There’s been a resurgence of the American road trip! More and more families are getting out on the road and discovering what new sights they can discover. Our family has taken many road trips over the last decade and a half, and have designed a road trip packing system and layout that works for well for us. I’m also sharing a packing list of road trip essentials that help us survive long hours in the car.
First, I suggest that each person (and child) pack a small bag or tote of their favorite toys/activities. For adults, this might be magazines, books, electronics. Kids might pack some books, coloring books or journals, electronic toy(s), printable activities/games, dolls, or legos. These small bags are what we pack next to our seats.
A food bin is a big must for any road trip. I like to use a small box to store all our snacks. I make each of our girls their own plastic container of special snacks, this was learned after one too many, “but Mom, she already had two granola bars…”. If each child starts with the same number of “fun” snacks, they can’t argue if they eat all theirs. We always pack some general pretzels and such, but the special snacks are limited.
Here’s a look at how we pack our car for a road trip (with a family of 4) and what we bring. Affiliate links are included in this post.
1 – Passenger Seat
This is where the main passenger (usually me) keeps their stuff. I like to pack magazines, my iPad, and my purse in a narrow tote.
2 – Main Console
We keep electronic chargers here along with many of our road trip essentials.
Road Trip Essentials
Sticky fingers, runny noses, chapped lips, and spills can all make your road trip one of agony instead of joy. Here’s a list of essentials items that will help you keep your car clean.
Paper Towels – spills can happen, make sure you’re ready.
Toilet Paper – just in case you need to make an emergency stop on the way.
Kleenex – don’t be stuck using napkins to blow your nose.
Wet Wipes – kids and adults can get sticky hands and faces, we constantly use wet wipes on road trips.
Odor Eliminator – spilled ice cream, dirty shoes, stinky car – no thank you.
Facial Towelettes – your face can get greasy and blah feeling after a long drive – even my husband loves using these on long drives.
Lip Balm – dry lips are no fun so be sure each person has their favorite lip balm.
Dental Floss – driving with something stuck between your teeth is no fun!
Lotion – dry skin can feel dreadful, pack some lotion so you can keep your hands moisturized.
Hand Sanitizer – great for a quick clean before digging into a yummy snack, also great to use after pumping gas.
Lens Cloth – if you wear glasses or sunglasses, pack a lens cloth to keep them clean.
Related Post: Helpful Tips for What to Pack in a Travel First Aid Kit
3 – Garbage
We have a special car trash can that loops around my seat belt latch and has an elastic opening so things don’t fall in or out accidentally. You can also use a plain plastic grocery bag looped around the gear shift. I recommend each row of passengers have their own trash bag.
4 – DVD Players
We’ve always had dual DVD car screens that we bought at Target, but now that our girls received tablets for Christmas, we’ll probably look into buying a tablet car mount like these tablet headrest mounts. Our girls love watching some of their favorite movies while on a road trip. Of course, you may decide to skip this.
5 – Kid Bags
his is where the kids store their personally selected items for the road trip. It could include a book or journal, or a special activity/toy. Our girls use their school backpacks. If you’re wanting to keep things off the ground, you might consider a Backseat Organizer. You can also consider packing a plastic tote that is placed below your child’s feet. For us, we try to make it so the girls can easily access their activities and snacks.
Related Post: Best Kids Travel Bag Activities to Pack
6 – Food!
This is where we keep all the road trip snack goodies. Easy reach for each person. For kids, I recommend making them each their own snack bag or box so that there are no arguments about who’s had too many of one kind of snack. Each kiddo should get the same amount of fruit snacks, granola bars, etc. Make sure you remember wet wipes & napkins.
Another tip is to bring lidded/sippy cups for the kids. They work great for sharing a bottle of juice or water, and no spills! For adults, consider a thermal mug if you’re a coffee drinker. Your hot drinks will stay much warmer than those disposable cups from the store. Bring reusable water bottles, too.
Related Post: Road Trip Snacks
7 – Kids Fun
This is normally another bag and carries more kids activities and games. We normally have a blanket for each kid in this space too. If the road trip isn’t too long, this could be the only space you store kids activities. We’ve used boxes and this backseat organizer for placing between the girls’ seats.
8 – Luggage
Bags and stuff you don’t need to access while driving goes here. We often have one hotel stop on our main road trip drive, so we pack one overnight bag with all of our stuff for that hotel night so we don’t have to bring in each person’s luggage. Another tip is to keep some extra snacks/treats or special drinks and such back here so you can dole them out when you stop.
I’m looking forward to creating a road trip packing list so be sure to follow along and watch for it! Now you’re ready to pack your car for your next road trip!