Taking a road trip with kids can be one of the most fun activities for families to enjoy together. Living in Texas, our family has often criss-crossed the state, our mini-van filled to the brim with everything we could possibly need for our kids. The trip itself is often a blast, but the stress of preparing for it often makes me to want to pull all of my hair out. While I have more than 30 years of experience packing my own things, knowing what to pack for kids on a road trip is still tricky sometimes.
Sitting in a car for hours on end can seem boring to kids. My biggest worry while traveling is how to keep my kids entertained. I hate to listen to their complaints of boredom while trapped in an enclosed space. So keeping my kids occupied while on the road is a must.
But staving boredom is only part of the road trip preparation battle. Packing things that will help keep them comfortable while on the road is another worry of mine. Blankets, neck pillows, and snacks are all essentials when I start considering what is worth loading up for a road trip with kids. But travel blogger Kristen Maxwell of Kids Are A Trip travel blog says her top suggestion for parents is to pack their patience. "It can be a long ride, but as long as you have fun with it, time will fly by," she tells Romper. Here are some other ideas to consider when packing for kids for a road trip.
1. Grocery Bags For Trash & Messes
Maxwell recommends putting kids in charge of keeping their own area of the car tidy by packing grocery bags when taking a road trip with kids. "Bring a small grocery bag for the kids to use for trash. Have each child place one in the pocket in front of their seat, or next to the seat," she says.
2. Paper Goods
Maxwell also suggests stashing extra paper goods in your car on road trips with kids. "Also, throw in a container of hand wipes, a roll of toilet paper, and paper towels just in case of emergencies," she says. Kids are messy. And you never know when nature might call and whether or not the next rest stop will have anything other than one-ply, which just doesn't always work with newly-minted toilet users.
3. A Frisbee Or Football
Taking breaks when traveling in the car with kids is essential to ensure their crankiness doesn't reach an unbearable level. Maxwell recommends packing something kids can play with when you stop. "We always bring a football and/or frisbee to break up trips. If we can find a rest stop or park that has space for kids to run around, they always have fun with a quick game of catch," she says.
4. Comfort Items
On a long road trip, my kids typically will sleep at least some of the time. Especially after a long trip when we are on our way home. One way to help ensure they actually get some rest is to pack a few blankets and pillows for the kids to use. When my kids were younger, making sure they had their favorite stuffed animals was also important.
5. Coloring Supplies & Activity Books
To keep kids entertained, Maxwell suggests simple but fun items to pack for kids on road trips. "The one thing that has always worked for us is keeping it simple. Our kids have spent hours with Mad Libs, colored pencils and paper (crayons can melt), audio books, and magnets or stickers. Anything that keeps their hands busy or the family laughing is a good investment," she says.
6. Electronic Devices & *All The Chargers*
In our 21st century world, iPads, tablets, electronic readers, and handheld gaming devices are great tools to pack on a road trip with kids to help keep them occupied. And while these devices are amazing to help entertain kids, they only work if they're charged. Unfortunately, I have fallen victim to being on a long road trip with kids and having a Nintendo DS run out of juice. Without a car charger, my son was heartbroken that he could no longer play games until we arrived at our destination hours later. From that trip forward, we made sure to pack a car charger for all electronics.
7. An Emergency Kit
Accidents happen. Especially with kids. Having the ability to address a paper cut or scraped knee while on the road is essential. Family travel blog Travel Mamas recommended including an emergency kit stocked with bandages and other basic medical supplies when packing for a road trip with kids. Auto emergency necessities like jumper cables and a flashlight are also important to have on hand for any road trip.
8. Snacks & Drinks
Who is happy when they're hungry? Or worse yet — hangry? The answer is pretty much nobody, especially a child who has been riding in a car for hours. Packing a few car-friendly snacks and drinks can not only help keep the hangry feelings at bay, but has saved my own family from spending cash on junk food while we're on road trips with kids. If you have the space, using a cooler is another way to ensure that you have plenty of healthy snacks and water on hand.
9. A Change Of Clothes
"Never leave home without a change of clothes, wet wipes, and a plastic bag in case of spillages or sickness," says Sarah Slattery at The Travel Expert. She recommends keeping these items on hand during road trips with kids so that kids never have to sit in the back seat with a mess everywhere or all over themselves in the event that they have a spill. While you may have plenty of clothes packed away in your suitcase during road trips, keeping one outfit per person in a grab bag that is easy to access is a total pro-move.
10. A Media Share Device
In addition to packing electronics (and their chargers), Slattery suggests investing in a media share device for road trips with kids. "A media share is my favorite item — I never leave home without it! It’s a small portable device that creates its own wifi network so kids can watch movies on their tablets or phones anywhere, even on a plane," she says.
11. Audio Entertainment
Keeping everyone's ears entertained is another way to help time pass quickly on road trips with kids. Slattery suggests loading up on tunes and audiobooks for the entire family to enjoy. "Audiobooks and a good Spotify playlist can be very useful. Kids may get sick if they are looking at electronic devices or reading in the back of the car," she points out.