How to Pack for the Ultimate Summer Road Trip

Louise Gleeson November 15, 2018
Family packs their vehicle for summer vacation.  One excited little boy waits by the car.

Every year, our minivan makes the transition from carpool to vacation mode as we prepare to head out on our annual family road trip. With four school-aged kids (some who tolerate long drives and some who don’t) we’ve learned a lot of tricks and tips to make the journey a safe and memorable one.

We always begin by reminding ourselves of the most important rule: BE PREPARED AHEAD OF TIME! It can be really frustrating and stressful, when travelling with kids, to be caught off guard by things like boredom and boo-boos.

Things to do

Fill a backpack of activities for each kid. Road trips aren’t the best time to work on sharing, especially when you’re trying to keep stuff contained inside the car. I add some books they’ve never seen, a sketchpad, and drawing tools. For younger kids, small toys and stickers are also a good idea. A pencil case for tiny pieces and a folder for finished artwork are a good idea, too.


Sometimes the best way to pass the time is to find entertainment that appeals to everyone. Get organized before you leave by downloading family-friendly podcasts and audio books. To appeal to a broad range of ages, we usually opt for non-fiction. When it’s time to get our sillies out, we crank up the tunes. Ask each family member to contribute a list of songs and make a road trip playlist. Don’t forget to pack extra chargers for devices to prevent the dreaded drained battery and headphones for everyone’s sanity!

Snacks and more snacks

One of the best investments you can make for a long road trip is a travel-friendly cooler to store food and cut down (hopefully) on the need for pit stops. We also got smart and learned to bring personal containers for snacks, as well as reusable water bottles. No sharing cooties and your food will stay dry and cool.

First Aid

Travelling with kids, means being ready for the unexpected. We never leave on a trip without our own medical essentials, because you never know when you’ll need them or where you’ll be when the need arises. We are always sure to have a doctor-recommended pain reliever like Children’s Advil to tackle fevers for up to 8 hours. Allergy medication, antibiotic ointment, and bandages can be useful, too.

Sun safety

Summertime means sunshine. And if you’re taking your family on a road trip, chances are you’ll be spending more time outside. It’s always good to err on the side of covering up when it comes to staying safe in the sun. Pack hats and good quality sun protection for everyone.

Clean up, clean up

Have a collection of clean up tools ready to go. We have a small portable garbage container in the front seat and in the back row. We also keep a roll of paper towels, a few plastic bags, a box of tissues, and a package of wipes in the car while travelling. Spills and messes are inevitable, and having supplies on hand makes clean up quick and easy.

Roadside games

There are going to be times when you have to pull over to have a meal, stretch the legs, or even spend the night. It’s a smart idea to have some travel-sized games to break up the boredom. An ordinary deck of cards, a portable chessboard, or even a skipping rope don’t take up a lot of room and are easy to bust out when you need some good distractions.

Summer road trips are one of the most memorable ways to spend time as a family. Taking in the sights and heading out to places unseen can bring you closer together. By making sure you’re well prepared ahead of time, you’ll keep the stress levels down and the fun levels high.

This post was written in partnership with Children’s Advil, but the opinions are our own.

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