16 Road Trip Essentials, Tips, and Tricks

by | Home, Organization

There are lots of super cool road trip people out there.  The free-spirited ones who just take off and see as many things as they can.  Then there is our family. 

We aren’t super cool and I would break out in hives without a planBUT, after 10+ years of road tripping as a family, we’ve learned a few things along the way and I thought I would share them with you.


Road Trip Essential #1


Grace upon grace.

This begins LONG before the car is loaded, long before the first kiddo asks how much longer, and long before you realize the first five things you need…and forgot.

I am all about a good plan.  Literally, I thrive under plans and structure.  Pretty sure that makes me kind of boring, but it’s just the honest truth!  But I have learned…and am still learning…to begin the road trip knowing some of our plans will fall through, some of them won’t be picture perfect, and some of them will be disappointing.  I’ve also learned that the unexpected plans often turn out to be incredible blessings.

Most of the time.  There was that twisty mountain road when Payton was a baby and I was expecting Addy (and already dealing with major pregnancy sickness)…that was NOT a blessing.  It was actually a miracle that we survived.  We don’t even laugh about it 12 years later.  It was SO BAD!!!

Now that you’re totally discouraged from ever taking a road trip…let me offer you the good news.  Only that one time in all these years have I truly wondered if we would make it.  Haha!  You’ll be just fine!

So grace.  Grace for your family who isn’t as organized as you’d like them to be.  Grace for the kiddos who drag out everything you just packed.  Grace for the family member who tells you the night before that one of their flip flops is missing.  Grace for yourself as you try to remember every single thing for every single person.  Grace!

Road Trip Essential #2


Set up an account with Priceline if you don’t already have one.  This is not sponsored in any way.  Just a friendly tip after years of success with the app.  We do not stress about booking accommodations in advance (for the road trip portion, I mean.  If we have a final destination, we like to have that well-planned out!).

It is very stressful to know you HAVE to get to Point A because you’ve already paid for it…but a kiddo is off the wall and you really want to stop an hour earlier.  Or, you get a burst of energy and want to get a couple more hours under your belt. 

We also save considerable money on lodging by using the Priceline app.  There are different types of things like that out there; this is the one we have found to be the most helpful and are familiar with now

Road Trip Essential #3


Packing.  Ugh.  I do NOT ENJOY PACKING!  But, I have learned a couple of things that really help…especially if you’re pulling into a hotel late at night when everyone is tired and you’re practically carrying the entire family into the hotel.

It is very stressful to know you HAVE to get to Point A because you’ve already paid for it…but a kiddo is off the wall and you really want to stop an hour earlier.  Or, you get a burst of energy and want to get a couple more hours under your belt. 

We also save considerable money on lodging by using the Priceline app.  There are different types of things like that out there; this is the one we have found to be the most helpful and are familiar with now

I use these zippered bagsThey come in sets with different sizes.  I have packed them different ways.  But the current method that seems to be working well is that each kiddo has one of the smaller bags with their undergarments and pjs.  They keep these in their backpacks (we will talk about those later on!).

I use one of the larger zippered bags and put an outfit for each of us.  I label them with painter’s tape.  Now don’t laugh!!!  I keep them all in the suitcase and then when we get to the hotel, I can just pull out the zippered bag that we need for that next day and toss it into my travel bag.  I try to keep the haul in and out of the hotel as minimal as possible!

What about shoes?  I usually only pack a couple pairs of shoes for each person.  Whatever easy slip ons they wear in the car are something that can go with almost any outfit.  Easy breezy.


These zippered bag sets are life savers.  I originally purchased them for our Disney cruise a few years ago but they have become a staple for our road trip packing!

There you have it.  We are only on #3 and you’re thinking, “She. Is. Over. The. Top.”  But I already told you we weren’t those cool people that could just wing it all!!!  Haha!

Road Trip Essential #4


Let’s make this one a little less structured.  Really, this should probably be the first essential but I told you these are just in super random order.


Unless you are road tripping for weeks and weeks, or you have very specific health and dietary needs…let’s just relax about the snacks.  In fact, I got so tired of hearing myself monitor the snacks that I decided we had to have a better system.  So here’s what we do (what WE do, not what everyone will choose to do.)

Step One to road trip snacks

I go shopping and only buy snacks that I know my kids and husband will eat.  This is not the time to try new things or decide that we are going to be super healthy.  I buy only the pre-packaged items and I do not buy snacks that are extra messy.  Out of experience, I can say that while pringles are yummy, they are SUPER MESSY for younger children! 

I bring them home, set everything out on the kitchen island, and move on to step two.

Step Two to road trip snacks

I hand each kiddo a gallon size zip lock bag.  Depending on the length of the trip, etc., I determine how many snacks they get to choose.  If we are traveling all day, I usually say 5-6.  Do they usually eat 6 snacks in a day?  Of course not.  Do I want them to be happy, content, and feel like they are getting a major treat?  Absolutely!

They choose their allotted snacks, zip up the bag, and that goes into their backpack.

Step Three to road trip snacks

They are not allowed to ask me for a snack.  If they want a snack, they get it from their bag.  If they eat all their snacks before lunch (one of mine will…every single time), fine.  They know they will not refill their snack bags until the next day.  One of my kiddos will maybe only eat one snack the entire day because “they might need them later”. 

They are happy and I’m happy.  No fuss!

Because I know someone will ask…Robb gets his own snacks and I wouldn’t dare try to say how many and when they should be eaten. (Where is the laughing emoji?!?!)

I pack a tote full of snacks that goes in the back of the SUV but can be accessed to refill the next day!

By the way, I always pack a box of large zip locks.  They have come in handy for all manner of things!

Road Trip Essential #5


Get yourself a cute travel bag!  I’ve used different ones over the years (I kind of have a bag problem!) but my current favorite is this one.  It is super cute, has enough structure that it isn’t falling all over the place, and holds a decent amount of necessary items (including space for the gray zippered bag with everyone’s clothes!).  I keep this by my feet and only keep things in it that I need access to for the trip.

Trust me, when you are schlepping in and out of hotels, it helps to feel like you at least look a tiny bit put together!!!

Road Trip Essential #6


We just completed our first road trip with this gadget and I won’t leave home without it now!  This air vent pocket holder is the best thing since sliced bread! 

I got one for both the driver and passenger sides.  They kept our phones, wallets, and little essentials from falling all over the place.  I wasn’t constantly digging through my travel bag for cash at every gas station!  They are inexpensive and I promise you’ll love it!

Road Trip Essential #7


Kids’ backpacks!!!  By the time we get to our summer road trip, every kiddo has an empty backpack from the school year.  We pull them out and use them for their travel bags.  I love that they hold a lot, can zip up, and the kids can easily carry them on their backs…themselves.

What goes in their backpack?

  • Snack bag
  • Zippered bag with pjs and undergarments
  • Small toiletry bag
  • Electronic device and charger
  • Water bottle
  • Camera, small toy, notebooks, etc.

Since our kids are getting a little older, they are responsible for packing these items not only before the trip, but at each stop as well.  It’s a great chance to teach responsibility in a very reasonable, age-appropriate way!

Road Trip Essential #8




Need I say more?!  Our road trips typically are not for the purpose of antiquing and shopping (because let’s be honest, we don’t have space for much!) but if we know we are going to have some spare time, I like to jump on this site and see what might be around the area we are in.  We’ve found some really amazing places…some really interesting places…and some total fails too.  But you never know if you don’t try!

Road Trip Essential #8


This is another must have that’s under $10Headrest hooks!  They work for everything from hanging a plastic bag for trash to the kids’ backpacks to getting travel blankets off the floor.  These are pretty sturdy and for the quality and function, you can’t go wrong!  Do yourself a favor!!!

These would also be great for just everyday use to hang grocery bags or tote bags!

Road Trip Essential #10




Because face it, 20 questions might get us to the interstate.

Our kids are a little older now and over the years, we have collected an assortment of electronics.  Our SUV also has a DVD player, so we try to pick up a couple of new movies for a long road trip. 

The library is also a great source for free DVDs!  If your vehicle doesn’t have a DVD player, this holder  is great for keeping your IPad up high and in the middle so all the kiddos’ can see!

I also tried to have a few different quiet activities like this for some creative fun (but non-messy and doesn’t require a lot of parts and pieces!)

Little car games like this can also be great to fill some time and give everyone a break from screen time!

When I was a kid, we used to keep track of all the license plates we could see and this is a fun way for the kids to have a great visual and a little competitive fun!  Or maybe it could be parents against the kids?

Road Trip Essential #11


Highly-functional toiletry bag.

I am clueless why it took me so long to spend $19 on something that works so well, but I LOVE this toiletry bag.  It holds a ton of stuff in different compartments (love that make up brushes aren’t rubbing against things and if there are little spills, EVERYTHING doesn’t get damp!  Plus, it coordinates with my Escape bag, so of course that little detail makes me happy!

When I saw the matching little zippered bags, I asked for this for my birthday because, well, every travel bag needs little zippered bags and I love that these match!

Convenience cannot be rated highly enough for road tripping!  I find that I have my own business organized and coordinated, it’s a little easier to deal with all the kiddos’ things (which have likely become much less organized by this point. Ha!)

Road Trip Essential #12


I’m writing this into the blog post because it is SO basic.  Too basic, apparently, because I inevitably forget half the time!

Save up some grocery bags for a couple weeks before your trip.  The “travel trash cans” you can buy look nice, but I really don’t want to actually clean them out.  A plastic bag hanging on one of the headrest hooks does the trick perfectly!  Maybe by writing this, I’ll actually remember for next time!  Ha!

Road Trip Essential #13


Let’s chat quickly about souvenirs.  Does anyone else find that the little trinkets and souvenirs can end up consuming the vacation budget?!


We started a fun tradition long before we even had kids and I’m so thankful for it!  We try to pick up a Christmas ornament from stops along our road trips and vacations.  It’s usually a pretty inexpensive investment that gives us YEARS of memories!  If we are passing through a new state, we try to find something there as well.  Even cheap gas station keychains can sometimes end up being great little ornaments!

I always choose something in neutral tones or metal so that no matter how we decorate our tree, it will always be a pretty addition.  When Christmas rolls around, it is so fun to decorate our tree together and talk about all the fun trips and memories!

Our kids each have certain kinds of things they like to collect for their souvenirs.  For Payton, it is stickers for her water bottles, Addy loves keychains, and Harrison likes magnets and postcards to put on the metal cabinet in his room. 

We give them each some spending money at the beginning of the trip and they get to learn lessons about managing their money and being responsible for it along the way!  These simple little souvenirs help everyone feel like they “got something fun” and don’t break the bank!

Road Trip Essential #14


Tide to Go pens and wipes.  Enough said.

Road Trip Essential #15


I also ordered this for our trip this year, after searching for a better hand sanitizer solution for the car.  To be honest, we need the cup holder space, so the hand sanitizer kept getting moved, then the top would pop off, etc., etc. 

This suction cup holder makes it easy for the kids to grab a squirt as they get in the car, no one is losing their personal bottle, and Mom feels a little better about the rest area stops.

Inexpensive, but worked really well and fits most hand sanitizer bottles, so you can still use whatever your favorite brand may be.

Road Trip Essential #16



A long road trip in uncomfortable clothes is literally unbearable.  This is my favorite kind of travel outfit.  It doesn’t wrinkle, doesn’t show spills or stains, and looks reasonably put together whenever we want to make stops.


You never know when the perfect road trip picture spot will come along!  It is cute with flip flops for the car and when you get to your destination, you can dress it up with some wedge sandals and a denim jacket!


This isn’t your typical road trip essentials list, perhaps, but hopefully a few of my favorites that I’ve tested and proven true over the years will help YOUR road trip to be a little more comfortable!

Now…where has your favorite road trip taken you?  Any favorite traveling tips?




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