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Spring break is coming up and so begins the half loved, half hated family road trip! When my husband and I were first married, we found road trips to be relaxing and adventurous. You could hop in the car and drive until you found something wonderful.
Three kids later, road trips are less relaxing and much better planned, but they can still be adventurous! We take a 2-4 hour road trip almost monthly, and a longer one a number of times of year. I can honestly say that we have it down to a science now. Click here for our best family road trip tips!
Whether you are traveling solo, with your sweetheart or your kids, here is a list of 31 Road Trip Essentials.
Road Trip Essentials for safety:
Gone are the days when you had to pore over maps before a long road trip. Whether your GPS is on your phone or a separate device, a GPS makes your life so much easier. My favorite GPS app is Waze, an app that takes input from other drivers to help you calculate the fastest route.
I have been in the unfortunate situation where my GPS couldn’t find a signal or my phone didn’t have service, and I was really glad I had a map. This is especially important when you are driving in remote areas as the chance of the GPS not working is greater.
These are a must in any safety kit. A dead battery means a prolonged trip and grumpy kids. I recommend this portable one in case your battery dies in a remote location. It works just as well as the regular kind and you aren’t dependent on a good Samaritan passing by.
This should come standard with your car today, but check out the tire before a long road trip. We found that we had a spare with a hole in it!
Ice scraper and snow broom
Don’t get stuck with only your credit card to scrape ice off your windshield! This one is great because it extends to get the tops of our van.
Road Trip Essentials for comfort:
We love Spotify! This app allows us each to make our own playlist of our favorite songs. We swap out playlists during the trip to keep everyone happy and to find new songs to love.
This is one of our favorite ways to stay entertained on a road trip! We pick books the whole family will enjoy and while away the hours listening to some great books. Some of our favorites include: the Harry Potter Books, the Chronicles of Narnia, Michael Vey, and Anne of Green Gables. We use Audible to get two new books each month.
What normally happens on our road trips is my husband brings his filled water bottle and the rest of us forget ours and drink all of his water! I told him my New Year’s Resolution is to remember to bring my own filled water bottle with me!
These are our favorite water bottles! They fit into the cup holder and are leak proof for when the kids put them in their backpacks. Click here for prices and more info
These are essential for keeping the peace after you have passed hour 2 or 3 on the road. The kids can watch their movies or listen to their music quietly. My teenagers are big fans of Beats headphones, but for the smaller kids I recommend these Mpow ones. They are much less expensive so you don’t need to worry about little fingers breaking them.
These are another road trip essential! Especially with kids. If you have been following me for any length of time you will know that this is my favorite travel pillow.
It is fabulous for the car or the plane! It keeps you neck upright and allows you to really get comfy and catch some Zs.
For younger kids, I prefer these. The wedge nicely into a car seat to keep you little ones sleeping soundly.
My husband loves to keep the temperature very low when driving in the car. Summer or winter, I find I need a blanket. For years we would just grab a blanket from one of the beds. That works just fine, but I really prefer these now. They are compact, and I can keep them with our travel stuff to grab quickly.
This is an umbrella statement for iPods, iPads, iPhones, portable DVD players, Nintendo Switch, or really any hand-held entertainment device. Make sure you grab what you need and make sure they are charged!
Our car has a built in DVD player, which makes the kids really happy. We often put a DVD in when the kids start getting restless. We used portable DVD players when our kids were young, and those worked well too.
Without these, you will get an hour and a half into your road trip and be out of luck! In addition to chargers we also put one of these in the car so everyone can keep their devices charged, and we don’t have fights over whose iPod is dying first.
Regardless of who is going on the trip, these are essential! Spilled food or drinks, sticky fingers, yucky noses and more. I always keep a package in the pouch in the back of the seat.
Cooler with snacks
We like staying in an Airbnb when we travel because we enjoy cooking. I often bring food with us to avoid having to buy everything at our destination. We fill up a cooler with snacks for the trip as well. This cooler is fabulous because it keeps cool while plugged into your car’s 12V DC. You won’t waste space keeping things cool with ice.
Don’t let the sun get to your beautiful peepers!
I make sure to wear sunscreen ever since I read an article that said that the left side of our faces are generally more aged then the right side because of the sun coming in while we are driving. Most car windows don’t protect you from UV rays. I keep it in the car so we have it at all times. My favorite one, Australian Gold, is a mineral sunscreen that works well under makeup and doesn’t sting your eyes.
We have some favorite games in a bag that we keep in the car. We love this scavenger hunt game and this this memory game. It is great to have something to do that the driver can participate in as well!
I love to read the history of the place we are going to visit from a guide book. It helps all of us have a little bit more background and understanding of a new place. I also make sure that we have everything planned as well as it can be. My favorite brand of guide books is DK Eyewitness. I find them to be small enough to fit in a tiny bag and complete enough for the average visitor. I also love seeing pictures of places instead of just reading text.
If you don’t get car sick, a great book to read sure passes the time.
You will need one or two of these if you have a particularly long road trip so you don’t have trash all over the car.
Road Trip Essentials for traveling with kids:
Car sick bags
These foldable bags are the greatest invention! We keep them in the glove compartment for easy access. They don’t leak and are easy to tie off and throw out.
Easily accessible change of clothes
You don’t want to have to haul the big suitcase out of the trunk if your kids spill things all over or if you stop for a break and it’s chilly. I always pack one change of clothes for everyone is a small bag and place it within easy reach. It’s also great for multi-day road trips, so I don’t every have to pull out the big suitcase for a quick night in a hotel.
We always bring a few inexpensive toys to pull out on trips. Sometimes it’s a card game, a word search, a yo-yo, etc. We bring out something new every hour or two to give the kids something to look forward to. We also tie it to getting along with each other, so if they are fighting, they don’t get a toy that hour. It works wonders for your sanity.
These fabulous inventions allow kids to have space to color, draw, play cards, drive cars, eat a snack and more. It even has a cup holder! This particular one fits most car seats, which helps keep toys in view and not on the floor. It also works after your kids have transitioned to a booster.
For more tips on road trips with the kids click here
Road Trip Essentials for when you arrive:
We love to take our bikes with us on every road trip! We rarely ride our bikes at home, but there is something fabulous about biking in a new place. We take 5 bikes with us every time we go to Prince Edward Island and we use this one.
We did have to have a hitch added to our van, but it has been well worth it.
If you are taking a road trip in the summer, you will probably need beach toys. Help your kids build some sand castles.
This is my favorite beach chair! It is lightweight to carry, reclines fully, and has held up for years.
A lot of hotels don’t offer beach towels, so we always bring our own. Check to see if your accommodations have them before you depart.
Cookware you will need
When we travel I bring my Instant Pot, a few good cooking knives, and measuring spoons. In my experience most Airbnbs don’t have those things, and I use them all the time. Sometimes the rental listing will let you know if it is has well-stocked kitchen. If so you won’t need to bring these things, but better safe then sorry.
With this list you will be in great shape to have a super road trip! I am sure there are things that you use that I haven’t thought of, so leave me a comment and let me know what your must-have items are.
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