kids road trip packing list tips
Organization, Parenting, Travel, Working Mom

What to Pack for a Road Trip with Kids

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I really start getting into high gear about two to three weeks from departure.  I start shopping for snacks that will travel well and not crumble or wind up ground into the upholstery.  I like to look for sales on individually wrapped items, but also buy a few items in bulk and take along these great reusable snack bags.  I make sure our spill proof sippy cups and thermoses are still leak and spill proof – this becomes important!  I like to use insulated thermos bottles that also fit into our cup holders for both kids.  This allows me to get more water into them (who doesn’t drink more if it is cold) as well as manage their heat levels when we are out and about. I love Contigo’s products (they are NOT sponsoring this post in anyway), especially the insulated ones with spill proof spouts. One of our destinations includes a really famous battle field and nearby community, so this is going to be important in July.  I make sure I have plenty of sun screen.  One in the bag with pool stuff, and a small one in my back pack – if you glanced at my profile pic, you can imagine how pasty pale my tinies are – we all are.  SPF 50+ is a must to protect their delicate skin as well as make sure they don’t burn and have it ruin the rest of their trip.  That is no fun for anyone involved.  Coppertone’s WaterBabies is my go to.  It is a spray on that covers pretty evenly – don’t forget their little faces and the tops of their ears!

You have to start thinking about the types of activities you are going to be engaging in.  I like to pack as few outfits as possible, knowing they are going to get dirty (still not a small amount!).  I don’t want them having 3 wardrobe changes a day on the road.  Activities are largely going to determine what type of clothing you are going to need and pack.  For example, if we are gone for a week, I want 8 outfit changes for each child and 9 pairs of undies (accidents happen with tinies).  They will each have 1 outfit that can be dressed up just a bit incase we have dinner out at a nicer restaurant once or twice.  Papa Bear likes to handle his own packing, which is perfectly fine with me!

I like to have a variety of bags that go into the trunk.  My favorites are my rectangle bags by 31 Gifts (no sponsorship here either, but Lord, I wish they would!) that are going to make it easy to keep like items contained together and organize the trunk with laundry, snacks, etc.  Keep in mind that not every bag will go into the hotel with us each night.  For this vacation, it looks like we are spending an average of 2 nights at each location.  This is going to help me pack a bit easier.  During the week, I like to organize their outfits into a cubby that gives me one complete outfit per day for the kids (check out that post here).  I am going to use a similar concept here.  I will use 2 gallon zip lock bags to organize our clothing into manageable outfits – using one bag per day so that I can easily grab what I need (and maybe have a little matchy matchy action going on for photos – squeal!).  Each child has a toiletries bag with tooth brush and toothpaste that is appropriate for their age.  Tiny has her hair ties, brush, etc in her toiletries bag as well, and of course, I have way too much stuff that I use on a daily basis and cart with me.


So now, we need to determine what we are packing into.  One massive suit case for everybody and take it in every night?  Though that could work, hotel rooms aren’t known for their massive space allowances.  I like to have a large bag, and two small bags.  The larger bag is going to go in every night.  It will have toiletries, night clothes, one extra change of undies for everybody and the nicer evening outift.  I will then take out the number of 2 gallon bags I need for a given hotel and put them over into the large bag before we check in.  Easy breezy.  This gives me a little less to cart around.  The dirty clothes go back into the same bag they came out of so that the clean clothes and car don’t start to smell like a gym locker by the end of the week.


The third bag (second smaller bag) will have swim gear in it.  We don’t take towels in like we would at home, just suits, cover ups, sunscreen and goggles.  For three people this could be a lot.  This allows us to take in swim gear when there is a chance to swim, and leave it with no hassle when we don’t.  The first and last nights are on the road, so no opportunity means it stays put.  The next two stays have a pool and this could be a great afternoon activity for myself and the tinies while Papa Bear takes a little hibernation during the heat of the day.


One week out, I start to organize their clothes for the current week, then do at least one load of laundry every other day – immediately packing those items into the 2 gallon bags to prep them for packing.  I have a laundry basket reserved to serve as a holding area for these items until it is time to decide what outfits will go where.  Check out my post on packing for a trip abroad, here, to see that in action.


Don’t forget your own outfits – to keep up with comfy, rested kiddos, you have to be comfy and able to chase them!  Make sure if you are walking a lot, you take the right shoes.  I limit the tinies to two pair (one for walking and one for pool – luckily sandals can be dressed up and used at the pool).  I usually have two pair of my own.  My trusty Merrils (couldn’t live without them!) and some sparkly sandals that I picked up at Target (call me, Target!) for dinners out.  We don’t anticipate any 4 star restaurants for this trip.

I will tackle organizing the entertainment for the tinies and the great backseat battles that can spiral out of control in my next post.  Be sure to check it out!

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  1. bingingonabudget says:

    Thanks for posting, you have some great tips here.

    1. Thanks so much. I treat travel with the tinies like I’m 0kanning for D-Day. Hahaha.

  2. […] and steady wins the race, right?  Besides, after all the planning  and packing (catch those posts here and here!) I am TIRED (whole other post here)!  This year, we decided it would be a great idea to […]

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