Pack These Road Trip Essentials For An Epic Family Vacation

Packing road trip essentials ensure a fun family vacation. When heading out on an epic road trip across the country there is a fine line between bringing enough and not bringing too much. You want to make sure the kiddos have toys and activities to keep them busy in the car. But you want them to enjoy the journey, too. You want to be prepared for your travel adventures and any emergencies that come along. Most importantly, you want to make sure you are ready for fun.

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Whether your family is led by someone like Clark W. Griswald from Family Vacation or Bob Munro in RV (Runaway Vacation), your epic family road trip is sure to be memorable. Once you have your destination set, it’s all about enjoying the pitstops, the roadside attractions, and all of the togetherness in the car. You can plot out each and every spot to sightsee beforehand or you can just stop when you see something interesting.

Road Trip Essentials for Each Family Member

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Day Bags for Everyone. Road trips and long vacations are the perfect time for everyone to start learning to be responsible. A Day Bag can be an over-the-shoulder bag, but most people seem to prefer small backpacks. Everyone should have a Day Bag with a reusable water bottle, small hand sanitizer, a rain poncho, and a hat. Each family member should have a facemask or two as well. Some tourist attractions and businesses still require face masks. Those who enjoy hot drinks in the car may want to include a travel mug to prevent spillage, too.

Read More: How to Confidently plan an RV Road Trip: Everything you Need to Know

This is a great place for each family member to have his/her own stash of gum and a non-perishable emergency snack like a granola bar, or protein bar. All that togetherness, you want to prevent “hangry attitudes,” if at all possible. Sometimes on road trips, you hit bad weather or traffic and are unable to stop for dinner right when someone is very hungry.

Parents should carry a portable phone charger, first aid kit, sunscreen, and bug spray in their Day Bag, too. Other road trip essentials that can be tucked in the parents’ day bags include basic over-the-counter medicine like anti-inflammatory medicine, anti-diarrheal medicine, mints, and baby wipes.

Snacks: Everyone’s Favorite Road Trip Essentials

Choose your road trip snacks carefully. Of course, it’s fun to splurge and let the kiddos enjoy their favorite sugary and salty treats. You can even let them choose their own snacks at the first mega travel station on the highway. Just remember, you will be trapped in the car with your preschooler, tweens, and young teens. You will want to have healthy snacks on hand, too. Suggested road trip snacks, carrots, celery, apples, granola bars, protein bars, and jerky.

Read More: A Perfect Vacation at Rocking Z Guest Ranch

A small cooler is a must-have on a road trip. You can save money and time stopping to have a picnic at a roadside rest area or small town park. We plot out state parks, national parks, and caves along our route for our picnic lunches. That way we can enjoy a new destination on the way to our main destination. Often spending an hour or two in nature, rejuvenates the driver. The kids run around and stretch their legs sometimes wearing themselves out for a nap. When you plot out a few places along the way, the journey becomes a vacation.

Limit Clothing, and Toys to Just the Road Trip Essentials

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Less is more. Even the children want the room to stretch out while driving across the country. If you are taking a 10-day or 2-week road trip, it is better to do laundry at least once or twice rather than bringing two weeks’ worth of outfits. A good rule of thumb is three bags per person: a day bag, a clothing/toiletries bag, and an activity bag.

Read More: Road Trip Guide: 5 Days on the Dark Side of California

The Activity Bag will be books, toys, art supplies, a tablet, phone, earbuds, and chargers. It gives everyone a limited amount of things to bring and a personal place to tidy their own belongings keeping the car organized. Depending on the size of your vehicle and how many seats are filled, the Activity Bag will sit near each person’s feet.

Random Road Trip Essentials, You Don’t Want to Forget

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You might want to pack a catch-all bag and label the outside of it with the random items you tuck inside. A few items frequent road trippers recommend bringing include a roll of toilet paper, Lysol/Clorox wipes, sweatshirts, towels, a flashlight, umbrellas, and a reusable shopping bag. These are items, that can easily ride around in the back of the car just in case you need them.

Road Trip Essentials for the Car

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What should you carry in your car for a road trip? Make sure your car is ready for the epic family road trip, too. Double-check that your spare tire is in good shape. And, that your Roadside Emergency Kit has all the pieces (that you’re neighbor remembered to return the jumper cables when he borrowed them). Other road trip essentials for the car include a copy of your car insurance, the car manual, and, of course, your driver’s license. Road trippers often tuck a family-sized First Aid Kit in the trunk that includes an emergency blanket and extra water.


Packing the road trip essentials for everyone ensures a smooth ride. You don’t want to forget your phone chargers or the road trip essentials for kids, and you especially want to remember the snacks. But if you bring more than you need, the car can be stuffed to the gill with no extra elbow room. Finding the perfect balance of just the right road trip essentials without bringing excess is the key to a successful, comfortable road trip. Drive safely, and have fun exploring.

WANT TO READ MORE?
Check out Daily Mom’s Post Vacation Blues And 8 Ways To Stop It Section for more advice, tips, and tricks.

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Carla J. Eskew
Carla J. Eskew is a freelance writer, wife, and mom of two children who are nine years apart. She is a Scout leader with 15 years of experience in Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts. She serves as a volunteer at school, church, and with the homeless population. She loves road trips, sightseeing, camping, and pilates. But, her new love is her 1-year-old black standard poodle puppy, Midnight Shadow.

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