Packing for a road trip is often overwhelming; I know from experience! My family has been on A LOT of road trips, big and small, and I have learned a lot along the way. In this blog post, I will share the details of how I packed for my family on a recent road trip. I felt organized on this road trip and our car stayed relatively clean! I hope you enjoy these packing tips!
Length of Trip – Ten Days
Route – Minnesota to Arkansas
Vehicle – Full Size SUV and Tiny Camper (1968 Rolite)
Roadtrippers – 2 Adults & Two Children/ Ages 2 and 4
Now, obviously the length and type of your trip will depend on what you pack. For that reason, I am going to leave out specific things, like camping equipment, and stick with the road trip essentials!
The size of your coolers will depend on your trip, but rather than fitting everything in one, I recommend using two for organization. We love to use one for food and one for beverages. The food cooler stayed closed except for when we were set up at camp to cook or for the occasional string cheese snack. We set up the beverage cooler within arm’s reach in the car and kept it stocked with water, a variety of juice boxes and soda. Having this stocked cooler with icy beverages saved us a lot of money at gas stations. We were also very careful to be diligent about the ice. We bought a small bag of ice almost everytime we stopped for gas.
One Bin Dry Food
Find or buy a large clear bin and pack it with all of your dry foods. This way you will be able to see into the bin to find what you are looking for. I also included lunch baggies, which came in handy when the kids wanted crackers. I was able to give them each a small portion in a bag, so that we didn’t have full boxes being passed around the car. A couple of other things I included were cooking oils, spices, baby wipes, and paper towels.
One Picnic Basket with all cooking supplies
If you are not planning to cook, you may not need this, but this is helpful for cooking while camping, stopping at a park for a picnic, or even for a hotel pizza party. We packed a picnic basket full of all the cooking utensils and cutlery we would need to eat and cook our meals. This included our small cast iron pan and a meat thermometer, as well as a set of camping plates, bowls, cups, napkins, and a tablecloth.
Between the four of us, we shared two suitcases, which saved us a ton of space, and I urge you to consider this, too! We used a large roller bag for my husband and me and a carry-on size for the two kids. We also brought a large canvas bag to put all dirty clothes in. One other tip about packing your clothes is to always pack pajamas in an outside, easily accessible pocket. This way, if you get to camp or a hotel late at night, you can get to your PJs without completely unpacking.
One Bin Shoes
Instead of packing our shoes in our suitcases like we typically do, we used one mid-sized plastic bin. This kept our clothes from getting dirty, and it was always easy to find our shoes when we needed a different pair.
One Bin Toiletries/First Aid
We also packed our toiletries in a separate bin. This bin contained everything you would typically use in your bathroom. We referred to this as the “bathroom bin.” This is nice for camping because it makes it easy to keep track of the toiletries that may have scents that attract animals. Always keep this bin in your car rather than your sleeping area. For a hotel, you can just put the whole bin in the bathroom when you arrive, and it’s easy to keep track of everything while you are there.
One Basket Toys
We knew our kids would want new toys and souvenirs during our trip, so we only let them pack one small basket of toys, and we also let them each bring a stuffed animal. We used toys as an opportunity for a lesson in money, as well. Before the trip, we started using quarters as rewards for our kids and they loved it. Then, we went to the bank and cashed in their piggy banks prior to the trip. On the trip, they were allowed to buy toys with the money they had saved. Of course they spent WAY more than they had, but it was still fun to start introducing them to money!
One Bin of Art Supplies
I love arts and crafts, so I like to travel with an art bin. My kids love this too, and I love the creativity it encourages. The crafts you choose for your box will depend on your trip, but you will want some small “projects” in mind. On our recent trip, we packed supplies to make rock people and homemade dream catchers, plus the basics like markers and crayons. It’s fun to introduce something new on a trip too! This will make your child look forward to craft time. For us, on this trip, it was modeling clay. We had a lot of fun making little animals, and I was really impressed by how well my four year old could make little kitties! It was fun, and now we are constantly playing with clay! I love the memories we make during craft time.
- Popsicle sticks
- Glitter shakers
- Googly eyes
- Paint brushes
- Puff Balls
- Pipe Cleaners
We brought along both of our kids’ iPads, and I was totally amazed at how much we didn’t use them! There were actually quite a few days they never turned them on, and it wasn’t because I was saying no! During most of our driving we had a lot to look at and talk about, so there was hardly ever a bored moment for screen time, which is always the goal. With that being said, I was still very glad to have them with us when we needed them! For the first nine nights of the trip, we only allowed them to use their iPads to play games, not to watch videos, but the last night we let them connect to internet at the hotel. I love to encourage games on the iPad because I do believe it’s important for them to get used to using tablets and technology, as that’s what the world is now, but I also don’t like them rotting their brains on YouTube. Ha!
Suggested Apps (All the games in these series’ are great but I will list favorites!)
2 Year Old
Sago Mini (Sound box, Planes, Road Trip, Bug Builder, Superhero)
Toca Boca (Robot Lab)
Tiny Hands (First Words)
4 Year Old
Toca Boca (Farm, Stable, Pet Doctor, Kitchen, Hair Salon)
Sago Mini (Robot Party, Apartment, Puppy Preschool, Doodlecast)
Dr. Panda (Mailman, Racers, Veggie Garden, School)
Grandma & Grandpa Series (Grandma Loves Bugs, Fishing with Grandpa, Grandma’s Garden, Grandma’s Preschool)
Music, Books, Activity Books
Download a fun kids’ playlist for when things get crazy in the car. I created a nursery rhyme playlist on Spotify that my kids love. It’s not wonderful for adults, but if you only listen to it in moderation, it can be really fun! My husband and I are pretty lucky as my four year old constantly begs for “Rock and Roll” and loves hearing the drums, so she’s amused with pretty great music most of the time! Despite this, we still take time to sing silly nursery rhymes as a family! One big tip, make sure you actually download the music, so you can access it if you lose internet.
Look me up on Spotify << MinnesotaYogini – Kids Music – Nursery Rhymes>>
Books are always a good item to bring. Pack them right in the seat pocket so your kids can grab them and page through them as you drive. Choose books that fit your trip if possible! We usually choose a lot of nature books to bring along when we go on our trips.
Activity books can also be really fun. My four year old really loves Mazes and the Hidden Picture Books, so we picked up a couple of those. Another great type of activity book for young kids is the Sticker Face Books. They are really fun, both my kids love them.
Car Emergency Kit
Things can (and will!) go wrong during road trips, so it is best to be prepared. In fact, on our first major road trip with my daughter, who was nine months old at the time, we were driving from Minneapolis to Moab, Utah, and our car broke down near on the border of Colorado and Utah. The damage was so bad we ended up leaving our car in Colorado and renting a car to continue our trip and later drive back home. It was pretty crazy, and somehow it didn’t ruin our trip! I hardly remember that part of the trip! The point is, be ready for things to go wrong. Pack with you jumper cables, a physical map, and make sure you have a spare tire and the tools to change one with you. Being prepared will help put your mind at ease.
I hope these packing tips are helpful when you go to pack for your next road trip. Also, check out the post I wrote after our first road trip with my daughter, for 5 Tips on a Stress Free Road Trip with Kids. I hope you enjoy! Road tripping is such an excellent way to see and experience our country. I wish you amazing adventures!
Much Love & Happy Travels,
*This post contains affiliate links, this means I receive a small commission for the sales made. I only recommend products I myself would buy. Thank you in advance.