Your Complete Family Road Trip Packing List


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When it comes to planning a family road trip, having an organized and complete road trip packing list is essential. Trust me, you don’t want to be stuck with cranky tweens and teens in the back seat for days on end.

With this list of essentials for a road trip, you’ll be prepared for the open road. This comprehensive list covers everything you’ll need, both as a group and individuals.

Packing for a road trip doesn’t need to be stressful. It can feel like you’re dismantling the entire house, but with a little organization, you’ll be prepared to hit the road in no time.

suitcases tied to the top of a car with packing list graphic overlay

About this Road Trip Packing List

So you’ve planned your route and now you’re ready to go on a roadworthy adventure. How do you organize all of your personal packing, family packing, and let your kiddos know what they need to pack?

This road trip packing list is designed to keep you organized. I broke things down into group essentials for a road trip and what each individual should remember to bring. In this post I’ll dive into:

  • Tips for what to bring on a road trip
  • A complete road trip packing list, including a downloadable packing list
  • Tips for packing the car
  • Quick tips for having a fun-filled road trip

RELATED: Plan and Amazing Road Trip with Teens and Tweens

Tips for What to Bring on a Road Trip

It’s easy to feel like you’re packing the kitchen sink while packing for a road trip. Who doesn’t want all the comforts of home? Plus, there’s lots of room in your vehicle right?

Although you should bring plenty of things to keep the family cozy and occupied, you don’t need to bring everything. Instead, think critically about what you really need. Cover the main areas:

  • Things to keep you and the kids cozy for a long car ride
  • Entertainment for everyone – remember, taking some quiet time for personal activities is important if you’re in the car for long durations.
  • A few fun surprises to keep the car ride interesting
  • The essentials you need for overnight hotel stays
  • Snacks and drinks – check out this comprehensive road trip food list
  • Any special equipment for activities such as hiking, swimming, fishing or other adventures.

RELATED: Boredom Busting Road Trip Games for Teens and Tweens

The Ultimate Road Trip Packing List

Below you’ll find essentials for your next road trip. I’ve broken down the items into group packing, or things that everyone will use collectively, and individual road trip must-haves that each family member should have.

Group Essentials for a Road Trip

The most important part of any road trip packing list are the group essentials. These items are for the entire family, but you’ll only need one for people to share (with the exception of the food of course!).

  • Trash receptacle – critical to keep the trash contained inside the car and this one is waterproof. Don’t forget the can liners!
  • A bag for recycling. I know it can be difficult but try to limit your impact by recycling if possible.
  • Reusable baggies and containers for snacks
  • Trip itinerary and confirmations
  • A small cooler – to keep drinks and snacks cold
  • Snacks and drinks. Don’t forget to pack all the best road trip snacks for your family.
  • A couple of fun family games
  • First aid kit. If you’re using an old one, make sure you check expiration dates and replace any items that have expired.
  • Toilet paper – just trust me on this one!
  • Extra set of earbuds
  • Dual charger
  • Spotify Premium Family Plan. This lets everyone have their own account (at a discount). Don’t forget to download your favorite playlists ahead of time so you don’t use data on the road.
  • Books on tape or podcasts. Don’t forget to download before leaving.
  • Download Google Maps so you have maps and navigation offline.
  • Camera with charger
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray
  • Aloe gel for minor skin irritations
  • Any pet items such as leashes, beds, bowls, food, a toy or two, treats, medical records, and prescriptions
  • Proof of insurance
  • Vehicle registration
  • Get a check-up on your vehicle. Make sure everything is in working order and all routine maintenance has been dealt with before hitting the road.

Road Trip Must-Haves for Individuals

  • Reusable water bottle to refill water – it’s a great way to avoid buying disposable plastic bottles.
  • A day bag or purse
  • Headphones
  • Cell phone, chargers, and battery juice pack
  • Pillow and blanket. Travel pillows are great but don’t be shy about bringing your favorite pillow from home.
  • Cozy clothing for the road.
  • A hotel bag that’s ready to grab and go. It should contain all the essentials you’ll need for an overnight hotel stay.
  • Footwear for activities and for the road
  • Sunglasses and hats
  • Personal games, books or e-readers
  • Personal prescriptions
  • Clothing for variable weather
  • Personal gear for activities like hiking, swimming, boating, etc.

RELATED: Top 15 FREE Apps for Long Car Rides

Car Packing Tips

Now that you’ve got everything staged and ready to go, it’s time to pack for your family road trip. Sometimes packing feels like a Tetris game, so take the stress out of the equation with these tips.

Pack all items you’ll need while on the road close at hand. If you have access to your trunk (ie an SUV or minivan) put items like the cooler, snacks, and a first aid kit in an easily accessible place, like the back seat or row. You want to keep them uncovered so you can quickly reach for a treat or drink when there’s a need.

Next, pack all the items you won’t need til later. Stash packed suitcases in the back or on the bottom. Perhaps you’re heading towards a National Park for some hiking, but it will be two days before you arrive. Put the family hiking gear in the middle, so it’s out of the way.

Lastly, pack your grab-and-go hotel bags towards the front or top of your trunk. That way it’ll be right there when you open the back. You can quickly grab your bags and check-in hassle-free without lugging heavy suitcases to a cramped hotel room.

Don’t forget to think about what you’ll need each day. Taking a few minutes to re-arrange the vehicle each morning will set you up for success during the day. This forward planning avoids pesky pull-overs and arguments while on the road.

Additional Tips for Keeping the Peace on a Family Road Trip

Road trips with teens are a great experience, but it does take a little bit of compromise to keep the peace in the vehicle. Here are a few handy quick tips for road tripping with teens and tweens that will help the whole family get along.

  • Plan for quiet time. Remember, you’re sharing close quarters, don’t try to overdo family time and let everyone have a few hours to themselves each day.
  • Up your cell phone data. Trust me on this one!
  • Bring plenty of entertainment. From movies to games to e-readers.
  • Don’t forget headphones for the whole family.
  • Let teens drive and take control of their own monetary budget. Make it a learning experience that allows them more independence.
  • Stop and get out of the car! Plan for breaks, eat a sit-down meal and don’t forget to stop and say hello to your family’s favorite places along the way.
  • Don’t overdo the daily driving. Plan for plenty of time outside of the car.
  • Let go and relax. Don’t sweat the small stuff and focus on enjoying the experience.

Now you’re ready to rock the road with this family road trip packing list. Don’t forget to download the packing list so you can stay organized on your family getaway.

Happy travels!

suitcases stacked in an open trunk with road trip packing list graphic overlay

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