Road trip travel is one of our most favourite family holidays. It’s something we are desperately missing as the impact of Coronavirus has hit the travel industry so very hard. When life starts back up again, a road trip is a great way to enjoy spending time together as a family. It also allows you the opportunity to avoid public transport. Going on a road trip with kids also gives you a lot more flexibility to be able to tend to their needs, whilst also offering you the ability to take everything you need, except maybe the kitchen sink. That said, it’s always best to be prepared. So here are my 10 essentials to pack for a successful road trip with kids.
What To Pack for a Succesful Road Trip With Kids
1. Baby Wipes!
Baby Wipes are the perfect thing to keep in your car at all times, but especially when going on a road trip with kids. My girls are both long out of nappies etc, but I still buy baby wipes on a regular basis. Here are my top uses for baby wipes on a road trip:
- They are perfect for cleaning sticky faces and fingers before those fingers touch, everything! Including the windows.
- They can be used for cleaning up mystery spills and other miscellaneous residue left on the car seats etc.
- Wipes are the perfect substitute for toilet paper in an emergency.
- They are essential for cleaning everyone’s hands properly after using a public restroom or other facilities!
- They are perfect for removing sand from skin, not just beach sand, but any sand.
- If you keep your wipes in your cooler box, they can be used to cool down & refresh yourself!
- As we’re now currently living in a pandemic, you can get sanitising wet wipes which are an absolute essential when going on a road trip with kids, because kids touch everything!
2. Chargers and extension leads
Judge me all you like but my girls love tech, phones, tablets, games etc. I typically load their devices with games and music before each road trip and they have noise control headphones so that everyone can listen to what they want if the radio is not their choice. Inevitably the tablets will die at some point and then they have to move on to something else like colouring in or playing with their toys. They are actually really good at this now. Sometimes it’s okay to let you kids be bored. It gives them an opportunity to use their creativity and soak in the world as it flashes past.
However, I find that there are never enough plug points to cope with the sheer number of devices that need to be charged up when we stop for the night. I usually pack a short extension lead that I know has a variety of plug point sizes and I make sure I have a dedicated cable for each device we take with. There is nothing worse than one cable having to be shared between three devices, that will never work. By doing this everything can be charged up in one go overnight, ready for the next day. The extension cable with all the cords gets put back in its own little bag every day and back in the car, ready to be used again that night.
Obviously modern cars have a number of usb charging points in them, our minivan actually has 9 charging ports so devices running out of power shouldn’t be an issue, but it is.
3. Pack A Cooler Box
When going on a long road trip with kids a cooler box can be used for keeping your water and drinks cold, your baby wipes cool (see above), and of course your snacks for the road.
I know that sometimes you just don’t have enough space, but even just a small soft cooler bag with a couple of ice-bricks in for your water is a good idea. Wherever you end up staying usually has a small bar fridge as a minimum and you just put the ice-bricks back in the freezer compartment overnight and you’re good to go the next day.
The only drawback of a cooler box is that when it’s summer any actual ice you have in there melts at some point so you do have to spend a bit of time keeping the cooler box clean, draining the melted ice water and restocking it with ice, but it’s worth it!
Taking a cooler box along with a variety of drinks can also save you quite a bit of money. Kids get bored so if you pack small juice boxes in there then when the inevitable “I’m hungry, I’m thirsty” comes up, you can just get them something from the cooler box instead of stopping at the motorway services and paying three times the price for everything!
4. A Map
An actual paper map that you can hold in your hands that does not require a power supply! Yes, I know we live in the digital age. These days you don’t even need a GPS in your car because your phone has a built-in map system that works just as well.
However, we learnt a valuable lesson on a road trip in the Northern Cape, South Africa once, where we ended up so far off the beaten track that the phone signal went completely. For about 40 kilometres on a dirt road with numerous little side roads coming off it, we had no GPS from the phones at all. We weren’t too worried, but it would have been nice to have a good detailed map with us as back up! Old school, but reliable!
It’s also handy sometimes when you’re in a country that has changed their road layout and the GPS maps haven’t been updated. A handy old-school map is an essential when road tripping with kids.
5. A Notebook
When we go on a road trip, I try to record everything we do. It’s nothing fancy, just the date, starting point, kilometers we do per day, temperatures, places we visit, animals we see, and always the money we spend. It’s good to keep track of things, especially if you have a budget set in advance.
As the kids have got older, they have picked up this habit too and regularly keep a diary or log of the activities we do each day and things that are memorable for them. They especially love checking off the animals we see, and I usually file my handwritten notes in my ‘memories box’ when we get home, along with all the pamphlets we collect along the way.
6. A Rubbish Bag
Setting off with at least one bag for rubbish in your car is essential when embarking on a road trip. There will inevitably be a mess in the car: empty drink cans, juice boxes, empty crisp packets, sweet wrappers and used baby wipes. All this rubbish can really pile up. I keep at least one, but usually three or four in the car for this purpose. I collect all the rubbish and discard it in the appropriate recycling bin when we get to one.
The inside of your car will always end up a mess when you road trip with kids, but at least you can try to keep the mess separate from the dirt! A bag for your rubbish is essential in our car when going on a road trip with kids.
Even if you don’t think you’re going to need it, just pack it. When we go on road trips we normally have a very loose, vague plan of where we will end up, the journey is more important than the destination. We always find these little gems ‘in the middle of nowhere’, be it a local monument you need to walk a short distance to, or a farm shop with a quaint little tea garden and kids play area. You will always need sunblock.
8. A Towel
Whilst this is handy for wiping up spills too, the primary purpose of this is to hang it up in the window to create a curtain for your sleeping child to shield them from the sun.
I know you can buy those window socks, or those things that stick on the window, but none of them are as effective as an old towel. It certainly blocks more of the heat and rays than the transparent socks do, the kids can’t pull them off, and they are easy to stash away when not in use.
9. Toilet Roll
I can’t tell you how often I stop at a garage and the toilet roll supply has run out. Always! I’m sure it’s some kind of universe prank on me but I always end up in the stall without loo roll! It’s one of those things you don’t think about until you really need it.
Also, kids … need I say more? They have virtually no bladder control, and an unquenchable thirst when they get in the car! Enough said! Pack at least one, if not two toilet rolls for emergencies.
Last but not least, when going on a road trip with kids you should always carry spare water in your car. If you have a break down on the side of the road, you can be stuck there for hours. It’s essential that everyone stays well hydrated at all times. Water is life.
That concludes my list of 10 essential when going on a road trip with kids! For more of our intentional travel life, go follow me on Instagram where I share more pictures from our family travels.
I’d love to hear if you have any other items to add to this list, and don’t forget to pin this for the next time you are planning a road trip with kids! Safe travels!