Road Trip Essentials for Kids

Keeping kids comfortable, entertained and safe on the road, here are the most important things we pack for every family road trip.

Don’t forget to check out our complete road trip essentials packing list to get you & your car prepared too – this list is exclusively for your little ones!!

1. Infant Car Seat

The number one most important thing before hitting the road with kids is making sure they’re safe and secure.

Every child needs an appropriate safety restraint in a vehicle until they reach the height and weight to move into an adult seat. You will need to check the rules and regulations on the place you are road tripping to for the exact age and size a restraint might still be required.

2. Booster Seat

Once your child has outgrown their infant seat, the next vital investment you will make for a family road trip is moving them in to a booster seat.

There is a long phase where your child will be too short to appropriately use a car seat, so you will need to move firstly to a booster providing a 5-point harness, then on to a seat that can be worn with a lap belt.

3. Seat Belt Cozies and Neck Pillows

Moving through the ages and stages of infant seats, you will find once they move out of a snug infant seat, there’s a tendency for little one’s heads to start bobbing around while they try to nap in the car. This can be resolved by getting your child an appropriately sized neck pillow.

When they are very small, a wrap around neck pillow, then as they graduate into a booster and full sized chair, something soft and cozy they can wrap around the seat belt.

4. Side Window shades

Once your child is safely and securely seated, the next thing to think about to ensure a comfortable journey is keeping the sun from their eyes. We often think of the driver and front passenger needing sun shades, but often forgotten is how equally annoying those rays can be for a child in the back.

Whilst some new cars these days come with built in sun shades that can be rolled up or down for sun glare, you will most likely need to invest in a set of side shades for your family road trip. Remember SUV’s may need a larger sized sunshade to completely cover the window.

5. Car Seat Protectors

With the best will in the world, there’s no denying, kids are MESSY! Spilt drink bottles, cookie crumbs, bathroom accidents, you name it, we’ve cleaned it! What helps with the clean up operation is having appropriate protection on our seats.

This includes a cover over their infant car seat or booster, as well as a protective cover over the actual car seat. For kids who are toilet training, we recommend you invest in a piddle pad. These provide one more extra layer of protection to prevent your car from inground smells and stains.

6. Snacks!

You think snacks are important at home, just wait until you hit the road with your kids! They seriously grow an extra stomach once they’re about 15 miles away from home. Having a great stash or pre-prepared snacks is an absolute essential on family road trips.

It’s really important, especially on those long driving days, that you focus on healthy snacks that deliver long lasting energy, as supposed to highly sugared snacks that kids can’t then burn off while seated in the car

We have a bumper guide to the best healthy road trip snacks for kids here.

7. Water Bottle

Hand in hand with snack time is keeping everyone hydrated. It’s a fine balancing act though between keeping hydration levels up and constant bathroom breaks – I bet we’ve ALL been that parent on the side of the road at least once!

Our tip is to keep the drink bottle a reasonable size it should only last between bathroom breaks you have scheduled in. A sippy cup or bottle with markers is helpful so you can encourage them to drink more shortly before a designated break.

8. Tablets/Portable DVD player

Even if you’re normally a “no screens” family, we often make an exception for the very long road trip days. Tablets can be pre-loaded with your kids’ favorite movies or games to play. Don’t forget you may not have any wifi or data during your journey so make sure anything you want is actually downloaded on their device.

It’s important as a family to set your own ground rules when it some to electronic usage in the car. Perhaps set it by mile markers, or reaching a certain point on the trip screens need to go away so they’re not missing any highlights out the window too.

9. Travel Toys

Children of all ages need something more than just a tablet or electronic item that they can physically hold and play with. For babies and toddlers this can be as simple as small rattles, felt books and shape sorting toys. As kids get older, you can introduce sticker books, crafts and coloring through to small travel games for siblings to play together.

Our complete road trip toy guide coming soon!

10. Music, Audio Books & Podcast

Either for the family to share over the car stereo or on individual devices, audio books and podcasts can be a great way to pass the time on the road. We love Spotify Premium or Music Unlimited on Amazon for our in car entertainment.

11. Family Games

As well as toys, we like to have a few family game ideas up our sleeve. These can be simple games without any props needed ranging from I-spy to Would You Rather type questions, to counting games and taking sides in the car to spot things out the window.

Our bumper guide to family games coming soon!

12. Headphones

For any use of electronic devices in the car, there will definitely be moment you want some headphones to accompany your kids’ entertainment. Your kids can still listen to a device together with a headphone splitter, but will need theri own set of headphones.

Remember toddlers and younger children need something that is volume limiting to protect their ears. Your older tweens and teens may be ready to graduate to ear buds.

13. Travel Tray For Kids

Keeping your kids organized in the back, it can be well worth considering a travel tray. These come in all different shapes and sizes, with the best models able to fit over your child’s car seat or booster. They can use the flat surface for coloring ad games, as well as have a convenient place to hold tablets and drink bottles.

14. Tissues & Water Wipes

Kids are messy. Period! You will always want multiple packets of tissues and wipes in easy grabbing range for your car.

Printable Road Trip Checklist

Save time packing for your next family road trip and get this road trip packing list printed out ready to check off items as you go!

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© Family Road Trip

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