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Road Trip Packing List for Survival with Kids!

Somewhere between the longest year at home (thanks Covid) and the slight loss of sanity as a stay at home mom....I found myself dreaming (yes, actually dreaming!) of a long family car ride to somewhere other than here!

Tap below to shop some of our faves for car rides!

No matter your travel plans, we all need some road trip essentials to survive! Which brings me to all the road trip tips you could need complete with a packing list, and why I am proudly naming this year as "the year of road trips"!

Conquering a 6 hour car ride to Wisconsin last summer seemed, dare I say, why not double down with a 20 hour road trip to Florida? What could go wrong!

Let's start by agreeing that a lot actually....a LOT can go wrong! However, a lot can go right too. This can be an enjoyable tradition! From my experience as a mom, a former 3rd grade teacher, a wife and a breathing human...I know that being proactive, prepared, and going in with a plan will almost always provide a better experience for everyone involved!

You really can never be TOO prepared, especially with kids. Have a plan...and 2 more back up plans...and then another back up plan to the back up plan.

Which brings me to my must haves for your road trip packing list! I must also add that clearing space in the van by using a roof bag allowed us to have more room to stretch and breathe. Hallelujah!

"I take to the open road, healthy, free, the world before me." Walt Witman

My goal always is to keep my kids (ages 5, 3 and 21 months) BUSY. That is what we all strive for, right?? Stay busy, stay happy, stay put. I found that in order to achieve this goal, there are 3 categories for a successful car ride and the plan is to rotate through these and repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Another important area for success is organization. Click here for the FREE road trip packing list printable as you pack up the car for your road trip!

The 3 categories for your successful road trip packing list are [drumroll please]...Snacks, Activities and Electronics!!!

What about emergency situations? That'll be the 4th category...a SOS category. Always have an emergency stash!


Snacks always win and are the number one most important item on your road trip packing list. My biggest piece of advice is to try your hardest to pack ALL of your food, not just snack items. Healthier choices equals happier humans! I'd prefer not to be stuck in a car with 3 kids hopped up on sugar and fast food paired with belly aches and moodiness! We also want to keep extra stops to a minimum, right?

When packing snacks, I am thinking about convenience. Rather than tossing things into a floppy bag and aimlessly digging into the endless abyss of mess, pack snacks in a big open bin! The structure and openness of a bin is a magical upgrade. I loaded up our favorite individual snack bags and bars, precut fruit and veggies, string cheese, drinks, pouches, trail mix, and bulk bags of pretzels, pirate's booty and goldfish.

For bulk bags of snacks, it's helpful to have a stack of paper or plastic cups to pass around. Cups are game changer in the car and a must add to your road trip packing list!

Another big win for us was TRYING to serve breakfast, lunch and dinner in the car as much as we could! Dollar Tree came in handy again and I picked up plastic tupperware (set of 2 for $1) to pack meals for the cooler! Preparing meals is definitely an added step, but saved us at least an hour of extra stops...not to mention it gets expensive. Breakfast was a bagel or muffin, hard boiled egg and fruit.

Lunch was a sandwich, cucumbers and grapes. Dinner was a mom-made lunchable with sausage, cheese, crackers, a veggie and fruit. Refill your reusable water bottles and you're set! Bonus: you're driving WHILE eating which eats up (pun intended) more time on the road.


This is the hardest category for the car because snacks and devices are always going to be first choice. We need to give our brains and bellies a break so let's get creative!

A quick Amazon search led me to the best car organizer and it was a lifesaver...and will forever live in our car now! All the necessary items that I wanted access to like diapers/wipes, electronics, hand sanitizer, games, kleenex and extra activities were neatly organized! Individual tote baskets also sat next to each carseat, which is perfect to carry their reusable water bottles and easily accessible activities.

My daughter loves to color, so I stocked up on NEW coloring books, stickers, markers, sticker dress up dolls, Melissa and Doug activity pads, Highlights hidden picture books, a notebook and paper for drawing. My son loves trucks, so I found NEW truck themed stickers and coloring books, a few of his favorite trucks to play with, truck themed water wow books and crayons.

Claire is 21 months so I packed board books I know she likes, water wow coloring and a busy bag. A busy bag is a purse or zipper pouch filled with random little things with different textures and uses...anything goes!

Novelty is the answer here! If it is new, it is interesting! I made sure to hit up Dollar Tree and Target Dollar Spot for inexpensive things that would keep their interest for a moment. This is where our road trip goodie bags that my step mom put together came in massively handy!

She used paper lunch bags and mailing envelopes to wrap a few surprises to open along the way. When things were getting dicey, it was time to open a new surprise! I spaced these out throughput the drive and it was a huge hit! Want my number 1 road trip packing list tip with little ones? Do this! It wasn't anything fancy (a small Dollar Tree toy, stickers, a sucker). It takes a little prep, but this is gold!


The fan favorite! My kids could watch their tablet the entire way if we let them, so in order to create some sort of schedule with their devices, I decided to rotate these 3 categories (snacks, activities, electronics) for 20-30 minutes each! Rotation and time limits are mandatory for my kids. I would suggest NOT starting with their devices or a movie as you pull out of the driveway, too!

I LOVE educational games or apps to switch it up. Some of our favorites include drawing apps, decorating apps of any kind, matching games and ABC/counting practice. It depends what kind of device your kids have, but make sure they are charged, bring along a portable charger, check what is on the device before you leave, and download a new game, movie, show or book to listen to! If you have the ability to get wifi in your car...set that up too.

Potty breaks are always a big concern with a car of kids! My kids need movement breaks so I build this into our potty stops. Rest stops are where it's at and can be a quick 10 minute stop. If you find kids asking to go potty too often, tell them "we are looking for a stop" and many times they forget!

We stretch, use the bathroom, run, race, get our wiggles out, pump the hand sanitizer and then hop right back into the car to continue our rotation of categories - Snacks, Activities, Electronics, repeat!

What do you do when you've run though the snacks, the activities are not new and cool anymore, eyes are glazed over from screens, tears and screaming have started (from kids and parents), and you are OUT OF OPTIONS!?


There are really no rules with the SOS stash of supplies. At this point, it is about survival and hopefully you are near the end of your ride! Our bag includes things like suckers, candy, more Dollar Tree trinkets, printable car games, a new movie to play if you have a DVD player, tattoos, stickers, a new game, etc. Basically a mix of what they have already seen...but NEW!

Road tripping is a right of passage to family bonding! It is a great opportunity to make priceless memories.

What a special tradition and memory we get to create for our little ones...

Look outside and take in the sunset, mountains, farmlands, trees, animals and sunshine and remember that you will soon be arriving somewhere SO worth it!


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