Family Road Trip Planning: 15 Things You Can’t Leave Behind

15 Things to Do on a Long Car Ride - PureWow

A family road trip is a great way to see the sights, learn geography and travel economically. But a long drive with children can also be frustrating as they cycle through emotions such as excitement, restlessness and boredom. If you bring the right supplies, you’ll be able to keep the peace and ward off some – not all – of the meltdowns. Here are 15 things you can’t leave behind on a family road trip.

1. Atlas or Map

When you’re navigating with your phone, a paper map is a good backup in case you lose your signal. Also, children can follow the route and learn map reading skills.

2. Customized Playlist

Create a playlist that includes each family member’s favorite songs. Parents should include their all-time jams, too. Who knows? Your child may wind up being the only one at school who has learned all the words to Prince’s hits.

3. First Aid Kit

You’ll need supplies like bandaids, antiseptic wipes and scissors. If your trip includes outdoor sports, consider bringing a TacMed first aid kit. These kits, used by first responders, have supplies for everything from mild scrapes to severe injuries.

4. Books on Tape

Audiobooks will keep children entertained and can provide a topic for thoughtful discussions. has great recommendations for family audiobooks for all ages. Of course, regular books are good too during daylight hours. 

5. Garbage Bags

Bring a supply of grocery bags for the car. Let children put used juice boxes and other trash in them. Then dispose of the trash when you reach a rest stop.

6. Snacks

Bring treats like fruit, mixed nuts and energy bars. Use a small cooler for items like cheese sticks, applesauce or yogurt. Be sure to keep the snacks within reach so you can pass them out as needed.

7. Paper Products

Paper towels, facial tissue and toilet paper will all come in handy. You’ll also want a generous supply of wet wipes.

8. Toys

If your child has a favorite lovie or stuffed animal, don’t forget to bring it. To help children pass the time, provide things that will keep them busy, like puzzle games, playing cards or drawing and coloring books. They may want to release some energy at a rest stop, so pack balls or frisbees for a quick game of catch.

9. Water

For a long trip, it’s wise to have water in the car. Just keep in mind that more water means more bathroom stops.

10. Portable Cell Phone Charger

If you are using your smartphone to navigate, chances are, it’s plugged into your vehicle’s USB port. But you’ll also want to bring a portable charger that is fully charged. You can use it to keep the other devices from dying or for charging your phone when you are out of the car. Make sure you have all of the charger cords.

11. Flashlight

This will come in handy if you’re looking for something at night and don’t want to turn on the car’s dome lights.

12. Pillows and Blankets

These will keep your children warm and comfortable when they fall asleep during the ride.

13. Headphones

Wear these to preserve your sanity when the kids watch a cartoon marathon or get some for them too.

14. Roadside Emergency Kit

Bring tools and supplies like jumper cables, tools and reflectors in case you have car trouble. Buy an emergency kit online or at an auto supply store. 

15. Stadium Blanket

Bring a soft blanket that is waterproof on one side. It will come in handy if you have a picnic on damp ground. You’ll also find plenty of uses for it after your trip. As the name implies, these blankets are a great way to keep warm at a football game.

Time to Hit the Road

If you use this list of things you can’t leave behind on a family road trip, you’ll be well prepared for your next vacation in a state like Arizona plus an overnight stay in apartments near Tucson. Add a dash of patience and a generous helping of good humor and get ready to make happy memories.