Essential Family Road Trip Checklist

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Family Road Trip

Family road trips are popular when traveling with kids because they can be more affordable than flying. A road trip provides flexibility when traveling with children. And you can pack your vehicle with all the travel gear needed for your family vacation, without being restricted by airline luggage requirements. But what travel gear do you really need for a road trip with kids? In this post, we highlight all the family road trip essentials. Download our FREE Essential Family Road Trip Checklist to keep you, your family, and your car safe, comfortable and entertained on your next family adventure.

Whether your road trip with kids is for a family beach vacation, or a camping trip or to visit Grandma or extended family. There are some road trip essentials that are necessary any time you hit the road with children. Planning ahead and being prepared with this road trip checklist will make the journey much smoother for you, and your children, reducing the stress of travel and making it more enjoyable for everyone!

Read our other articles to learn how to pack your car for a family road trip and about simplifying a road trip with kids.

Download our FREE Family Road Trip Checklist

I print off the Family Road Trip Checklist and put it on a clipboard, then I’ll mark off items as I pack them in suitcases, bags, tubs or laundry baskets. Use this checklist, when traveling with kids, to make sure you don’t forget any essential road trip gear.

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Family Road Trip Checklist

Download Family Road Trip Checklist

Checklist – For The Vehicle

Help keep your car on the road with these vehicle essentials. And read our article about how to get your car ready for your next road trip.

Roadside Emergency Kit

This roadside assistance kit includes the necessary toolboxes, multi-purpose shovel, jumper cable set, tire repair tools, traction ropes, gloves and more. This all in one kit has you covered for any possible eventuality.

Roadside Assistance Membership

Such as AAA, Good Sam or All State roadside assistance. These services are available 24 hours a day and include towing, lock-out, dead battery, flat tire and more.

Spare Tire

Check the one you have is in good condition before you set off. And make sure you know how to change a tire.

Car Manual

You never know what light might refuse to turn off when you’re on the road, and out of WiFi range!

Rooftop Cargo Box

Depending on the size of your vehicle and the number of people riding in your vehicle you may need to consider adding a rooftop cargo box to your vehicle, or a cargo carrier with hitch to the back, or even a small trailer.

Winter or Cold Weather Locations

When you are traveling during the winter time or in a cold weather location it is important to bring these items in case you encounter bad weather.

Snow Shovel

You’ll be thankful you have it if you need it.

Ice Scraper

Always be prepared and make sure you can see out of the windshield.


This is not just for winter because we often experience summer thunderstorms. You never know when you may encounter a rain shower and an umbrella doesn’t take up much space, and comes in handy if you ever need it.

Winter Road Trip

Car Clean Up Kit

We always carry a Car Clean-Up Kit in an easy to reach place. These essential road trip items help to take care of unexpected messes, injuries, and the occasional upset stomach.

The Essential Car Clean-up Kit for a family road trip includes:

  • Disinfecting Spray / Wipes
  • Trash Bags
  • Paper Towels
  • Towels (stored behind the driver’s seat)
  • Kids ‘N’ Pets Odor Remover Spray
  • Napkins
  • Baby Wipes
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Anti-bacterial Wipes
  • Kleenex Tissues
  • Travel First Aid Kit

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Car Clean Up Kit

Checklist For The Road Trip

These road trip items will help to make your family more comfortable, and keep the children entertained, on your next family road trip.

Road Trip Snacks

Another secret to a successful family road trip is having access to quick and easy kid friendly snacks when you are on the road.

Refillable Water Bottles

The Thermos Funtainer for Kids, is a 12 oz container available in MANY different colors and character designs. It is an insulated 12 hour cold drink stainless steel thermos, and the BEST part… it does not sweat when filled with ice!

Travel Mug (hot or cold)

This is useful if you’re a coffee drinker, to save on some many disposable cups. And will come in handy at your destination if you’re making morning coffee!

Cooler or Cool Bag

Fill with snacks for your journey and groceries for your destination. Don’t forget some ice packs, or frozen water bottles, to help keep everything cold.

Middle Seat Organizer 

To store miscellaneous items between the seats, and keep them within easy reach.

Car Chargers

Ensure you have all the charging cables for your devices in the car within easy reach.

GPS / Maps

If you’re driving through a remote location you may loose cell phone coverage, so it is a good idea to know the route you’re taking and have a paper map to help you navigate.

Travel Pillow and Blanket

These items will help the kids to get comfortable, and so they will be more likely to take a nap on the car ride. A well rested child makes the journey more pleasant on everyone!

Slip-on Shoes

When you pull over at a rest area for a quick break it’s much easier if the kids have slip-on shoes. Of course, they’re going to kick their shoes off. Easy on/off shoes means you don’t add time to your break putting shoes back on. Easy shoes include Birkenstocksclogsloafer style shoesflip flops, or slide sandals in the summer.

First Aid Kit & Medication

Keep this within easy reach as you never know when an injury or illness may occur. And remember to include any prescription medication a family member may need to take during your journey.

BE Family Travel Tray

Use this Kid’s Car Seat Activity Tray for your child to to play, draw, and create.

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Kid's Travel Tray for Car Seat

Road Trip Activities for the Kids

When traveling with kids you should include activities such as craft or activity sets, sticker books, workbooks, printable road trip games, toys, travel games, coloring, books, screen time, followed by snacks, then rinse and repeat! Here are the Best Travel Activities for Kids age 4-8 years.

Road Trip Travel Toys for Toddlers

Being prepared with travel toys for toddlers will help reduce boredom and make the journey more bearable for you and your child. Here are over 20 of the Best Travel Toys for Toddlers, and they’re all no-mess activities!

Printable Road Trip Games

Download our selection of FREE Printable Road Trip Games, which are tried and tested by kids, to provide hours of entertainment on your family travels.

Travel Crafts

Are you looking for non-electronic options for your little ones? Travel Crafts for Kids are a great option to add to the rotation of activities to keep children occupied while you travel. These crafts for children are no-mess, pre-packaged, simple, and easy for busy moms who are packing for a family vacation.

Fire 7 Kids Edition Tablet or Tablet with wireless apps

The Fire 7 Kids Edition Tablet is available in bluepink or purple. Stream through Wi-Fi or view downloaded content on the go with 16 GB of internal storage and up to 7 hours of reading, browsing the web, watching video, and listening to music.

Wireless Headphones 

Bring wireless headphones for the kids so you don’t have to listen to their games/movies on your road trip. And don’t forget a protective zipper sleeve for when you’re on the go, and bring the charger for any electronic device!

SanDisk Connect Wireless Stick

The SanDisk Connect Wireless Stick is a flash drive reinvented to work with your smartphone and tablet. You can wirelessly access your media with the wireless stick in your pocket or across the room. 32GB of storage means you can keep all your content on the drive and access it from any device, no wires or Internet required. You can even stream HD videos and music to up to three devices at the same time. This is perfect when you’re on the road and multiple kids want to watch different movies, on different devices, all at once!

Road Trip Playlist & Audio Books

Make sure to add a music playlist and audiobooks to your road trip checklist. These are great ways to pass the time on a family road trip, and will likely entertain everyone – young and old!

Camera / Instant Camera

Many cell phones take amazing photos, but some families still like to take a digital camera on their vacation. Did you know you can capture the perfect picture and print on the spot with an Instant Camera? This is something fun for the kids to do on a family road trip and reminds me of the traditional Polaroid camera when I was a kid.


Will you need to check in with work during your family vacation? Or maybe you use your laptop to watch a movie? If you bring your laptop then make sure to pack the plug-in cord.

Overnight Bag with Swim Suits

On long road trips, we will often break up the journey with an overnight stay in a hotel. We always get a hotel with a swimming pool so that everyone can take a quick dip in the pool and stretch out after a long day on the road. Therefore, pack one overnight bag with PJ’s, changes of clothes and toiletries for the whole family, and remember to include swimsuits. The overnight bag should be one of the last things you add when you consider how to pack your car for a road trip with kids? Above all, make it easy to reach and unload. It’s much less hassle to take the one overnight bag into the hotel for the entire family than to unpack and repack the entire car, with everyone’s bags, for just one night!

Extra Snacks, Groceries, Water

All these food and drink items come in handy on a road trip with kids. And if you don’t use them during the journey then you can use them at your destination on a family beach vacation, camping trip with kids, or where ever you go!

Navigate with Map

Road Trip Checklist – Personal Items

These personal items on the road trip checklist are things you will need or want to make your journey smoother. Whether you are the driver, or the passenger, you will find it useful to keep these items close by.

Driver’s License

Vehicle Registration

Credit/Debit Card

Cash for Toll Roads/Parking

Auto Insurance Card

Health Insurance Card

Hotel/Rental Confirmation


Cell Phone

Purse or Day Pack


Lip Balm & Lotion

Insect Repellent


Hairbrush/Hair Ties

iPad or Tablet

Cords & Chargers

Ear Buds

Notepad & Pens


Extra Sweater/Jacket

Reusable Grocery Bag

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Road Trip Checklist For The Vacation

No matter the type of trip each member of your family will need these items for vacation. But depending on the destination will determine specifically what types of items to include, whether it’s a family beach vacation, camping trip, or exploring a city.

Toiletries, Toothbrush and Toothpaste

We use different color toothbrush covers to identify everyone’s toothbrush. Ziploc bags come in useful to separate items and prevent liquid spills from leaky bottles. After the trip, I rinse and dry the Ziploc bags, and save them for our next trip. This helps prevent unnecessary plastic waste.

Clothing & Shoes

Consider packing a capsule wardrobe so you can mix and match clothing items. For each family member choose a color spectrum so each person can wear various tops and bottoms together. This helps is the children have a diaper leak or wet their pants, or they spill something on their top. Maybe you only have to change out the top or the bottom, not the entire outfit. Packing clothing items that mix and match make this easier so you can pack lighter and get through fewer clothes.

Packing Cubes

Use packing cubes to fit more items in your suitcase, and even allow you to travel with just a carry-on size bag.

Beach Essentials or Camping Gear

Whether you need the Ultimate Guide to a Family Beach Vacation, or Beach Essentials for a day at the beach with kids, or a guide to the best family camping gear, we have resources and packing lists to assist in your preparations.

Items for Rental Property

Renting a beach house, condo, or other accommodation with a separate bedroom, living space, and a kitchen can make a vacation with children easier. A multi-generation vacation with extended family can be a great way to connect and spend time together. Use this list and communicate with other families about who will bring which items for the rental property so that you don’t end up with three bottles of ketchup but no paper towels!

Download our FREE Family Road Trip Checklist

Make sure you have all the essential family travel items.

Family Road Trip Checklist

Download Family Road Trip Checklist

I hope this family road trip checklist is helpful, as we aim to simplify your family adventures.

And remember, let’s BE Family so you can enjoy the journey.

Until next time,
💕💖 Ruth

For more about family travel check out these posts:

How to get your Car Ready for your next Road Trip
Simplify a Road Trip with Kids
How to Avoid Motion Sickness in Kids
How to Pack your Car for a Family Road Trip

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Ruth Hutchins grew up in England and now lives in North Carolina with her husband, Doug, and their two young daughters. They always loved to travel, but once having children everything changed because family travel is more complicated. Traveling with a baby may feel overwhelming to new parents. Travel with a toddler can really test your patience, and traveling with kids can lead to utter chaos. However, travel with your little ones doesn’t have to be that stressful or exhausting. On the BE Family Travel blog Ruth shares her parenting wins, and even epic failures about traveling with kids. She provides resources to help you feel empowered to plan a family vacation and travel with your children.

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