Everyone loves the idea of a road trip. The thought of hitting the open road and seeing so much on your way to your destination adds a whole other level of joy and fun to your trip. Plus, bonding with your fellow passengers is a memorable experience that breeds deep conversations and plenty of laughter. 

You may have completed plenty of road trips during your college years, but they’re great for families too! Road trips are usually cheaper than flying and you don’t have to deal with the hassle and rigidness of air travel. (But it is possible! Take our Wheels Up course to learn the ins and outs.) 

With road trips, you can be flexible and do what you need to do to keep the vacation comfortable, fun, and safe for the whole family. Need a potty break? Stop at the next gas station! Need to stretch? Pull over at a playground! With a road trip, you can relax and adapt. (Here’s more on planning road trip stops with kids.) 

However, a lot goes into planning the perfect family road trip. You need the right plan, the right packing list, and the right mindset. But, we’ve got that covered! Below is our ultimate road trip packing list essentials that’ll prepare you for everything and anything you may experience on your journey. 

Here’s our essential road trip checklist:

Road Trip Essentials

100+ Things to Bring on a Road Trip

Emergency Road Trip Essentials

One of the most important things you need to do before heading out on your family road trip is giving your vehicle a thorough inspection. No one wants to lose AC or deal with a dead battery halfway through the trip! However, car maintenance issues aren’t always predictable and there are other emergencies you could encounter along the way too, like extreme weather conditions, medical emergencies, or even cell service outages. (Better download those Apple or Google Maps for offline use!) So, below, we’ve made a list of our top emergency supplies to bring on a road trip: 

Winter Road Trip Essentials

Winter road trips have a lot of additional factors to consider. However, if your family are avid holiday travelers, winter road trips are inevitable! So, before you hit the road, read this post on winter road trip safety and this one on how to safely bundle up your child in a car seat. Then, pack up these key items:

Summer Road Trip Essentials

Summer road trips don’t have quite as many variables as a winter trip, but there are still safety concerns! Hot weather can create the risk of overheating, hot car deaths, and sunburns/skin damage. But, don’t stress too much—just come prepared. Below are our recommended items to pack for a road trip in the summer: 

Road Trip Essentials for Babies

Infants always require a lot of packing, don’t they? Even a quick trip to the store warrants a fully stocked diaper bag. Well, road trips are no different if you want to be prepared for all the usual baby challenges. We’ve got a good essentials list for you below, but remember that it’s recommended that infants who can’t yet hold their head up only be in a car seat for 2 hours at a time. So, plan plenty of breaks for your little one! 

Road Trip Essentials for Toddlers

Toddlers are just as challenging on a road trip as infants, but luckily there are lots of ways to keep them entertained and comfortable. Comfort items, car seat toys, and snacks can make the trip much easier for you and your toddler! 

However, remember that car seat toys need to be safe, meaning they can’t be projectile risks in a collision. Additionally, snacks in car seats are always potential choking hazards, and you should avoid them when you can—but we know there will be some munching on a long trip. So, just read this post on toddler car seat snacking before you go!

Road Trip Essentials for Big Kids

Big kids are pretty easy on a road trip. They’re better at entertaining themselves and telling you when they need a potty break. But, they still need some intentional packing to make that long trip enjoyable for them too! 

Additionally, if you’ve already moved your big kid out of the booster, it might be a good idea to recheck and make sure that they pass the 5-step test. If they don’t, definitely return them to a booster for the road trip and beyond. Once they pass the 5-step test, they can safely graduate to just using the seat belt. 

Road Trip Essentials for Parents

As a parent, you’ll have one of two important jobs: driver or road trip vehicle manager. If you’re a driver, you’ll need to be distraction-free and stress-free while you safely drive. If you’re in the passenger seat, you’ll be helping navigate, facilitating stops, passing out toys, running group games, and overall just keeping everyone happy and sane! That’s a big job. Here are some road trip necessities that’ll make everything easier:  

Road Trip Essentials for Dogs

Bringing your furry friend to your destination? We all know dogs are part of the family, but remember that your dog freely roaming about your car isn’t safe for your family or your dog. Of course, there’s the distraction risk, but they can also become a projectile in a crash if not belted properly. A strapped-down crate or a CPS-approved dog car seat belt is essential. Plus, don’t forget these other dog travel essentials:

Car Cleaning and Organization Essentials

Staying organized when traveling is essential for a positive trip! And, whenever you spend a long time in a car (or anywhere) with your kids, there’s bound to be a mess or two. (Here’s how to clean your child’s car seat if it gets messy.) These cleaning and organizational tools are essential for a successful long road trip: 

Make your family road trip a success! 

If you’re planning a family road trip, you need to carefully consider what you’re bringing. You don’t want to overpack, but, at the same time, you don’t want to be under-prepared either. With good organization and the right packing list, hopefully you can strike the right balance! 

For more family travel tips, car seat education, and safe vehicle practices, browse more of what we have to offer at Safe in the Seat! Our blog is full of helpful info for any parent, and our course catalog, car seat buying kits, and car seat consultations make traveling safely with your family much easier! We hope our resources will give you the tools to feel confident that everyone in your car is safe in their seats and ready to hit the road.

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