Road Trip Essentials when Travelling with Kids (With FREE Checklist Printable!)

Road trips with children can be a challenge.  Especially if you forget something.  Making sure you have all those road trip essentials will help the trip run smoother.

road trip essentials

While road trips with children can be a challenge, they are also a ton of fun!  We have been many places with our kids since they were babies and while there are some stories of difficult trips, overall we have many good memories of our travelling.

I learned early on that I needed to be organized to make sure I remembered everything.  I started making lists.  Gathering ideas to keep them happy, fed, and entertained. We’ve driven out across Canada to BC which took 40 hours when our kids were 6, 4, and 1.  You learn a thing or two driving that far with 3 kids 6 and under!

A few weeks ago we took a much shorter trip than BC.  Only 8 hours of driving, but long enough that we still needed to plan.  Also, this time we would be bringing our new puppy, Copper.

road trip essentials

Isn’t he cute?

I thought we might have been out of our mind to bring a puppy on the trip, but I discovered that travelling with a puppy was actually easier than travelling with my babies and toddlers!  Notice I say “MY” babies and toddlers.  You may have a very different experience than me when travelling with little ones.  I was the mom who had the baby who hated being rear-facing and cried most of that first year because of it. (This was when rear-facing was only recommended for one year.)  If they fell asleep in the car, as soon as we slowed down for that red light they would start crying again.  I spent a lot of time praying those red lights would turn green before we got to them! 🙂

Now my kids are almost 11, 9, and 6 and while no one cries at the red lights anymore, we do require quite a bit of preparation still to make sure we remember all the road trip essentials that will keep everyone relatively happy for the length of the trip.

Whenever I travel I buy a ton of snacks.  Kids are always happier when they are eating, aren’t they? Or is that just mine…

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Also, having lots of snacks means we aren’t stopping at those overpriced rest stops for treats.  I divide snacks into individual baggies to make it easier to hand out during the drive.  I often bring a few drink boxes, and then the rest of the time we use our reusable water bottles we filled at home.  I recommend buying a few reusable water bottles for travelling.

road trip essentials

Some great snack ideas for travelling are:

carrot sticks


granola bars

cheese strings

pepperoni sticks

homemade muffins

drinkable applesauce

drinkable yogurt

goldfish crackers


When it comes to travelling, I might splurge on some snack items I wouldn’t normally buy for home.  Since we are cutting back on other expenses while travelling, like eating out constantly, I like to indulge in other little ways, like buying a treat we don’t normally eat.  I also buy things that are easier to eat in the car, like drinkable applesauce.  When at home it is cheaper for me to buy applesauce in bigger sizes, but giving my kids a spoon and an open bowl of applesauce in the car is a recipe for disaster.

I also pack some meals.  We are foodies in this house so we always like to eat out at least once or twice while travelling, so I plan for that.  For this trip I made sandwiches the morning of the trip for lunch, and we stopped to grab a bite to eat for dinner.

And can we just talk about these handy-dandy thing-a-ma-bobs I bought years ago?  I have to call them thing-a-ma-bobs because I don’t know what the proper name is for them.  Food organizer?  Okay. Let’s go with that.  Anyways, no matter what they are called, they are great for kids eating in the car.  I got them at a local dollar store.  These plastic art caddies are very similar to the one in the picture below.  Hmm, okay, I guess they are called art caddies.

I love to use these for kids because not only are there multiple compartments to divide up food, it is like one of the sections was made to hold a drink to keep it from spilling!  Perfect when you hit a drive thru as well – a spot for their burger, for their fries, and for their drink!

road trip essentials

Also, you’ll notice in the picture below that I made sure to have all the road trip essentials for the puppy, too.  I divided his food portions into individual bags for our whole trip so it was compact and easily accessible.  We had a huge jug of water to fill his water bowl at each stop.  And of course, plenty of treats to keep him occupied and happy for the length of the trip.

Road Trip Essentials

You may also notice to the side there I have medication ready for the van.  It is never fun being stuck in traffic somewhere with a child who all of a sudden feels sick and you can’t pull over and dig the medication out of a suitcase deep in the back.  I always make sure some basic medication and bandaids are easily accessible in the front of the vehicle.

When it comes to both kids and puppies, the key is to be okay with stopping a lot.  Personally, part of our adventure IS the road trip, so we like to travel slowly.  We stop for things we might see on the side of the road like waterfalls or turtles, unique little shops or picture opportunities.  All these moments provide not only a place for kids, pets, and parents all to stretch their legs, but also for some memories of the trip.

I don’t know about you, but I suffer serious “mom-brain.”  It is ALWAYS worse leading up to a trip.  That is because I am trying to remember a million different things to pack, while still tying loose ends at home before I leave.

That’s why I created this Road Trip Packing List that you can print off to make sure you don’t forget any of the road trip essentials needed in the car to make the drive more enjoyable for everyone.  Sometimes we make sure we have the suitcases packed and forget about the stuff needed for the journey.  Print it off HERE and never forget your child’s favorite stuffie or snack again!

road trip essentials

And don’t forget to enjoy all the wonderful memories you will make this Summer on your road trips.



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