Embarking on a road trip with your family is an opportunity for adventure and quality bonding time together. While planning a road trip with your children can be exciting, the key priority for every parent is to ensure that you have everything you need to make the journey enjoyable and stress free.
The closer you get to leaving, the more the packing list can start to feel overwhelming, so we’ve pooled our years of experience into this handy guide, to provide you with a comprehensive checklist of what to bring on a family road trip. We’ve covered luggage essentials, entertainment options and food and drink, as well as tips on how to pack efficiently. So fasten your seat belts and let's get started!
As you plan for your next exciting journey, it's crucial to ensure you have everything you need to make the trip comfortable and enjoyable for all. Here we explore what to bring for a family road trip, focusing on essential items such as luggage, clothing and footwear, as well as toiletries.
Packing a car is an art that many parents learn through necessity! Holdalls and malleable bags that can squeeze into footwells are a great idea if space is an issue. Are you staying overnight in more than one location during your road trip? If so, it’s a good idea for every family member to share one bag for that night, so that it’s not necessary to unpack every item for every person for the whole trip for just the one night. Here are some suggested items to include in your luggage:
Clothing and footwear: Pack weather-appropriate clothing, including layers for the varying temperatures particularly during spring and autumn. Consider if you will be on your feet a lot exploring parks, nature trails or historic locations. Always take along a pair of wellies, no matter what the month - in the UK our weather is so unpredictable that having a pair of wellies stowed away will give you peace of mind, even if you are lucky to avoid a downpour. Check out our wide selection of casual shoes for girls, boys’ boots, and stylish sandals for girls for footwear suggestions for your children.
Toiletries: Our advice is to make a list of toiletries and tick them off as you put them into the bag. It’s so easy to forget something otherwise - especially if you are heading off early in the morning and these items are the last thing that you will pack. Essentials include toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo, hair ties, sunscreen and deodorant. Also consider a family first-aid kit stocked with the essentials your family may need for minor injuries when out and about.
Sleepwear and linens: Remember to pack comfortable sleepwear for everyone, along with extra pillows and blankets for a cosy night's sleep that smells like home. It’s also worth taking portable black-out blinds for little ones to ensure an uninterrupted night's sleep, and a travel nightlight can offer comfort for children who feel unsettled when sleeping away from home. We recommend essential teddies only, because they can take up a lot of room in a suitcase!
To keep everyone entertained and engaged during long car journeys, it's important to have a variety of entertainment options. Here are some ideas to consider:
Books and magazines: Bring along some favourite books, comics or magazines for both children and adults. This is a great way to encourage reading, while helping everyone to relax during quiet moments. If your child enjoys a bedtime story, then take a selection for them to choose from each night.
Toys and games: Pack a selection of age-appropriate toys and games to keep little ones occupied. Items such as colouring books, puzzles, and small travel-sized board games are always a hit for little ones.
Portable devices and electronics: If your children favour electronic devices, it’s a good idea to prepare the device for car travel. Download favourite shows, movies and music before you set off and don’t forget the charging cables! Always try to balance screen time with other interactive activities that the whole family can enjoy to help make long hours in the car pass more quickly.
Having a stash of snacks is crucial to keep the whole family energised and satisfied throughout the trip. With any snacking during a journey there is always a margin for mess, so also remember to store a pack of wet wipes and a rubbish bag for wrappers and wipes in the glove compartment of the car. Here are some snacks that are both delicious and convenient on car journeys:
Fresh fruits and vegetables: Pack a cooler with pre-cut fruits and vegetables like apple slices, diced mango and carrot sticks. They are easy to grab and provide essential vitamins and nutrients.
Trail mix: Create your own trail mix with a combination of nuts, dried fruits, and a touch of chocolate. This snack is great for munching on the road and provides a good source of energy.
Sandwiches and wraps: Make some sandwiches or wraps ahead of time and store them in a cooler. Opt for easy fillings that won’t ooze, such as peanut butter and jam, ham and cheese or Marmite.
Water and hydration: Don't forget to bring plenty of water bottles to stay hydrated throughout the journey. Avoid excessive sugary and caffeinated drinks, as they can lead to dehydration and require more comfort breaks! Research rest stops or picnic areas along your route where you can take a break and enjoy a meal together.
Once you have gathered all the essentials, it's time to think about how to pack everything efficiently. Here are some tips to ensure a smooth packing process:
Organise your luggage based on what you'll need during the journey. Keep essentials like toiletries, a change of clothes, and snacks in a separate bag that can be easily accessed from the front seats. Bulkier items and extra luggage can be stored securely in the car boot or rooftop cargo carrier.
It’s not just keys, wallet, and phone you need to check you have before heading out the door, but also all the important travel documents you might need. Make sure you have a copy of your car insurance, a driver's license, access to breakdown information, and registration. If you're planning a road trip across borders, ensure that you have passports, any necessary travel permits, and boarding tickets readily available.
Start packing a day or two before your departure date to avoid last-minute stress. Make a checklist and allow yourself enough time to properly organise and pack everything. This will ensure you don't forget any essentials and give you peace of mind before hitting the road.
Involve your children and assign them simple tasks to make them feel included and excited about the trip. Get them to think about what items of comfort they'd like to bring along, for example, or pack a small bag to keep themselves entertained on the journey. And don’t forget to check the laundry basket a few days before travel. You don’t want to be cleaning a favourite jumper the morning of travel!
Remember, a well prepared and organised road trip can create lasting memories for the whole family. By bringing the right luggage, entertainment options and healthy snacks, as well as packing efficiently, you'll set yourself up for a fun and enjoyable adventure. So buckle up, turn up the music, and get ready for an incredible family road trip.