We’re a hop-in-the-car-and-go kind of family and for adventures that are close to home and also faraway. We’re lucky to live day trip distance to the water to feel the sand between our toes in the summer, close enough to hit the slopes for the day of skiing in the winter, and have no problem traveling farther to feel the energy of New York City. The kids have always been great travelers but I know that having certain things on hand always makes our family road trips easier.
To get an idea of what other families pack, I asked friends to share what they throw in the car. With kids ranging in age elementary ages to teens, and some loving road trips more than others, we all agreed that certain essentials make the trip more enjoyable for others. Here’s our list of family road trip essentials!
Snacks— Packing favorite snacks and drinks will not only help reduce the stops you make but can keep your family healthier by avoiding the bad restaurant choices along your route. Snack essentials for Elena Sonnino, seasoned traveler who shares her family travel adventures on Live Do Grow, include, “water bottles, almonds, dried apricots or mango, and Luna bars.” Having a bag of snacks easily accessible to our kids helps them grab what they need as they get hungry. I also like when a car interior is designed with cup holders in reach of even the smallest passengers so everyone stays hydrated but spills are minimized.
Entertainment— Even though I like our kids to look out the windows when we’re on the road, great music helps pass the time. Favorite XM stations and connecting an iPod into the car’s stereo system ensures we’ll always have favorite songs to listen to during our drive. When we’re heading home when it’s dark and the kids are tired, I’m not beyond popping in a movie so they can lean back and relax. After a recent weekend of skiing, it was a treat for our two tired kids to watch a favorite movie on the ride home on the rear entertainment with wireless headphones that came in our Toyota Sienna. Hillary Chybinski from My Scraps also likes to pack “a small bag with various odds and ends (games, cards, art supplies) that they can pull out and do in the car” for long trips.
Charging cables and USB plugs— I never leave home with charging cables for our devices. Bring along the ones you need for your family’s smartphones, iPods, gaming systems, laptops, and tablets. While you won’t necessarily need all of your devices in the car, you’ll need them where you’re going. Also be sure to bring along a USB plug for your car’s cigarette lighter. Like most vehicles, the Toyota Sienna has 1 USB port. The Rayovac 2 USB and Wall Charger Combo ($14.99) is a great set that doubles your charging in the car and I like that the wall plug is a highly portable small square brick. If you want to double your USB charging capacity from your car’s cigarette lighter, I would recommend the Mediabridge Dual US Bar Charger ($9.99) that works for iPhones and iPad.
Apps– Loading your phone with apps can help you avoid traffic, keep you safer on the road, and let you know where your next caffeine fix can be found. Here are the free apps you need to download for your next trip:
- Waze– With everyone on their phones, Waze works by pooling real time traffic and road information from others who are on the road to safe you time and gas money on daily commutes and road trips.
- Safely Go– I’m a big proponent of the It Can Wait campaign so I rely on Safely Go to answer my calls and texts when I’m driving so I can stay focused. I like to think that I’m modeling proper use of digital devices by leaving my phone in my purse when I’m in the car thanks to Safely Go. good behavior for my kids by
- Starbucks– Starbucks lover Lisa says she likes the Starbucks app to get “good idea of where coffee is every 100 miles.” You can also pay directly from your device and accumulate stars towards your next reward.
- Yelp– When we travel, I often feel like we spend our time between meals planning where we’re going to eat next. Yelp can help you find the best place to eat at the next freeway exit that’s not a fast food joint and make you feel like a local once you arriec at your destination.
Comfy clothes— “I’m the driver – so I need comfy clothes,” Hillary admits. But comfy doesn’t mean sloppy because if you have to be ready to greet friends or relatives upon exiting your vehicle, you have to be somewhat stylish too. Lisa Frame from A Daily Pinch loves Lands’ End Starfish Pants (middle photo) while I prefer my Athleta Revelations (left photo) in go-with-everything black. The same goes for kids. Captain Computer hates the feeling of his waistband digging into his middle during long car rides. Cute leggings for girls and a non-faded pair of sweats or track pants for boys ensures that kids will be happy and comfy. They can always change into more stylish attire upon arriving at your destination!
Emergency supplies— “I have a travel pack of toilet seat covers, a travel pack of plastic bags and a travel roll of toilet paper in my car at all times – along with band aids, Neosporin, and Hanitizer (hand sanitizer),” says Hillary. A small first aid kit road safety kit, tissues (and tissue packs to take into public restrooms), and antibacterial wipes are important to always have in the car just in case whether on a road trip or running errands. Other emergency supplies can just be there to keep kids comfortable. In the winter months, I like to throw cozy blankets in the car. They not only induce sleep at night but in the even that we were to get stuck, it’s nice to know they would provide an added layer of warmth if the heat were to go off in the car.
Sunglasses– Nothing is worse than driving directly into the sun and spending your time on the road squinting. I like to stash mine in the cupholders between drives so I always know I have a pair in the car.
What are your family’s road trip essentials?
I am being compensated as part of the 3 month long #SiennaDiaries series but all opinions are my own. Amazon Affiliate links are included in this post.