So you’ve decided to pack the entire family into the family car and take off for a vacation. Now what? Well, the first thing that you have to do is some advanced planning because you have to be prepared for just about anything when you’re traveling with kids.
Regardless of your kids’ ages or genders, it is almost a guarantee that you’ll experience the unexpected and being prepared for this can make that time a little less stressful on everybody.
Depending on how long of a drive you have, you have to also pack items to keep the car a little cleaner and the kids a little more occupied. Even if the space in your vehicle is limited, there are some “must have” items that will fit nicely somewhere in the car.
These items can make a huge difference in how you feel about the trip once you get back home. If you want to make a family road trip a little easier in more ways than one, below are 10 things that you can pack to keep everyone much more content on the drive.
Table of Contents
1. Plastic Garbage Bag for Each Child
You’re likely already wondering what these bags will be used for and the answer is quite simple. Children can take these bags and place their own garbage inside so that when you make a pit stop, they can empty the trash into public trash containers and keep the inside of the car a lot cleaner.
Without the bags, kids can be tempted to throw their trash on the floor or stuff a lot of garbage into one single bag. When kids have their own personal garbage bags, it gives them a sense of ownership and makes it much more likely that they’ll keep their personal space inside the vehicle a lot cleaner.
By emptying the bags each time you stop, they can keep their personal bags afterwards and you won’t have to keep resupplying them with their own individual bags. It makes for a car that is much less messy, not to mention a simple way to teach kids to clean up after themselves.
2. One or Two Gallons of Water
Today’s water jugs are easier to carry than ever before. It won’t matter if you get distilled water or just fill up an empty milk jug with tap water. As long as there’s water inside of the jug, you’ll be able to put it to good use. Just what will the water be used for?
Almost everything! You can use it to refill individual water bottles or even for cleaning fingers when sticky snacks make kids’ or adults’ hands a little messier than they like. And while you’re at it, you can include a few washcloths and place them close to the water jugs.
This way, you can gently tilt the jug and dampen a cloth if you need to wipe your face or neck area. In fact, there are tons of uses for water when you’re traveling so keeping a few gallons of water nearby throughout the trip can be a real lifesaver in many ways.
Oh, and don’t forget to buy additional water or fill up the jugs with water fountain water the next time you stop to take a break. You’ll want to keep those water jugs filled for the entire trip.
3. Wet Wipes
It doesn’t matter what your kids’ ages are because wet wipes provide dozens of uses during a long road trip. From wiping faces and hands to clearing a window of debris and so much more, wet wipes can be used for just about anything.
You can clean up messes in the car when something is spilled and even make sure that the tiniest hands in the vehicle are always clean. If you don’t believe how valuable wet wipes are, just buy a few packages and bring them along on your next road trip.
You’ll likely discover uses for them that you never knew existed. And of course, let’s not forget their most useful purpose to date — helping when you change a baby’s diaper!
Plus, if you forget to buy wet wipes, you can even make your own. Just wet some paper towels, wring them out so they aren’t soaking wet, and then place them in a clear plastic bag with a super-tight closure feature. You can even place them in an old, empty wet wipe container. They are very useful indeed.
4. Flashlights for Everyone
When you have kids in the car, they’ll get bored very easily. If you’re driving at night, providing them with fun activities becomes even more of a challenge because they can’t see anything. When each child has his or her own flashlight, even reading when it’s dark outside is possible.
In fact, children of all ages will soon discover all sorts of ways to use their flashlights and the fact that they come in a variety of colors makes them even more fun for kids to use.
Of course, adults can use flashlights as well because they make it simple to look for something you dropped on the floor or even see the dashboard a little bit more clearly. For the kids’ flashlights, make sure that you choose ones that have wrist straps to make dropping them less likely. The kids will definitely enjoy using the flashlights for a variety of reasons without worrying about dropping them or losing them in the dark.
5. A Headphone Splitter
If you have a van with a built-in screen to show movies on, headphones are a necessity for the kids watching those movies. A headphone splitter can accommodate two kids at the same time and allow them to hear everything that is being said on the screen while you and the passenger or driver sit in silence.
The best part is that headphone splitters are ridiculously inexpensive — you can get a good set for under $5 — but can be real miracle workers when you want the kids to keep quiet for a while.
And just in case you’re wondering, headphone splitters can also accommodate more than two listeners at a time. Many, in fact, are made for up to five listeners at a time, making them perfect for those with large families.
They work great as well; in fact, you’re likely to be a bit surprised by the quality of these high-tech but low-priced gadgets and they are extremely easy to find at either regular or online stores.
6. Paper Goods of All Kinds
When you’re planning for a family road trip, don’t forget the paper goods such as paper towels, toilet paper, and/or tissues. Each one of these items serves its own useful purpose and you can get all of them at very reasonable prices, especially if you shop at discount stores.
They are also likely not to take up too much room in the car and you can leave them in the trunk of the car if you like. Much as with wet wipes, you can use these paper goods for a variety of reasons. Let’s face it; there are times when you need a wet wipe and times when you need a wipe that is dry.
Paper towels and tissues are perfect for those times. You can wipe your face and mouth, clean off the dashboard or a window, and even blow your nose if you sneeze or have the sniffles. The possibilities are endless so don’t forget to pack a lot of them on every trip you take.
7. Glow Sticks
Kids love glow sticks and not only are they a lot of fun to play with but they can also make kids a little less fearful if you stop at a hotel and they find themselves sleeping in an unfamiliar bed.
Glow sticks are super cheap and come in a variety of different colors, making them both entertaining and colorful. Give them to the kids when they start asking “are we there yet?” or when they’ve run out of other play toys and start whining that they’re bored.
Another advantage to buying glow sticks is their ready availability. If you stop at any type of tourist or souvenir store, you can usually find them in many different shapes, designs, and colors. To use them, you simply snap them in half and massage them from end to end. The glow sticks do the rest themselves and they can keep the kids occupied while you’re concentrating on other things.
One word of caution with glow sticks: they usually don’t last more than a few hours at a time so stock up on them if you can. This is very simple to do because in addition to all of the other perks they offer, they are also very inexpensive.
8. A Small Broom
Once again, this is an item with seemingly endless uses. If you stop at the beach along the way, sand will inevitably get all over the inside of your vehicle, which can be very uncomfortable when you get back in the car.
A small broom can quickly and easily whisk away enough sand so that the grit isn’t making everyone uncomfortable and feeling “prickly.” Small brooms are also easy to place somewhere in the car when they’re not being used.
Brooms can keep dust and other debris off of your car seats and even from getting in between the crevices of the car seat. A small broom won’t take up much room in the car and it is also a lot easier to maneuver as you use it to get rid of dirt all throughout the vehicle.
9. Small Plastic Bags Filled with “Stuff”!
Small reusable plastic bags can be filled with snacks, nuts, and energy bars, not to mention small items that you don’t want to lose, such as washable markers, puzzles, and travel books.
In fact, keeping toys and snacks in these bags makes it much less likely that they’ll get dropped on the floor, which can make it difficult to find them if it’s dark outside. You can also keep the small bags contained in a larger bag to make them easier to get to if you like.
Of course, it works better if your kids put the items back in the bags whenever they’re done with them but that’s not always a realistic goal. Indeed, any small item that you want to bring along with you on your road trip can fit in these bags, especially because they make them in a variety of sizes.
10. Pillows and Blankets
Even on short road trips, chances are good that someone is going to want to nap at some point and it’s terribly difficult to nap without a pillow, especially when you’re sitting upright in a moving vehicle.
When you bring along a few pillows and blankets, the kids can fall asleep in the back seat whenever they want to and the blankets can be used as pillows if you need them to.
If you plan on driving when it’s dark outside, pillows and blankets are especially useful because even if kids are wide awake when it first gets dark, it won’t take some of them long for their eyelids to start getting droopy.
In addition, the blankets come in handy when the driver of the vehicle prefers the air to be a little on the cool side but everyone else is freezing cold. Even during the summer months, kids can find the vehicle too cold and blankets and pillows can be a big help.