Complete Road Trip Packing List for Families (+Free Packing List Printable)

Planning an epic family road trip? Then this road trip packing list for families is just the thing!

So many people are planning on hitting the road for vacation this year, ourselves included. But it can be stressful not knowing what you truly need to make your life easier on the road.

Which is why we’ve put together our travel tested essentials and ultimate packing list for families. Plus free printable road trip packing lists.

We’ve been on many a road trip, from cross country moves to local jaunts for a few days, and everything in between both solo and with our kids from babies to teens.

First we will highlight our top reasons why we think you should road trip with family (I’ll give you a hint, it’s not because of the kicked seats or the whiny are we there yet for the millionth time).

Then we will go into our road trip essentials list to bring for the family, kids, adults, car and safety gear. And follow it up with what not to pack. You’ll also find complete road trip checklists at the end of this post so yo don

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Why Take A Road Trip As A Family Vacation?

Road trips are an amazing way to see your own country or explore a new one. Not to mention you get to see many sites along the way you would otherwise miss if you took a plane.

While sometimes the journey can feel long, if you pack some fun kids activities, and have right packing list for a road trip, they can be a lot of fun for everyone.

Here are our top reasons why we love and recommend taking family road trips

  • Immerse yourself in the landscape & location – You have a chance to really immerse yourself in a location and the landscape of the places you drive through. Learn what makes the area unique, support local business and experience new things. Like seeing the Northern Lights in Yellowknife or taking a 7 day tour through Bryce, Zion & Grand Canyon
  • Opportunities for spontaneous adventures – We once ended up staying the night in a teepee for free at a small park off the beaten path because we noticed a sign and decided to just follow the adventure. That’s why we love the Road Trippers App (map out your route, know where to stay and eat, get suggestions for unique and inspiring points of interest).
  • Provide opportunities for unexpected stops – When traveling by car it really is all about the journey. You have a lot of flexibility and can stop whenever or wherever you want. On our epic journey across the states from Colorado to Nova Scotia, Canada we ended up at the Omaha Zoo unexpectedly. It was the highlight for that day! You just never know what will happen.
Road trip essentials and free packing list. Youg girl lying in the back of a packed car with a small puppy, covering her face with a hat.

Why You Need a Family Road Trip Packing List

Although it isn’t absolutely necessary, having a family road trip packing list can make your life before, during, and after your journey fairly simple.

Instead of wondering what you need, you can create a list of specific items and mark each item off as you pack them. Not only will this ensure that you have everything you and your family will need, but you will also save time in your packing process.

So, if you’re looking for an efficient way to pack less, and quicker, grab a pen and paper, and jot down some of these packing ideas or

Grab your Free Road trip packing printable (6 pages):


Road Trip Essentials for the Car

  1. This road trip planning App, is a fantastic tool to add to your phone to plan your route, while collaborating with others. You can get their Plus Plan 30 days free.
  1. Car registration and roadside assistance info – Another “just as a reminder”, you want to check your glove compartment box before leaving your house to make sure you have any (and all) information you may need in a very worst case scenario.
  1. Extra Set of Car Keys – make sure to store it somewhere you won’t lose it, preferably in a bag you bring with you out of the car.
  1. Rental Car Agreement – If you are renting a car for your road trip, make sure to bring the agreement with you in the glove box.
  1. Sun Shades for the Windows – The sun can get a bit overwhelming, especially if you have really young children in the car.

  1. Cell phone holder – Especially when using GPS, having a cell phone holder can be a game changer for your road trip.

  1. Car Seat or booster seat – Choose one that’s suitable for the ages of your kids.

  1. Small trash bucket or bag – To keep your car clean, and organized.

  1. Roadside Emergency Kit

Emergency Vehicle Kit

A Roadside Emergency Kit is essential. It’s better to be safe than sorry and be prepared to handle the unexpected.

Bringing a road side emergency kit will give you peace of mind knowing you have the basics.

Plus I don’t know how many times it has come in handy for helping other travelers out along the way. It should include:

  • Jumper cables
  • Tow Rope
  • Spare tire
  • Tire Pressure Gauge
  • Flashlight & batteries ( we prefer head lamps)
  • Jack & Tools
  • Flares
  • Food / Energy Bars
  • Matches / Lighter
Mom and daughter in car facing front. Daughter playing a card game.
Mother – Daughter road trip & camping trip | Photo: Packed for Life

What to pack “just in case”

Accidents happen. But, how you handle them can be completely different if you are prepared. Not to mention there are certain things you just don’t want to forget.

Add these to your road trip with kids checklist.

  1. Map – You may not ever need it, but make sure you have a paper or book road map. In case your phone dies, you lose signal, or anything else happens, you will be glad you have it.

  1. Paper Towel & Toilet Paper – Keep these handy for unexpected bathroom stops, or unexpected spills. Well with kids you can expect a mess!
  1. Wet wipes – Whether you have a baby or not, baby wipes are life savers for road trips. You can clean up spills, hands, and even clothing with a few baby wipes. My daughter is 10 and we still use baby wipes for all our travels. Not just for kids!
  1. Small trash bucket or bag – To keep your car clean, and organized with a small spill-proof car garbage can.
  1. Plastic bags– No one wants to talk about this, but you need to have extra bags in case anyone gets car sick. We also like to have a designated car garbage bag we empty out every day. That way the mess stays somewhat in check.

  1. Towels – As a safety precaution, it never hurts to add a few towels to your packing road trip. This can help in various situations of spills, sickness, and comfort. Quick Dry Towels are our go-to as they pack down small and dry quickly.
  1. Licenses & wallets – Just as a reminder, make sure you have everyone’s licenses, wallets and debit / credit cards before you even walk out your front door.
  1. Health Care Cards / Medical Insurance Info – Also make sure to have your health care cards or medical insurance info handy.

  1. Family First Aid Kit

Family First Aid Kit Essentials

If you are traveling anywhere, I highly recommend keeping a First Aid Kit in your car, and a smaller one in your backpack if you are off on hikes for the day.

Besides, if your kids are anything like mine, they go through bandaids like they are going outta style.

Here are some items we include in our family first aid kit, in addition to the usual suspects:

Family Road Trip Essentials

When packing for your entire family, you may find that you don’t need (or want) as much as others. Or, on the flip side, you may find that you like to bring everything but the kitchen sink, just in case. No judgment here!

Do you have to bring everything on this list? Absolutely not! Specific items you pack for your family road trip will vary based on preference.

Here are some family road trip essentials that can useful supplies for your next trip:

  1. America the Beautiful Park Pass – If you are planning on visiting USA National Parks, then a park pass will save you $$.
  1. Mouthwash – If you plan on bringing snacks, or even stopping to eat, having mouthwash is a must. Between having fresh breath and smelling fresh breath, you don’t want to forget this. Mints or minty gum also does in a pinch.
  1. Portable Charger / Power Bank – You can save yourself so much trouble if you bring a pre-charged battery pack on your next family road trip. From avoiding getting lost as your cell GPS is fully charged, to calming down your kids with a movie when they get a bit wrangy, a portable charger is a must.
  1. Car Chargers – Not only should you have a portable power bank, but bringing extra chargers that can be plugged directly into your car are a good idea. Don’t forget your device cables too for when you are in the hotel room. (Kindles, cells, tablets, gaming devices, laptops etc.)
  1. Camera / Go Pro – While you are out creating memories, be sure to document the fun, silly and sometimes ridiculous and unexpected moments along the way.
  1. Walkie Talkies – When traveling with friends and family in a convoy, walkie talkies are a great way to stay in touch.

PRO TIP: Buy a small cloth first aid kit, or toiletries bag and fill or switch out with your preferred Family First Aid Kit items. Keep First Aid Kit and medications handy and within reach.

Family Road Trip Essentials for Entertainment

The thought of packing for a road trip with kids can be overwhelming. But, it doesn’t have to be.

Keep in mind that you want to be including items for them to keep your trip stress-free as well. Road trip activities to keep them entertained.

PRO TIP: Make sure each kidlet (and adult) has their own small travel backpack or bag with their own activities, devices, snacks, waterbottle & a change of clothes. Keep it beside them so they can easily reach it.

  1. Tablet – For those moments when you just can’t take hearing another “are we there yet?” A Kids Fire Tablet is a great all-in-one solution for younger kids to pre-teens. The Fire Tablet for young kids is nearly indestructible.
  1. Headphones -You do not want to hear everything everyone is listening to on your road. A symphonic cacophony is not the most relaxing of sounds. So, save yourself the trouble, and pack headphones for everyone. If you are bringing wireless headphones, make sure to charge them before the trip.
  1. Books – If no one is prone to getting car sick, pack a few books for your family to enjoy on your road trip. You can include learning books, entertainment, or even coloring books.

A Kindle is our go to for voracious readers (myself included). An Audible membership is also a great idea too if your family enjoys listening to books on the road like we do.

Pack some fun road trip activities for kids | Photo: “alebloshka / depositphotos”

PRO TIPS: Make sure you charge any devices before you leave. Also, you will want to download any games, music, or apps beforehand.

  1. Journal – Even though you & the other adults in your group probably won’t have time to get bored on your family road trip, pack a small journal and keep it with you. You can document funny comments, questions, or even make note of something you need.

Kids Road Trip Essentials: Road Trip Activities for Kids

  1. Road trip games – There are plenty of road trip games or activities that you can include on your next road trip. Keep your trip fun and engaging for the kids! Here are a few of our favourites:
    1. Road Trip Bingo
    2. Coloring & Activity Pages
    3. Road Trip Kit
    4. Travel Magnetic Tangram Puzzles
    5. Entertaining Questions to Spark Conversations
  1. Paper/ journal – If you have creative kids, I recommend packing some journals, a sketchbook or paper to practice art, writing, and crafting with. Let your kids keep their own memories of their trip, with a kids road trip journal.
  1. Crayons / Pencil Crayons: Pack a few different crayons / pencil crayons and let them go at it! You can also add markers or pens in your overnight bags, so they can “fill-in” later if you’re worried about felt pen marks in the car.

PRO TIP: Use twistable pencil crayons so you don’t have little bits a shavings all over your car.

  1. Road Trip Activities – Bring a variety of age appropriate activities. Especially if you are traveling with toddlers & preschoolers.
  1. Road Trip Activities – Outdoor Games – We like to bring a few outdoor activities like frisbee, bubbles and bocce. Helps us get the wiggles out at rest stops and provides entertainment at our campsites along the way.
  1. Road Trip Playlist – While you could just listen to the radio, making and playing a road trip playlist will up your parent cred, and make groovin’ in the car a hit. Don’t forget to embaress your kids by singing at the top of your lungs.

PRO TIP: Use a Back seat organizer that fits over the front seats keeps all the snacks, electronic devices, books, small toys contained and in reach of the kids.

Family Road Trip Essentials for Comfort

  1. Change of clothes – The last thing you want to happen is to have a mess with all of the extra clothes packed deep in your luggage. To alleviate the chance of this happening, pack an extra outfit in one small bag that stays on top of everything else.
  1. Pillows for Kids – Providing your children with comfort during their road trip can greatly enhance the quality of their time. You don’t have to pack king size pillows, but letting each child (and adult) bring a neck pillow (at minimum) is a great start! My daughter loves this bcozzy travel pillow.

  1. Travel Pillow for the adults – Just like for your children, the passenger also needs to be comfortable. Don’t forget to pack a pillow for you and/or your partner!
  1. Blankets – The battle of the AC will begin as soon as you turn on the car. Instead of arguing, include blankets with everyone’s packing list. Plus they are essential in winter months, or if you are driving overnight.
  1. Diaper bag – Depending on the age of your children, you may want to include an extra in car diaper bag for your road trip. Fill with extra diapers, wipes, a couple of changes of clothes that is easy to grab and carry at rest stops.
  1. Towels – As a safety precaution, it never hurts to add a few towels to your packing road trip. This can help in various situations of spills, sickness, and comfort. Quick Dry Towels are our go-to as they pack down small and dry quickly.
Fruit, sandwich, veggies in containers.
Bring some healthy travel snacks | Photo: Kate_Smirnov / depositphotos”

Bring Road Trip Snacks & Meals

Packing road trip snacks and meals will save you time and money. Avoid the nasty gas station food and have healthy travel snacks on the go. Grab some easy travel snack recipes for your next trip.

  1. Cooler – If you have extra room in your car, or you are trying to save money on food costs, you can’t go wrong with packing a cooler. Check out our Easy Road Trip Meal & Packing List Ideas
  1. Snacks – Snacks are a must-have road trip essential. This will save you hangry kid and partner moments and money. Pack snacks like nuts, sandwiches, beef jerky, protein bars, and string cheese. Avoid packing sticky and messy snacks.
  1. Drinks – Just like snacks, you need to pack some of the drinks your children like. Although this seems like an extra step, it can save you a lot of stress and problems during your trip. We use resuable stainless steel waterbottles, and refill them as needed.

PRO TIP: Freeze a water bottle or two full of water, then you can have cold water as it melts. It can also double as an ice pack in your cooler.

🚙 Check out our delicious road trip snack ideas.

Family Road trip Packing List: Clothing

I will highlight a few key pieces of clothing for family road trips. There’s a more complete clothing list at the end of this article.

  1. Rain jackets – Instead of carrying an umbrella, pack some light rain jackets for everyone. Not only will this help if your family has to stop somewhere while it is actually raining, it can also help your little ones stay warm. We like this one for kids , this one for men and this one for women.
  1. Footwear – We like to bring a few options. Walking / hiking shoes, easy slip on sandals for the car and warm weather, then boots for rainy and winter season. I admit I love my Crocs for road trip travel days. Easy to slip on and of and comfortable for walking around all day if needed.
  1. Sunglasses – Whether you are the driver or not, sunglasses will cut the glare, protect your eyes, and keep you in the height of fashion.
  1. Hats – Sunhats, ball caps, garden straw hats, water hats. The possibilities are endless to keep the sun off your face.

  1. Seasonal Gear – Depending on the time of year you road trip, you may want to bring ski equipment, bikes, boogie boards, kayaks etc. What you bring will depend a lot on the size and type of vehicle you are traveling in.

  1. Packing Cubes – keep your clothes organized

  1. Swimwear, suits, coverups – swimming is a fun family vacation thing to do.

PRO TIP: If you are moving around a lot on your road trip, pack each days clothes into a ziploc bag or in a packing cube. Then you can just bring into the hotel with you, rather than bringing all the bags in and out each time.

Young girl on a family road trip holding a map, in from of a suitcase and open back of car.
Road Trip with Kids. Looking at Map.

You may also like our epic list of 50+ Gift Ideas for Travel Lovers.

What NOT To Pack for A Family Road Trip

Now that we have our road trip essentials list, let’s get into some things we think you don’t need to pack on a family road trip

Everything but the kitchen sink

I know the temptation is to bring more, as technically you have more space. But once you pack in the kids, cooler, dog, clothes, road trip activities, there may not be as much room in your vehicle as expected.

Think about where you are going, and what types of activities you’ll be doing there.

  • Can you rent summer or winter gear there?
  • What is absolutely necessary for your families enjoyment, comfort, and safety?

Lots of Toys

Inevitable if you have too many toys, pieces get lost, favourite toys get left behind, or there are fights amongst siblings.

We recommend packing a few car games, and maybe one small toy, but leaving most of them home.

Too Many Sweets

While it is fun to have some treats, too many sweets can bring everyone’s mood high and then low.

Not the best combo when stuck in small space together for hours. Not to mention strange combos of food and too many sweets can lead to nausea. Which you definitely don’t want on a road trip.

A combo of whole fruit, and protein (nuts, jerky, trail mix), can give you the sweet with sustaining protein.

Avoid large or hard shell suitcases

Because they take up too much space. We much prefer small duffels, or backpacks. I have even been known to just bring my clothes in a reusable shopping bag. You can pack them in tight around stuff.

Messy Car Snacks

Save the messy car snacks for rest stop picnics or avoid bringing all together. Kids will be kids, and it’s not fair spending the wole time getting mad at them for making a mess when we’ve set them up to fail.


Road Trip Checklist: Trip Essentials To Pack

  • Backpack or Suitcases
  • Packing Cubes
  • Day Packs
  • Socks, Underwear, Bras
  • Pants, Skirts, Shorts
  • Pajamas
  • Sweater or Fleece
  • Rain Jacket & Pants
  • Light or Heavy Jacket ( depending on weather)
  • Belts, Jewelry
  • Sunglasses
  • Sun Hats
  • Quick Dry Towels
  • Toiletries:
    • Shampoo, Conditioner
    • Body Lotion
    • Deodorant
    • Toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss
    • Soap
    • Hair Brush, Hair Products, Elastics
    • Make Up, Lip Balm,
    • Menstrual Products
    • Razor, Shaving Cream
    • Prescriptions
    • Glasses, Contacts, Contact Solution

For Babies & Toddlers

  • Diaper Bag
  • Diapers & Wet Bag
  • Changing Mat
  • Baby Wipes, Diaper Cream
  • Breast Pump (as needed)
  • Bottles, Sippy Cup
  • Formula, Baby Food, Toddler Snacks
  • Small Cooler with Ice Packs
  • Spill-proof Snack Cups
  • Burp Clothes
  • Change of Clothes in Diaper Bag
  • Special Toy, Board Books – Make sure not a choking hazard
  • Sun Shade for Window
  • Stroller, Baby Carrier
  • Pack N Play
  • Swim Diapers, Swim Suits, Water Shoes,
  • Sun Hat & Baby Sunscreen
  • Baby / Toddler Clothes
  • PJ’s and Sleep Sacks
  • Baby toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, soap, cream
  • Safety Devices: Outlet Covers, Toilet Locks etc.
  • Night Light
  • Infant medications, Thermometer, Oral Rehydration

For The Beach

  • Swimsuit, Rash Guards
  • Sun Hats
  • Sunscreen
  • Sand-Free Beach Mat
  • Towels, Wet Bags
  • Cover Ups
  • Goggles, Snorkels
  • Water Shoes, Sandals
  • Beach Toys & Mesh Bag – floaties, life jackets, bucket & pail, frisbee
  • Beach Tent / Umbrella

Check out our full Beach Vacation Packing list here

For Hiking

  • Hiking boots / Shoes
  • Wool / Hiking Socks
  • Bug Spray
  • Hiking Backpacks
  • Quick Dry Pants / Shorts
  • Hats
  • Layers
  • First Aid Kit

For Camping

  • Tent, Tarps, Pegs
  • Camp Stove, Matches
  • Sleeping Mats & Sleeping Bags
  • Head Lamps or Flashlights
  • Bug Spray
  • S’Mores Kit & Marshmallow Roasting Sticks

For Ski Trip / Winter Destination

  • Snowsuits, Snow Pants
  • Winter / Snow Jackets
  • Mitts, Hats, Scarves
  • Long Underwear, Layers
  • Ski Socks, Wool Socks
  • Skis, Helmets, Poles
  • Snowshoes

Road Trip Essentials for Kids

Road Trip Essentials: Electronics

  • Phone Chargers & Cords, Car Chargers
  • Solar Charger
  • Cell Phones
  • Tablets, Laptops & Carriers
  • Kindle / E-Reader

Road Trip Checklist: Car Essentials

  • America the Beautiful Park Pass
  • Driver’s License
  • Wallets , Credit Cards, Bank Cards, Extra Cash
  • Medical Cards & Medical Insurance Info
  • Car Registration & Insurance docs
  • Rental Car or RV Rental Agreement (if appropriate)
  • Roadside Assistance, CAA or AAA cards
  • Road Map, GPS, or Google Maps
  • Road trip planning App
  • Car Seats / Booster
  • Spare Key(s)
  • Roadside Emergency Kit ( jumper cables, tow rope, tire pressure guage, flashlight / batteries, Jack and tools, flares,
  • Car Essentials (ice scrapers, extra oil, and fluids, water)
  • Sun Shades for windows
  • First Aid Kit
  • Spill-proof car garbage can & plastic garbage bags
  • Paper towels
  • Toilet Paper 
  • Wet wipes / Baby Wipes – so multipurpose
  • Duct Tape
  • COVID Precautions:
    • Masks
    • Hand Sanitizer
    • Disinfectant Wipes

Road Trip Checklist: Snacks & Meals

  • Cooler
  • Utensils
  • Water Bottles
  • Reusuable Straws
  • Coffee Mugs
  • Empty plastic or glass containers for leftovers
  • Easy Road Trip Snacks Ideas
    • Granola Bars
    • Dries Fruit / Fruit Leather
    • Muffins
    • Energy Balls / Bars
    • Nuts, seeds, Trail Mix
    • Almond Butter Packs
    • Jerky, Tuna (in a can)
  • Cooler Snacks
    • Hummus & Carrots, Cucumbers
    • Cheese and Crackers
    • Fruit
    • Hard Boiled Eggs
    • Individual Yogurt tubes, drinks or packs
  • Easy Road Trip Meals Ideas
    • Sandwiches, Tortilla Wraps
    • Granola
    • Pancake Sandwiches
    • Bagels & Creamcheese
    • Chickpea Salads

Grab ideas for kids travel backpacks, perfect for keeping all their road trip activities, snacks and water for the day.

6 pages pf Rpad Trip packing cheklists fanned out. Grab it here.


What are the top 3 things to pack for a road trip with my family?

The top 3 things to pack for a family road trip are travel backpacks with activities and water, a change of clothes, and snacks.

How should I pack for a family road trip?

The best way to pack for a road trip is to use packing cubes, or large ziploc bags to place a day or two worth of clothes in, so they are easy to grab each night. Also use soft sided bags for more space and flexibility if you are limited in space.

When should I start packing for a road trip?

It’s a good idea to start packing a week or more before a road trip. In order to avoid rushing, and forgetting important items. However you should make a road trip packing list at least a month in advance to ensure you have everything you need. Packing your car should start at least 1-3 days before your trip, so you can leave easily.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Things to Pack for A Road Trip

There you have our list of what to bring on a road trip. Although you may need to be a bit more mindful when packing for a road trip with your family, it doesn’t have to be too complicated.

When making your packing list, ask yourself:

  • How long will we be in the car?
  • What necessities can my children not live without during this time?
  • What will provide the most comfort for my family on this road trip?

Once you answer those questions, you will have a solid road trip packing list for your family.

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