How to Pack for Happy Road Trips


It’s summer time, which means that a lot of families will be hitting the road.  Last summer my family went on a 3 week road trip.  This was our itinerary:

Burlington, VT – Niagara Falls, NY – New York City – Hershey, PA – Philadelphia, PA – Jersey Shore, NJ – Washington DC – Virginia Beach, VA – Home

The most we stayed in one place was 6 nights, the least was 1 day.

Needless to say, packing for a 3 week road trip is a logistical nightmare.  You kinda gotta pack for everything, rain or shine.  And the kids…what do you do with the kids on long haul car days?  So I combed Pinterest for packing lists, games, activities, etc.  And in the end, we didn’t pack too much or too little.  Just like Goldilocks, it was just right!  Even my husband, who typically cares nothing about packing, said my anal retentive skills were boss!

To start off with, I’m going to show you how I packed for the kids in the backseat since this was my main area of concern.

cars,trucks, road trip,

I purchased 2 magazine size plastic bins (1 for each kid).  Inside I put age appropriate activities for each child.

Here are some ideas for what you can put in there:

  • Coloring Books
  • Writing Pads
  • Stickers / Stamps
  • Pens / Pencils / Sharpener
  • Dry Erase Board
  • Crayons / Markers
  • Grade Level Activity Books

plastic bins, road trip, pens, pads, coloring books. stickers, stamps

Then I put both of these bins inside a larger one with the rest of their “stuff” and put it between them so they could easily access it during our drive times.  This made it so easy…no reaching in the back with one hand looking for a toy or DVD, they had everything within reach so I didn’t have to worry about entertaining them.

Here’s what was in the larger bin:

bin, plastic bins, cookie trays, magnets, entertainment, ipad, ipod touch, nintendo ds

plastic bins, cookie sheets, magnets, ipad, ipod touch, road trip

  • DVD’s
  • Books on CD
  • DS (gaming system)
  • iPad (tablet) (loaded with videos & apps)
  • iTouch (MP3 player) (loaded with movies, music & apps)
  • Metal cookie sheets (acts as desk or small table)
  • Magnets (letters & cars / animals)
  • Headphones
  • Car Games: Some of my favorites are Travel Bingo, Scavenger Hunt, License Plate game or Word Searches (you can find free printables on Pinterst for any of these games)
  • Felt Fishing Game: Take 2 chop sticks and hot glue some yarn to one end and hot glue the other end to a magnet.  Cut out some fish shapes from scraps of felt you might have and hot glue a paper clip to it.  Throw the fish on the floor and have your kids see who can catch the most fish.  Voila, instant, cheap & easy entertainment.

felt fishing game, car games, road trip activities

Here are a couple of other tips for road tripping easier:

  1. Use a small shoe organizer or jewelry organizer and attach it to the back of a seat. Put in there some cutlery, straws, hand sanitizer, wipes, napkins.  Things that make eating easier on the go.
  2. If you need to pack linens (like sheets, towels, blankets or pillows) try to find an under the bed size vacuum bag. I was able to put 3 beds worth of linens plus towels into one of those and shrink it down to save trunk space.  Something like it can be bought at Bed Bath and Beyond.
  3. Pack your trunk accordingly. If you don’t need it all on your first stop, make sure it’s towards the back or on the bottom.  Put only what you need where you can get it easily.
  4. Pack a small cooler with snacks and drinks and put it on the floor in front of the kids so you can simply reach in the back to grab something. We used this one and I purchased it from Amazon.

cooler, cooler on wheels, cooler with telescoping handle, coleman cooler

Oh, and here’s one other treat for you.  If you’re anything like me, and I have to believe there are a few of you out there who are, I’ve created a master “Road Trip Packing List” for you.  Print it off and start checking off what you need for any given trip.

Happy Tripping friends!

Where are you off to this summer?



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