somewhere.
  • Snacks. Pack more than enough non-perishable snacks, and several sandwich bags to take them in. We bring goldfish, rice crispy squares, individual packages of apple sauce, crackers, Cheerios, children’s rice cakes.  A cooler full of milk, juice and yogurt.
  • Small and quiet toys. Race car, helicopter, mirror for the baby, stuffies etc. I keep these in a large fabric bag between the two car seats, this way they can reach them on their own.
  • Aqua doodle travel edition. Keeping a little water available to refill the aqua pen.
  • Coloring – preferably markers that only work on special paper
  • Organization – all the toys in the world can’t help you if the kids can’t reach them. I found Bubble Bum Junkie helped our kids keep their toys in one reliable place, tablets within their reach to change shows, and a great little cup holder. The less I have to do, the more I like it.

Tips for Road Trips with kids

       Not only should there be enough toys for all the kids to be happy (in theory, only bring toys that both kids will play with so to reduce the sheer volume being brought), also keep a list or photo of the toys leaving the house. I have a bag of car toys that never leave the car during a trip, and their suitcase has a small number of hotel toys which need to be accounted for when we are checking out. Toys are never allowed to be brought into the city during touring; too many horror stories from friends and family regarding lost toys. Since they have never been allowed to have toys, they are okay with it. They enjoy looking around, playing with their fingers, eating or sleeping.

  • Make the stops reasonable.
    • Every 3-4 hours take a sizable and meaningful break (30 min) to stretch the legs, potty break and burn some energy. This can be done at a rest stop, restaurant with a play structure or picnic at a park. Try not to plan this on the fly “He who fails to plan is planning to fail” – Sir Winston Churchill. Our vacation in Switzerland was 7 hours from our house, and there was so much to do along the way, that we broke it up into chunks; after 3.5 hours of driving, we stopped for the night and toured all afternoon. We left after breakfast and made it the rest of the way before she woke up from her nap.
  • Start and finish time of the drive.
    • An hour before nap time is roughly a good time for the baby. That means we start our road trips at 9 am and she isn’t sitting around too long before sleepy time falls on her. The older they get, the earlier we will leave; growing up, we left the house at 6 am and arrived for dinner at my uncles’ house (1100km later), it’s all about how well you train the kids and how prepared you are to keep them entertained.
  • Overnight driving.
    • Driving while they sleep will help avoid a lot of things; dealing with the kids, packing too many toys, traffic, and food all over the car seats. The only drawback; it’s a night shift. Who is going to drive and is the co-pilot required to stay awake or can they sleep? What about recovery time; does the driver need to sleep the day away or can they tour once the family wakes and arrives at the vacation destination? In theory, this first day is quiet and relaxed; check in, unpack, visit the pool/beach, do some groceries. Driver can have a few hours while co-pilot entertains the kids and be ready for touring the next day. I, for one, don’t plan to accomplish much the first day after driving so far, that way I can be pleasantly surprised if everything works out and we hit the streets right after lunch.


  • Keep the temperature cool
    • So the driver doesn’t fall asleep but warm enough that the kids don’t need a blanket. Nothing spells disaster like kids that are too hot or too cold, and blankets always manage to fall off or get tangled.
  • Driving clothes
    • Winter– long sleeve and sweater for the kids instead of a jacket – not only is it not safe in a car seat, but can get very hot and uncomfortable. Loose fitting pants and driving shoes or slippers with hard soles (for the bathroom breaks). Car seat ponchos are also a great idea for those winter vacation.
    • Summer – t shirt and shorts that reach the knee. I do this so that all parts of the car seat strap are on clothing, and not directly touching their skin. I try not to let them wear nice clothes on the longer rides, only because I can’t guarantee how nice it will be once they have left the car (food stains, markers, accidents, etc). Shorter trips, where they will start touring as soon as we arrive, like day trips, then I limit what they have access to in order to keep themselves nice – nothing ruins a photo like a chocolate stain in the center of the shirt.You probably have a headache already and can’t imagine every having the space in your car for all of these things, or just won’t try it until the kids are older (or out of the house). Its practice. Try it a few times on the short trips and eventually find your own way to make the longer ones work for you. You also know your kids; if they get car sick after 10 minutes, no amount of aqua doodle or rice cakes is going to fix that.

Packing for long distance travel with kids can be daunting especially road trips. Prepare for the worst, and hope for the best.


Your Thoughts…

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** This article is brought to you by Bubble Bum; Experts in portable children’s road trip and safety equipment. All opinions are my own **

Packing for long distance travel with kids can be daunting especially road trips. Prepare for the worst, and hope for the best.

Tennille @ Two Kids And A Budget.com - June 10, 2016

You’re a much braver Mom than I am! I have a 5 1/2 and a 4 year old both boys and I haven’t had them away from home more than an overnight at Grandmas. I think you have a great list going, the only thing I can suggest is over the counter medications like Tylenol, allergy medication, teething gel, etc. You never know what they may need!

    Admin - June 10, 2016

    Very good suggestion, thank you. I have a toiletries bag always packed and that is where we rotate out the OTC meds. You never know when a last minute weekend trip will happen and I don’t want to leave anything behind, classic type A !

Jennifer - August 10, 2016

WE do road trips all the time. I recommend making stops frequently. We do not allow food in the car so mealtimes are the perfect TO stop.

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