Being organized with a family road trip packing list is essential for a comfortable, safe, and stress-free vacation. You need to consider entertainment, travel comfort, hunger, emergencies, stop-offs, and personal care. In this post, we make family packing fun so don’t worry!
In addition to packing your standard suitcase luggage for your final destination, there is so much else to consider. In this post, I talk through packing for a family road trip and also provide a comprehensive, free, printable packing list for you to download and use as you go!
An unforgettable family road trip experience, begins at home in the planning, preparing, and packing. If you get that right, you’ll have a hassle-free and fun trip and save your family money, and time on your travels.
Read on to find everything you need to pack for yourselves, your kids, and your car. I’ve included beach, camping, and winter options too. Let’s go!
Personal Care Items
When on a road trip with your family, pack the personal care items that you use at home. You can dispense into smaller reusable bottles, or buy travel-sized versions. This is everything from toothbrushing, to showering, to hair care.
In addition, pack plenty of sunscreens; a high factor for the kids, as well as after-sun lotion, to moisturize their skin. On your road trip, you’ll be exploring along the way, so looking after your skin, and keeping clean is essential.
Dry shampoo is amazing for the road; you sometimes don’t have time to wash your hair and it can get groggy in the car. I make my own using cornflour and cocoa powder, but you can buy it in most care sections in supermarkets.
- Hair Dryer
- Hair straighteners
- Travel bottles and carry case
- Shampoo & conditioner
- Body wash
- Soap or shower gel
- Kids friendly soaps and skincare
- Sunscreen (include SPF 50 for kids)
- After-sun lotion
- Family medications
- Vitamins that you already take
- Lotions and Moisturizers for face and body
- Dry shampoo
- Feminine hygiene
- Tangle brushes for kids
- Toothbrushes, floss, and toothpaste
- Lip balm
Keep your personal care items organized in a Water-Resistant Travel Wash Bag. Each family member could have one each containing their essentials.
Taking your pet dog on your family road trip? Take a look at how to Road Trip With Your Dog
To download your Family Road Trip Packing List, click here:
Keeping Comfortable Items
When setting off on a long family road trip, you want to ensure that all passengers are comfortable throughout. You need to pack plenty to keep to hand for the road trip to run smoothly. Treat the car like your moving hotel room!
Spillages of food and drink are unfortunately inevitable (especially with kids), therefore as well as being able to mop them up quickly, have spare clothes packed.
On travels, unfortunately sometimes small accidents and injuries may occur, so a first aid kit is essential. For long drives at nighttime, extra blankets, pillows and warm clothes are important for getting lots of rest.
Use this list to pack everything that will keep you and the children feeling relaxed, comfortable, and settled on your car vacation.
- Comfortable child car seats/booster seats
- Kids favorite comforters
- Spare pajamas for night time driving
- Spare clothes for accidents
- Extra pillows
- Extra socks
- Flip flops for (slipping on easily at rest stops)
- Washbag for freshening up throughout the journey (toothbrush, toothpaste, flannel, moisturizer)
- Handheld fan
- Spare clothes (choose dark colors for the car to hide spillages)
- Cleaning kit – hand sanitizer, toothbrushes toothpaste, wipes, hand gel, face masks
- Pain killers
- Medicine bag
- Mints/chewing gum
- Extra toilet roll
- First Aid Kit (include: ice spray, band-aids, disinfectant, cold relief, allergy tablets, bandages, medical tape, gloves, upset stomach medication, thermometer)
Buying a First Aid Kit already full of the items you might need, will have you well covered. Just keep it out of reach of the kids.
For other tips, read Keeping Comfortable On A Road Trip
Keeping the car clean and clear items
When you’re in the car, food and drink spillages are inevitable. When it happens, have items handy to clean the car as quickly as you can; to have it smelling, looking, and feeling fresh. There is nothing worse than sitting in sticky patches or having dirt everywhere.
Organize the trunk and inside the passenger area well, so that you all have the items you need in easy reach. You can buy trunk organizers and back seat organizers for your children’s belongings.
Take plenty of trash bags, and cleaning materials that you would have in the home, so you don’t have to sit in dirt or grime.
- Sick bags
- Trash bags for the car
- Antibacterial wipes
- Microfibre cloths
- Blue roll or kitchen roll/ tissues
- Carpet and upholstery wipes
- Silicone cupcake liners for the cup holders
- Baby wipes
- Spare change for gas station hoovers
- Trunk organizer
Pack your essential items in this space-saving, Hanging Trunk Organizer
Have dog hair in the car? Read how to Clean Dog Hair From The Car
Road Trip Food and Drink Items
On a road trip, to save time, money (and tantrums!) packing plenty of food, snacks, and water is an absolute must. Preparing food will prevent you from having to make too many stops on your road trip and keep the traveling time down.
In addition to freshly made food packed in a cooler (such as sandwiches, salads, etc.) take plenty of dried goods that keep well on the journey. This includes trail mix, crackers, chips, nuts, etc.
Try not to pack too many sugary foods as with children when they get sugar highs, they might get agitated on the journey. Healthy snacks will prevent everyone from feeling sluggish on the road. For stop-offs, don’t forget to pack a picnic set, you’ll be so happy you did!
- Picnic basket
- Lightweight crockery and cutlery
- Washing up liquid
- Spare bottles of water
- Snacks for the kids
- A water bottle each
- Healthy food items
- More water
- A cooler
- Trunk storage box
- Fresh food
- Dried food that doesn’t need refrigerating (nuts, crisps, trail mix, crackers, popcorn, dried fruit, sandwiches, etc)
- Travel mug
- Travel water bottles
- Picnic blanket and picnic set for stops
I recommend this Family Picnic Set which includes a picnic blanket.
Is any of your family following a vegan diet? If so, check out Vegan Road Trip
Electronics and Entertainment Items
Having everything fully charged in the car will save stress and tantrums; especially for older children who want to keep in touch with their friends on the road trip. Pack enough charging cables for multiple electronics at once.
Games are a good bonding tool when you play them as a family, such as road trip trivia, conversation starters, and scavenger hunts. Printable games are essential packing for the children, and so much fun to do as well.
In addition to electrics, there is plenty of other entertainment you can pack for a road trip. Books are my favorite thing to take; you could even take school projects if the children have homework to catch up on. Download your playlists and podcasts in advance and take a set of headphones each so nobody is disturbed.
To organize everything, take a handy car seat organizer which you place over the front seats, and pack full of the children’s belongings. This makes in-car entertainment easy to reach for when you’re on the road.
- Phone chargers
- USB charging unit (for multiple devices)
- Mobile Powerpack for day trips
- Phone Holder
- Sat Nav
- Ipads/tablets and their chargers
- Headphones for each person
- Camera with chargers
- Travel plugs if needed for the country you are visiting
- Portable wifi
- Travel Games
- Printable Activities
- Clipboards and pens
- Downloaded Playlists
- Downloaded Movies
- Car Seat Organizer
- In-car road trip printable games
- Pens and Papers
- Trivia Games
- Conversation Starters
- Podcasts Downloaded
- Any vacation homework from school projects that the kids can work on in the car
- Ball, frisbee, hula hoop for stops to burn off energy on the spot
This in-car Multiple USB Charging Unit has really good reviews!
Looking for ideas on family road trip games? I have created 8 Printable Road Trip Activities For Children!
When on a family road trip, planning for emergencies is so important. You can never predict what might happen, such as breakdowns, injuries, getting lost and running out of GPS on your phone, etc. Of course, it hopefully won’t happen, however, it is best to be on the safe side!
Pack items for weather extremes such as umbrellas and snow shovels; and always take a raincoat even if no rain is predicted. In case of a breakdown, having flashlights, roadside kit and spare engine oil will help you out no end.
In addition, always pack a paper map in case your technology runs out of battery or breaks so you don’t get lost. Having cash in the car is handy too, because some remote places and parking lots might not always take card payments, so this will save you a lot of time.
- Roadside Emergency Kit
- Bug spray
- Snow shovel
- Paper maps
- Extra bottles of water
- Spare engine oil
- Spare cash
- Notepads and pens
- Emergency numbers are written on paper(family members, pet sitter, etc.)
- Local doctors and hospitals written down
- Roadside Recovery, breakdown cover
- Locator Beacon
Never underestimate the power of planning for emergencies, it will save you so much stress!
I highly recommend buying and packing a Roadside Emergency Kit, Including Jumper Cables
If you’re worried about driving your car long distance, read Do Cars Need rest On Long Road Trips?
Luggage And Stop Off Luggage
When it comes to packing luggage for your road trip, think about your longer stay destinations as well as quick stop-offs along the way. Having grabbable smaller pieces of luggage ready packed for short stopovers.
Always pack spares of everything, especially with a family, as accidents and mess happen often, and it is unlikely that you will want to stop to do laundry on a long car ride. Packing cubes or zip lock bags are useful for smaller sets of clothes and underwear.
I recommend packing spare clothing items for unplanned stops and exploring. Packing for spontaneity will save you from having to buy new items along the way.
Pack dark coloured clothes for wearing in the car, that way you’ll hide spillages and dirt better!
- Clothes for each day of the trip
- Underwear for each day
- Lounge Clothes
- A few spare sets of everything
- Extra Socks
- Jeans and smart trousers
- Shorts/ Skirts
- Sneakers or walking shoes
- Going out shoes
- Flip Flops
- Hiking Shoes
- Sun Hat
- Warm Clothes
- Day backpacks for stops and day trips
- Packing cubes or zip loc bags for underwear, to take out for stop-offs.
The next sections are destination dependant, so ignore the parts you don’t need of course! On our printable checklist, we have plenty of space to add extra destination-specific items!
For the Beach:
- Beach towels
- Water shoes
- Bucket and spades
- Portable grills
- Sleeping bags
- Sleeping mats
- Blow up beds / Campbeds
- A flashlight for each family member
- Camping equipment
- Smores kit
- Solar charger
- Power Pack
- Wireless Speaker
For winter road tripping
- Woolly hats
- Winter coats
- Wellington Boots
- Hand warmers
- Ski clothes/equipment
- Extra jumpers
- Waterproof Trousers
As well as your big suitcase, take backpacks for the whole family, to use on stop-offs and for day trips. These Lightweight Backpacks come in different colors.
Check out How Far You Can Drive Safely In A Day.
Essential Road Trip Documents and Items
When you go on any holiday, including a road trip, you need all of your important documents, cash, and booking confirmations kept safe! My advice is to print out whatever you can and take it in the car in a binder.
Always pack cash, as well as your traveler’s checks and credit cards; some remote places won’t have card payment facilities so bear this in mind!
Of course, we can’t ignore the recent pandemic, so keep the family safe with regards to Covid-19 and pack masks, hand gel, and wipes. You’ll be out in public a lot, so keep everything hygienic.
- Travel documents
- Breakdown recovery documents
- Car Insurance Details
- Health insurance
- Travel purse
- Travel Itinerary
- Travelers’ Checks
- House/pet sitter contact information
- Important phone numbers
- Accommodation booking confirmations
- Campsite bookings etc.
- Drivers Licenses
- COVID PPE kit – masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes
Keep all your documents safe in this Travel Document Holder
Check out the Legalities On Leaving a Dog In The Car
Family Road Trip Packing List Printable Checklist
If the above lists aren’t enough, I’ve created a FREE Family Road Trip Packing List -Printable Checklist. All you have to do is click the link below, download the 4 page PDF, and print! There you have it!
There is space on the printable document for you to add on additional packing items, so you have it all in one space! Not only that but space for you to write important notes, numbers, and final ‘To-Do’ tasks before you set off on the road!
Finally, the document contains some handy tips to get you inspired, organized, and prepared for an amazing family vacation!
Click here to view, download, and print your Family Packing List:
So there you have it, your Family Packing List for your Road Trip Adventure! Print, enjoy, and have an amazing journey! We’d love to hear your suggestions for packing hacks, please feel free to comment or get in touch!!
Disclosure: Some of the links in this article may be affiliate links. This means I earn a commission if you make a qualifying purchase, but this is at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting The Road Trip Expert.
Holly is an animal lover with a passion for travel and living a plant-based lifestyle. She enjoys practicing and teaching yoga, cooking, and visiting new places. She currently delivers self-care sessions that utilize EFT (emotional freedom technique) to support people struggling with their breakups.