As much as we love flying, road trips are nice too. Honestly, road trips are so nice because we can pack as much as we want without worrying about luggage fees, although I get why you might not like it if you’re not into driving or sitting in a vehicle for long hours. Wherever we visit, we tend to go on mini 2-hour ish road trips anyway so we like to be prepared.
After a few road trips with Auggie, whether it was 2 hours long or 8 hours long, we have learned what to pack and what not to pack. Traveling with a child (or children) is not so bad if you think about it because you can pull over as many times as you want. This is a great way to enjoy scenic sites and tourist spots along the way to your destination, and to let all the passengers in the car stretch their legs.
There is a difference between going on a road trip from home (like our trip from Los Angeles to Utah), and flying somewhere and then going on a road trip (flying from LA to Hawaii and going on Road to Hana). If you’re starting off from home, you’re definitely able to pack more and be able to save on expenses from buying in your local stores. You also might not want to fly with a cooler, so just take that into consideration. Here are some of the things that I think every parent should have if you’re going to hit the road (starting from home).
Easy to pack snacks: We like to pack individually wrapped snacks, such as gummy bears, goldfish, veggies straws, and animal crackers. We’ll sometimes splurge and buy a big bag of assorted chips too. Keep in mind what your children like to snack on and individually pack them into snack-sized ziplog bags if you need to (this helps them snack in moderation and prevent big bags from ripping open and making a big mess).
Beef jerky is one of our favorite go-to travel snacks (also one of our fav hiking snacks). We also love trail mix. It’s to your own preference.
Liquids: Always pack bottles of water. We travel with our hydroflasks with iced water, and a hydroflask with milk in it for Auggie (we’ll also make rest stops to buy him milk). Of course, we can’t forget our Liquid IV to add some flavor to our water; it’s super refreshing and yummy (use code KLAURA to save 25% off and get free shipping).
I keep a small water bottle with iced water out for Auggie in his carseat’s cupholder. I’ll give him milk if he’s having a meal, about to fall asleep, or just woke up from a nap.
2. A cooler
The Yeti Tundra cooler is our favorite, and it comes in different sizes and colors. We got the 45 cooler and started decorating the back with stickers from our travels (another one of our keepsake collections). It’s definitely an investment, but it works wonders. We packed our cooler with snacks, drinks, and ice, and the ice hardly melted during our 8 hour road trip to Utah! We also kept it in the back seat so it was easier access for me in case I needed to reach over to grab a snack (or juice box).
Snacks for the cooler: We packed all of Auggie’s favorites so that we had a variety of options for him. Baby carrots, sliced cucumbers, string cheese, apple slices, and watermelon slices.
Since we have a cooler, we’ll put the hydroflask of milk in the cooler and a cup already filled with milk ready to go for him to drink.
Cold packs are useful for emergency purposes, and I like to keep them at the top of the cooler just in case.
3. Electronics & Entertainment
Tablet: Before going on a trip, you should download your kids’ favorites movies so they have options. Disney+ and Netflix allows you to download movies so they can watch it offline/without wifi. This Amazon Fire kids tablet is what we got for Auggie when we went on our trip to Hawaii last year, and it has been a lifesaver ever since.
Phone charger: I like to have an extended phone charger for whenever I was sitting in the back and the charger can reach my phone. We usually pack 2-3 chargers, one for the car, one for our hotel/airbnb, and one for our day backpack.
External battery packs: This external battery pack is my absolute favorite, and I’ve had it for years (although it seems like it’s currently unavailable). It would last me three full days of constant charging until I need to recharge it. I paid a little extra for the white color, but either way, I definitely recommend getting this battery pack.
Podcasts: Whether Auggie is watching a movie on his tablet or he’s taking a nap, we love to listen to podcasts. Jesse and I have different tastes in podcasts, but we will both listen to crime stories. We listened to Dr. Death when we were on Road to Hana in Hawaii, and now we listen to Crime Junkie. Sometimes Jesse will even listen to conspiracy theories with me haha (comment down below any podcasts you recommend!)
Camera & accessories: I always keep my dslr and vlog camera next to me so I can be ready to take any scenic shots or footage during the drive. I’ll also pack my laptop, a tripod, extra batteries, extra SD cards, and my SSD (external solid state hard drive).
Even if it is hot and you have the AC cranked up, it’s always nice and cosy to have a throw blanket to wrap yourself in. You can even roll it up to use as a pillow, unless you like to have a neck pillow for extra comfort.
I personally like to pack 1-2 swaddle blankets for Auggie since it’s lightweight. Plus, if you don’t have tinted windows, you can hang it on the window for shade (whatever works, right?). I usually bring two in case Auggie gets one dirty, or if I need to use it to wipe a spill.
I’ll also pack a Gathre mat on our trips for whenever we stop at a beach or park. I’ll bring our maxi blanc circle and/or our midi+ fog mats.
Water wipes are our go-to for road trips (and flights). I’ll keep a pack out next to me for easy access.
Hand sanitizer is a must (even before covid-19). We have a spray bottle so it’s easy to give to Auggie, and we have 2-3 small sized liquid hand sanitizer bottles (one in the front seat, one in our backpack, and one backup).
6. Small toys
I usually pack a few water toys (for bath time at our hotel/Airbnb) and some of his favorite cars. I pack between 4-6 toys, preferably all of them being water-friendly so he can play with them in the bath. He’ll only play with 1-2 toys in the car and I’ll put away the extras. Make sure to pack quiet toys, and toys that don’t require batteries to function.
Also, don’t forget to bring your child’s favorite stuffed animal, doll, or lovies to help comfort them during the drive. We bring two of his Cuddle and Kind dolls, one next to him and one packed away. I like having two in case he gets one dirty, or so that he has a couple “friends” to play with (since he’s an only child).
I pack 1-2 books so that Auggie can look through it, and for bedtime when we arrive at our destination. When we get to the destination, we always buy a new book from that places we visit so we usually end up coming back home with 3-5 books. This is one of our favorite keepsakes to collect whenever we travel, rather than a random toy that I know he might not play with long-term.
One book that I always pack for him is a sensory book (it’s also perfect for flights!). He is obsessed with any of the “Never Touch A…” book series, so I’ll pick one that he is loving at the moment.
8. Comfortable car seat
We love traveling with our Maxi Cosi Magellan carseat and Auggie fits so comfortably in it. This has been our go-to carseat to travel with everywhere.
9. First aid kit
I always have a mini first aid kit wherever we travel: excedrin, children’s tylenol, dramamine, ibuprofen, band-aids, alcohol wipes.
Bug spray: Jesse and I always get bug bites but the OFF! Deepwoods worked wonders for us!
I also keep the spare mini hand sanitizer in my first aid kit.You can easily get a first aid kit (customizable) bundle at Target. There’s usually a deal in store where you buy 3 get 3 free.
10. Trash bag
Having a trash bag is one of those things you forget about until you have trash and don’t know where to put it in the car. I like to get a small pack of trash bags from Target for trash, and if we need to throw away Auggie’s poop diapers.
If you get motion sickness easily, having extra trash bags will help in case the motion sickness gets to you (if you know what I mean).
You can even use a trash bag in case you have dirty clothes or dirty shoes.
11. Bags & Carriers
Duffel bags are great and help you save space in your car. I love our Fawn Design weekender bags and it comes in a few different colors. I got it in black (for Jesse) and brown (for me), and it’s the perfect size for a weekend getaway.
For a longer roadtrip, we use our Delsey chatelet luggage. Even though it’s a hard case suitcase and takes up a lot of space, it’s very durable and can hold all of our belongings + my camera gear. This is what we used for our road trip and vacation in Utah.
Jesse has had the North Face Surge backpack since college and it’s what he uses for all of our trips. It has so many pockets to organize whatever you are packing.
The Osprey Poco child carrier is a must for us and worth the investment if you plan to travel often with your little ones. We got this last year when Auggie had just turned one and we went to Hawaii, and we use it all the time when we go hiking // outdoors. The bottom of the carrier has a big pocket where I’m able to fit a Gathre mini mat and a mini first aid kit. If you have an infant, you should definitely have a baby carrier, such as an Ergobaby Carrier or a ring sling.
Our Jetkids Bedbox is another item we didn’t think we needed until we got it. It fits perfectly at the foot under his carseat and I’ll remove the airline accessories to make extra space. It will store his toys, books, spare change of clothes, diapers, extra pack of wipes, and extra swaddle blanket inside. If we buy any souvenirs (like books or stickers), I’ll also store it in there.
You may also want to consider bringing a stroller if you don’t want to baby carry. We usually bring our UPPAbaby Vista Stroller if it’s a small weekend getaway and we’re not packing as much, or the Maxi Cosi Lara stroller since it’s super lightweight and compact (bonus, it fits in the overhead compartment on flights).
For Utah, we decided that Auggie is old enough to walk around if needed and we didn’t want to bring the stroller. Instead, we brought our Keenz 7S stroller wagon which was perfect for easy trails and walking around to enjoy the scenery.
A road map is useful in case your GPS/navigation is not working.
Hats are good accessories for sunny weather, and for when you get down for a pit stop to walk around. I always travel with a Gigi Pip hat, and my favorites are Dahlia and Monroe. You also can never go wrong with a good baseball cap.
Don’t forget to pack your sunglasses if you’re sensitive to the sun while on the road.
And if you need coffee while driving, definitely don’t forget a travel mug. This is our favorite mug ever (I have it in white and Jesse has it in black) and there are so many colors to choose from.
Keep in mind that we usually rent a Jeep or SUV on our vacations, and if we’re using one of our sedans for a local getaway, we will pack way less. Feel free to use this as a guide to packing for your road trips with a toddler since this is what has worked for us. Let me know your thoughts and if you have other essential items that you can think of.