Road Trip Essentials: Things to Have on Hand When Traveling in the Car With Kids

Family summer road trip

Road trip essentials? As a mother of 12 and grandmother of 12, you’re talking to the right person. I’ve spent a lot of time traveling in cars with children. (That is, when I’m not at my Kars4Kids desk, scribbling away here or at Smarter Parenting.)

Being that it’s summer, I thought it might be useful to have a checklist of must-haves for your car when doing road trips with the kids. You don’t have to bring the whole house with you—don’t do that—but you do have to be generally prepared. Here’s my list of things to have on hand in the car when traveling with kids.

  • Tissue: Use it for noses, or for when toilet paper is not available. Use it to wipe faces, or blot a wound. It’s clean and has myriad uses. Don’t leave home without it.
  • Wet Wipes: Good for wiping bottoms or anything sticky (tissue is not good on sticky—trust me on this). Works for cleaning up minor messes inside the car, too.
  • Bags: You need bags to stow garbage. But you may need them to store wet or messed up clothing, too. Not to mention that bags can come in very handy in case of car sickness. Use recyclable plastic bags, if you can. These can be sealed to hide smells and prevent spillage.
  • Frozen and Thawed Water Bottles: Water bottles, in general, are good. The advantage of frozen water bottles is that they can be used as cold packs to keep food fresh and to reduce swelling on bumps and bruises. A third advantage is that if you’re traveling for many hours on a hot day, you’ll eventually have a cold bottle of thawed water to drink, when you’ve used up all your other drinks. But do have at least one cold bottle of unfrozen water from the get go so you and your children can take a drink when needed, early on.
  • Extra Clothes: This is important if you have babies. But it’s also important if you have children who tend to car sickness. And most children tend to get carsick. It’s because they aren’t tall enough to see out the car window, which means they feel motion but can’t see it. The imbalance causes that queasy sick feeling. You don’t want to be stuck with a child covered with vomit and no change of clothes.
  • Bandaids: Just in case. It’s such a small thing to have on hand. Takes up no room at all. Keep them in your glove compartment, so you don’t have to think about it.
  • Fever/Pain Reducer: Another good thing to keep in your glove compartment, just in case, in both adult and child form, to be used as the case may be. Baby teething? Child suddenly develops a fever miles away from the doctor and home? You develop a headache? You’re prepared.
  • Sunglasses: The sun can get uncomfortable and make it difficult to drive, too. Not to mention that strong sun can actually damage a child’s eyes. Invest in quality sunglasses for all, and make sure you have them with you in the car.
  • Glare Reduction Glasses for Night Time Driving: If you will be driving at night, invest in a part of these amazing yellow-tinted shades that keep you from crashing into things when some idiot shines his brights in your eyes. They will help you keep your family safe.
  • Snacks: This is specific to your family. You know what works, what keeps them happy and occupied. Adults may want to have hard candies on hand, in case of dry or scratchy throats, or for nausea. I always keep nuts and 80% chocolate in my handbag, along with sugar-free candies. Kids should have things that aren’t sticky and do not drip.



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