23 Road Trip Essentials for Kids for a Calm-ish Drive (2024)

Are you planning a family road trip and not sure what to pack for your kids? We’ve got you covered. We’ve been road tripping for years now with our kids, from short weekend road trips to month-long cross-country road trips, so we’ve got a few tips on what are the road trip essentials for kids to bring with you.

If this is the first time you are going on a road trip with kids, it can be difficult to know what to pack. Plus, it’s very easy to overpack because you’ll probably think you need lots of your day to day items.

23 Road Trip Essentials for Kids for a Calm-ish Drive (1)

However, we’ve got you covered! This packing list will help you get all the essentials that you need for your kids. And if your road trip is still far away, you can download our printable road trip checklist to make sure you don’t forget anything.

If you’re planning a camping road trip, you can check this article for more must-have items.

Let dive in! Here is our list of road trip essentials for the family, mostly for kids.

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Road Trip Essentials for Kids: The Basic Stuff

23 Road Trip Essentials for Kids for a Calm-ish Drive (2)

1. Kids’ Car Seats

This is one of the most important things when planning a road trip. kids. You want to make sure your kids are safely restrained in the car.

If you’re renting a car at your destination for a road trip in another region or country, make sure to check local legal requirements about kids’ car seats.

2. Change of clothes

Depending on the length of your road trip, it’s always a great idea to add a day bag to your road trip packing list. Same things as when you’re flying with kids, it’s important to have a change of clothes easily accessible.

It’s not rare that kids will get their clothes dirty when drinking, eating and even colouring.

So pack a change of clothes or a few different clothing options is a bag pag that is easy to reach without having to empty the entire car.

3. Snacks

Snacks are a road trip essential for kids, and even adults! You can spend many hours on the road and it isn’t easy to find a place to stop and eat. Whilst you can be more patient about food, kids won’t be.

Also, petrol stations may not have the healthiest snacks for your children.

Before starting your road trip, pack some healthy snacks for your little ones. For example, some pre-prepped vegetables and fruits, homemade granola bars, and sandwiches.

You may also want to consider bringing a cooler so you can store more fresh food on a longer road trip so you don’t have to stop at the store every day.

For more ideas, check out this article where we share our favorite road trip snacks for kids.

4. Wet wipes

We always have a few packs of wet wipes when we go on long road trips. They are perfect for cleaning up the kids after they have their snacks. Kids will need some wipes to clean their hands, or you may need to clean up any mess in between.

Make sure to take enough wet wipes for the journey!

For a more eco-sustainable option, reusable Swedish cloths can be a great alternative. They are easy to wash and they dry fast.

5. Water

Water is an essential item to add to your family road trip packing list for you and your kids. We love using reusable water bottles that we can refill in most places. Not only will you save money but be more eco-friendly.

Having said so, we also pack a few large bottles of water in case we really need water and we can’t find a safe place to refill our bottles.

6. First aid kit

Small scratches, injuries or mosquito bites can happen on the road. A good first aid kit will have all the essentials (plasters, bandages, small scissors, etc.) you need in case you have to treat a small injury.

We always keep a first aid kit in the car to be safe, and we also have one in our day backpack for our family hikes.

7. Sickness bag and Trash Bag

Sickness bags are always useful to have in your car, especially if you know your kids get motion sick. You never know who may need them, and they’ll help you avoid a mess that you’ll have to clean later.

But we really hope you won’t have to use them.

One thing we often forget is trash bag. On long road trip, you want your car to stay relatively clean so having a trash bag that you can dispose at the end of the day is always a good idea.

8. Blankets

The change of temperature from day to night can make your kids cold or they may want to feel cosy with a blanket when they sleep, that’s why you need to add blankets to your family road trip checklist.

Plus, blankets are a comforting item, so it should also help the kids at bedtime when your traveling.

9. Portable Chargers

There is no road trip without electronics, you need your phone to keep in touch with the world. In addition to this, it’s very likely to also pack a tablet or other devices so your kids can watch movies or listen to music.

In any of these cases, you need to remember to pack chargers. For longer road trips or campervan adventures, a bigger portable charging station is essential. Jackery and EcoFlow have good options.

10. Sunglasses

Sunglasses are super handy for kids when you’re on the road as well as walking in a national park or sunny city.

11. Sunscreen

Using suncream is very important regardless of the season and weather. We always use sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.

A good tip is to put it on before entering the car. That way, the kids will be able to open their windows while you’re driving without risking sunburns.

Road Trip Essentials for Kids: The Entertainment Stuff

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12. Books

This really depends on the age and interests of your children. Some kids love an old fashioned printed book whereas others prefer an ebook or audiobook.

In our family, we prefer physical books, but it limits the number of books each kid can bring. But we do have a few audio stories downloaded from Spotify.

EBook and audiobooks are very convenient because books take up space which matters when you’re packing for a road trip.

A good option is children’s podcasts too!

13. Games

You’ll need to find road trip activities for the kids to entertain themselves while driving.

If you have two or more children, games are a great solution if you don’t want them to be on the screen for long. There are plenty of games that you can take with you on your road trip.

Some fun games for kids are:

  • Car bingo
  • Magnetic board games
  • Travel scavenger hunt
  • Family Talk 2

For more ideas on road trip games for kids, check out our detailed article here.

14. Music playlist

No matter how old your children are, they’ll love a music playlist. Download some of their favourite songs from series and movies and let them sing along.

Here the boys love the soundtracks from Vivo and Encanto. But they’ve also started liking some of our own music.

15. Headphones

We’ve just talked about a music playlist, but we must admit that it can get a bit annoying if they’re replaying the same song, so to avoid this, pack some headphones.

It’s also good if you’re traveling with more than one kid and can’t agree on a song or an audiobook.

16. Coloring books and pencils

Kids usually love coloring, so we always pack a coloring book and some pencils to keep them happy during the journey. And it’s a great way to pass the time in the car, but also at destination.é

The Melissa & Doug water WOW books are one of toddler road trip essentials. They are mess-free and can be reused once they dry.

For this it is important you get a foldable plastic table so they can color or draw with ease.

17. Toys

Toddlers and smaller kids love their toys, and although we wouldn’t advise packing lots of toys, it’s good to let them pick two or three with which they can play along the way.

Also, don’t pack noisy toys if you don’t want to lose your patience.

Some toys that are good for road trips are little action figures, Pokémon cards, teddy bears, Wikki Stix travel set.

18. Small Sport Items

Balls and frisbees are great for your kids to play on rest stops on a long journey. They’ll make your kids move and they’ll love playing with them.

We try to stop every few hours to let the kids burn off some energy. We try to find kids’ playgrounds, but when we can’t, we simply stop in a park and run around with a soccer ball.

19. Swim Gear + Travel Towels

Same as for the small sport items, always bring swim gear with you on road trips. You’ll want to pack them strategically in the car so you can use it along the way without having to unpack the entire car.

Kids will love having a rest stop by the beach, or at a spray pad park after being stuck in a car for a few hours.

Make sure you bring towels that are light and that dry fast. We love our Decathlon microfiber towels.

20. Binoculars

We love packing binoculars for our two children. They’re always very excited to see animals or unique landscapes when we’re traveling around a National Park. Plus, they can be used when doing outdoor activities.

21. Travel journal

Older kids and teenagers may love the idea of documenting the family trip and will be very happy to take a travel journal in which they can write anecdotes, stick stickers and photos, etc.

22. Movies

We’ll be totally transparent here.

We’ve decided not to allow screen time in the car…. For now at least. Long road trips would probably be more calm if we did, but we are dealing with it.

But I totally understand how practical it can be.

Road trips are long, and although you don’t want kids to be on a screen for long hours, you sometimes need to give them something to keep them entertained and happy.

Before your trip make sure to download your children’s favourite movies on their tablet.

Baby and Toddler Road Trip Essentials

If you are traveling with a baby or toddlers, you may want to add those items to your list:

23. Baby Food/Formula

If you’re traveling with a baby, you need to pack enough baby food or formula at least to get to your destination.

Of course, you can stop at a pharmacy or grocery store, but it’s always nice to have everything on hand when needed.

24. Bibs

Not only for babies, but toddlers and smaller kids can use bibs to avoid getting their clothes dirty when they eat.

This will help you reuse some of their clothes and avoid a big pile of clothes to wash when you get home or to your accommodation.

Final Thoughts: Family Road Trip Essentials

There are a few things to pack when planning a road trip with kids. Hope this list helped you get ready. And don’t forget to download our printable road trip checklist for families.

23 Road Trip Essentials for Kids for a Calm-ish Drive (4)

Emilie Brillon

Emilie is the founder of Love Life Abroad. She helps moms plan epic road trips and outdoor adventures with their families. Because who said adventuring had to stop once we have kids? She’s based in the Canadian Rockies and shares her love for the region as well as other unique places in Canada & USA. She works with tourism boards and outdoor brands to inspire families to experience new unique destinations and outdoor activities.

23 Road Trip Essentials for Kids for a Calm-ish Drive (2024)


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  1. Prep your car.
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  5. Be realistic about your total mileage.
  6. Don't try to cover too many miles in a single day, either.
  7. Make regular stops.
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1. Road trip preparation.
  1. Change the oil, if needed, and perform a general maintenance inspection.
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  5. Build a road trip toolkit, including jumper cables, emergency blankets, spare tire, and more [1]
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How to do road trip with kids? ›

Tips for traveling with kids
  1. Hitting the open road with your kids? ...
  2. Leave with plenty of extra time. ...
  3. Download the OnStar Guardian app. ...
  4. Take regular breaks. ...
  5. Bring car-friendly snacks. ...
  6. Bring games and activities. ...
  7. Remember the classics. ...
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How do I prepare for a 15 hour road trip? ›

Long Road Trip Checklist: You can tackle each of these quickly before you hit the road
  1. Change oil and filter.
  2. Begin your trip with a clean car, both inside and out. ...
  3. Try not to put luggage over the car. ...
  4. Keep a small garbage bag inside the car.
  5. Change air filter.

How do I prepare for a 12 hour drive? ›

Here are our top tips for driving long distances.
  1. Plan ahead. ...
  2. Prepare your car. ...
  3. Pack an emergency kit. ...
  4. Sleep the night before. ...
  5. Make sure you pack your driving documents. ...
  6. Give yourself plenty of time to get there. ...
  7. Don't rely solely on cruise control. ...
  8. Don't forget the entertainment.

How do you mentally prepare for a long road trip? ›

Listen to music or talk shows on the radio to keep your mind active. Also, plan to make stops along the way to get out of the vehicle, talk with people at the truck stop, use the facilities as needed, and to give yourself a mental break from the road now and then.

How do I prepare for a 10 hour drive? ›

8 General Road Trip Tips
  1. Take turns driving, if possible.
  2. Take a break every few hours.
  3. Prep before you go.
  4. Make sure your vehicle's up to the task.
  5. Keep cash on hand.
  6. Eat smart.
  7. Start with a clean car.
  8. Consider keeping extra water and gas in the car.
Apr 5, 2024

How do you make a perfect road trip? ›

Follow these steps.
Apr 1, 2021

How do I prepare for a long road trip with my kids? ›

These are the top ten road-trip tips I learned.
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  2. Add Buffer Time and Then Some. ...
  3. Road Games Are Key. ...
  4. Keep Everyone Fed. ...
  5. Consider the Potty. ...
  6. Prepare for Messes. ...
  7. Rethink Your Changing Table. ...
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Sep 6, 2018

How do I keep my kids busy on a long car ride? ›

Ideas of things to include are Legos, Hotwheels cars, fidget toys, small dolls, small stuffed animals, stickers, crayons, notebooks, travel games, fruit snacks, applesauce pouches, or coloring books. Dollar Tree is an amazing resource for budget-friendly goodies.

What are road trip distractions for kids? ›

Road Trip Boredom Busters
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  • Journal Jotting. ...
  • Make It Magnetic. ...
  • Map Quest. ...
  • Road Trip Box to the Rescue. ...
  • Silence Is Golden.

How do I make my road trip less boring? ›

Play Family Games

Car games are great for keeping everyone entertained during road trips. Classics like “I Spy,” 20 questions and the license plate game are all fun ways to pass the time. Mad Libs, the alphabet game and car bingo are also great.

How do you pack clothes for a road trip? ›

Be prepared for weather changes by dressing in layers, but skip bulky items that will cause you to overheat in the car. Have a sweater and rain gear (such a light windbreaker) handy in case of inclement weather. Wear shoes that fit well.

How do I prepare myself for a long road trip? ›

How to Prepare Mentally and Physically for a Long Distance Drive?
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  2. Fuel up. Fuel up your energy and ensure you are feeling fresh and energetic. ...
  3. Stay hydrated. ...
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  5. Chew gum. ...
  6. Use good scents. ...
  7. Sit up straight.

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