The Ultimate Road Trip Packing List For Families (+Printable Checklist)

Cover photo credit: @ Gorilla/depositphotos.com

Hitting the road but need a road trip packing list (and a printable check list)? Our family has done quite a few this summer, as it seems to be the vacation of choice for many families.

So many of my friends are heading on family road trips and I keep hearing the same thing. “What should I bring on a long car trip with kids? What should I bring for fun?”  I have also been ask what are the basic things to pack for a road trip.

But not to worry. We have taken so many family road trips, I have the ultimate packing list for a road trip. And, I have a handy checklist for road trips I rely on to be sure I don't forget a thing.

Whether you are heading out for a short weekend jaunt or a longer road trip vacation, here is our tried and true list of things to bring on a road trip! And, you can also grab your FREE printable road trip packing list to make sure you have all of your road trip checklists and essentials handy!

This post contains affiliate links for which I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you should you make a purchase using this link.  See my disclaimer.

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Photo credit: FlairImages/iStock by Getty

Why Road Trips For Vacation

Our family loves road trips because it is such a great way to see everything you miss when you fly from one point to another.  Though they can be long, and tedious, they are often a lot of fun.  With the right road trip activities, your kids can be kept engaged enough to pass the time.

And, with the right packing list for a road trip, they can be very fun! Just as long as you have all of your essentials.

Road Trips Are About The Journey

Many years ago, before kids, my husband and I did a road trip in Ireland. We flew into Shannon and spent a week driving across to Dublin, stopping in a new bed and breakfast each night.  This was before the internet, so we would call places each night to check on availability.

But what made it so fun is that we often saw things we didn't expect to see, giving us opportunities for unexpected stops.  In fact, sometimes, we would plan to see a town but didn't care for it much.  Moving on to the next town that wasn't on the plan was sometimes more exciting than the one we planned.

And then there are the photo opportunities. Road trips can allow you to find the best photo stops in National Parks to capture the location's beauty in ways you simply can't do if you travel on planes and trains.

Road Trips Can Immerse You In A Location

Because you are spending hours driving through somewhere, road trips allow you to really see a lot of a location.

In fact, this past summer, we took a three-week road trip through Montana, Utah, and Colorado.  It was definitely one of the best USA road trips we have ever taken.

In addition to really taking in the gorgeous landscapes and spotting things new to us, like buffalo grazing in the field, we also stopped and supported many local businesses selling delicious local foods and chatted with locals.  Roadside stands selling huckleberry treats in Montana was a highlight of the trip!

During our Ireland road trip, we also listened to Irish radio.  Listening to popular music in the country (or state or region) and local news can teach you a lot about what is going on in that location.

Road Trips Can Inspire Unexpected Adventures

Sometimes on road trips, we will find an unusual roadside store, attraction, or a view that we want to see.  Unexpected adventures are often some of the things my kids remember most about a road trip.

One of the reasons I love the Road Trippers app is because this handy helper not only provides directions, places to stay, and places to eat. But it will alert you to unique attractions and things to see along the way.

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Photo credit: @ Natty88/depositphotos.com

Road Trip Packing List

road trip check list road trip packing list

Now that you are ready to plan your road trip, let's get you set with what to bring on your road trip!  Having a good road trip checklist is helpful when packing for your road trip.

While generally speaking, your packing list for road trips will be dependent on where you go, there are some road trip essentials and necessities you will need.

This ULTIMATE road trip check list includes all of our recommendations for things you need for a road trip, including a road trip checklist for the car.

Be sure to grab your FREE printable family road trip packing list printable below!


Road Trip Essentials Checklist: The Car

    • Driver's License
    • Roadside Assistance or AAA card
    • Car Registration
    • Rental Agreement (if applicable)
    • Car Manual
    • Car Essentials (spare tire, jumping cables, scrapers, tire pressure guage)
    • Spare Key
    • Roadside Emergency Kit
    • First Aid Kit
    • Flashlight
    • Car Seats (If you are traveling with little ones, check out this review of the best portable car seats.)
    • Sunshades for windows
    • Travel pillow and blanket (lovey for kids)
    • Umbrella
    • Trashbags
    • Freezer Bags (in the event of carsickness, they can be used)
    • Cell Phone Holder
    • Pen and Paper
    • Paper towels and Disinfectant wipes (in case of spills/carsickness)
    • Wet wipes for hands
    • During Covid, PPE Kit:
      • Extra Masks
      • Gloves
      • Hand Sanitizer
      • Extra Disinfectant Wipes

Road Trip Essentials Checklist: Food and Meals

  • Portable Snacks
    • Granola Bars
    • Single Serving Snacks like Pretzels/Chips
    • Hummus (in cooler)
    • Cheese and Crackers (in cooler)
    • Muffins
    • Energy Bars
    • Single Serving Cereal
    • Single Serving Nuts/Seeds
    • Fruit
    • Vegetables
    • Mini Almond Butter Packs
    • Boiled Eggs (in cooler)
    • String Cheese (in cooler)
    • Trail Mix
  • Refillable Coffee Mugs
  • Refillable Water Bottles
  • Cooler
  • Portable Fridge
  • Portable Meals
    • Pasta Salad
    • Sandwiches
    • Wraps
    • Egg Sandwiches
    • Burritos
    • Salad
  • Disposable Cutlery
  • Napkins
  • Sandwich Bags For Storing Leftovers

Check out my post on The Best Road Trip Food: 101+ Easy and Simple Road Trip Meals and Snacks You'll Love!


Road Trip Essentials Checklist: Your Suitcase/Your Trip

  • Suitcase with Compression Bags to Maximize Space
  • Toiletries
    • Shampoo/Conditioner
    • Body Wash/Lotion
    • Deodorant
    • Hair Brush/Hair Products
    • Makeup
    • Razor
    • Toothbrush/Toothpaste/Floss
  • Jewelry
  • Sunglasses
  • Hats
  • Clothes (shirts, shorts, pants)
  • Pajamas
  • Underwear
  • Socks
  • Sweatshirt
  • Rain Jacket/Light Jacket/Windbreakers
  • Trip Specific Needs
    • Sheets/Bedding/Towels
    • For Hiking
      • Backpacks for Hiking
      • Shoes/Boots
      • Socks
      • Pants
      • Layers
    • For Camping
      • Tent
      • Sleeping Bag
      • Portable Grill
      • Smore's Kit
      • Lantern
      • Pillow
      • Camping Equipment
    • For Dude Ranch
      • Hats
      • Cowboy Boots
      • Jeans
      • Riding Gloves
      • Socks
    • Beach Trip
      • Swimsuits
      • Beach Clothes/Coverups
      • Towels
      • Goggles/Snorkel Gear
      • Water shoes/Flip Flops
      • Beach Gear (buckets, noodles, floaties, wagon, canopy/umbrella, etc.)
    • For Ski Trips
      • Layers
      • Gloves
      • Socks
      • Balaclava
      • Ski Gear (skis, helmet, poles, jackets, pants, boots, gloves, hot pockets)
  • Camera
  • Binoculars
BVWK Tip
If you are planning to change hotels or locations often during your road trip, here's a great tip.  Pack individual outfits in freezer bags (I love the IKEA ones because they are extra large) inside your suitcase, including top, bottoms, underwear, and socks, and have a portable duffle bag. This way, rather than bringing in your whole suitcase in each night, you just grab your outfit pack, toiletries, and pajamas and put them in the duffle minimizing how much you have to bring into your accommodations each night!  The ziplock also can be repurposed for your dirty clothes and makes it easier to find when doing laundry on the road.

Road Trip Essentials Checklist: Electronics

  • Cell Phone
  • Ipads/Tablets
  • Computers
  • Portable Charger for Car
  • Chargers for Your Electronics
  • Download the Road Trippers app (get 30 days free of Road Trippers Plus with my link ⬅)

Road Trip Essentials (for kids, especially!) Checklist: Entertainment

BVWK Tip
I recommend giving kids their own backpack/road trip kids bag complete with their activity pack, sketchbook/pencils, clipboard, headphones, books, electronic for Audible audio books, water bottle, and snack bag. This way kids can be completely independent during the road trip. It is like a carry-on for kids, but for the car!

Road Trip Essentials Checklist: Money and Travel Documents

  • Cash
  • Credit Cards
  • Traveler's Checks (if applicable)
  • Coins for the car for tolls/laundry
  • Travel Wallet
  • Travel Purse
  • Portable Safe
  • Travel Documents/ID
  • Contact Information For House/Petsitters
  • Travel Itinerary (Flight Details, Hotel/Accommodation Details, Tour Information and Contacts)
BVWK Tip
Kids (and anyone who is prone to motion sickness) can get sick on longer road trips. Our family always travels with extra ziplock bags strategically placed in the event someone feels unwell. We also try to avoid milk products in the morning. If you have a motion sickness-prone traveler, you may want to take some precautions with motion sickness aids.

Road Trip Essentials Checklist: Health and Safety

  • Health Insurance Cards
  • Traveler's Insurance Information
  • First Aid Kit For the Car
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug Spray
  • Medicine Pack
    • Essential Medicines and Prescriptions
    • Contacts/Glasses
    • Allergy Medicines
    • Motion Sickness Medicines
    • Thermometer
    • Pain Relievers for Adults and Kids and Dispenser
    • Upset Stomach Medication
  • PPE Cleaning Pack
    • Masks
    • Sanitizer Portable
    • Sanitizer For Car
    • Disinfectant Wipes
    • Gloves


Final Thought About Road Trip Packing List

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Photo credit: Vera_Petrunina/iStock by Getty

When we first started on family road trips, I wondered what to bring on a road trip. But over time, we have evolved from experience to create a complete road trip checklist for everything we need (and tips for where to put it!)

Packing for a road trip can feel overwhelming, but this handy road trip packing list will help you plan.  Plus, with my free road trip printable packing and checlist, you can focus on keeping your thoughts on the journey!

While each road trip is different, planning ahead for the things you need for a road trip and packing efficiently will make your family vacation go much smoother.  Use this family road trip packing printable list to make your packing easier, so you can keep your eyes on the road making lasting memories with your family.

Like This Post? You May Also Like These

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7 thoughts on “The Ultimate Road Trip Packing List For Families (+Printable Checklist)”

  1. I love the tip about the outfits in freezer bags! I have never thought of packing everything individual before. Thank you for sharing!

    Reply
  2. Anything to make my life easier is awesome, as I am the designated packer of all things travel, including for road trips. I agree that the outfit in a bag idea is genius. I am trying to use less plastic in my life, and I am thinking that i could use packing cubes instead.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Donna. Yes, the compression packing bags I mentioned above are excellent for this purpose! They kept our clothes super organized on our recent three week, 2500 mile, road trip!

      Reply
  3. Keri, the freezer bag tip is a total NINJA tip. Why didn’t I think of that? Often we stay a couple of days here and a couple of days there, why drag around that big suitcase? I love this tip.

    Reply

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