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Essential Gear for Your Family Road Trip

Essential Gear for Your Family Road Trip

Traveling this summer? Don’t forget to pack these essentials to use in the car and during your family adventures. Our family travels this spring took us down the Pacific Northwest cost to California where we visited my husband’s extended family. We also explored Zion National Park in Utah and made a loop though Colorado. We brought our 5th wheel trailer and stayed at several gorgeous RV parks along the way. During our trip my kids enjoyed swimming, horseback riding, hiking, picking oranges fresh from the tree and riding bikes at several local parks. Some essential gear made our trip much easier and helped solve some basic problems any family may encounter while traveling.

Things to Pack for your Family Road Trip - Spray on Sunscreen

Spray-on Sunscreen

I’m not sure why I’m just now discovering spray-on sunscreen, but we grabbed a multi-pack from Costco and learned that Neutrogena Beach Defense Sunscreen Spray is amazing! First, it eliminates the need to rub on the standard white lotion while kids are squirming (and inevitably getting it on their clothing). Also spraying on sunscreen is quick and effective! I sprayed on a light layer of sunscreen on my neck and shoulders right before a family bike ride (with the sun blazing down) and I didn’t get sunburned at all over the next few hours. I know aerosol spray can be controversial and I haven’t looked into the environmental impact of this sunscreen but the ease of sunscreen application for small children is pretty simple. We’ve also used Thinkbaby Safe Sunscreen with great results. Spray-on or not, definitely bring a good sunscreen along for your family on your family road trip!

Road trip and family adventure essentials - sunglasses for the whole family

Sunglasses for the Whole Family

It can be hard to see and enjoy family adventures when the sun is too bright. Keep a pair of sunglasses handy for each family member and make sure they are UV coated and/or polarized. Sunglasses are a great fashion basic and can also help protect your eyes from the sun’s bright rays. You can find all types of sunglasses, such as classic or trendy styles for adults and cute cartoon sunglasses for kids. I typically keep a few pairs of sunglasses around so they are easy to grab and take on adventures.

Squeezamals plush toys road trip pals

Scented Squeezable Plush Toys

My kids love to bring their stuffed animals everywhere, but at some point they have to choose which ones to leave at home. These plush Squeezamals from Beverly Hills Teddy Bear Company are the perfect size for travel and they’re squishy, colorful and even scented! My kids took their fox, narwhal and cat Squeezamals along on our family road trip. The 3″ pals are easy to fit in a backpack and wipe off when they get a bit dirty. Some of the scented plush pals also come in a larger 8″ size. Each adorable animal pal is scented with a fruity fragrance.

Road trip essentials Squeezamals plush toys

Collection of Car Activities

Kids like to stay busy in the car. When we go on a family road trip, it takes a day or so for our kids to adjust to their new travel routine. I’ve been amazed that my kids are actually content to sit in the car for 6+ hours as long as they have a collection of snacks, drinks, books, tablets and coloring books.

Car snacks – On car road trips I generally bring kid-friendly and low-mess snacks such as pretzels, veggie straws, applesauce pouches, granola bars and dried fruit. I also bring small plastic bowls so the kids can eat their snacks without making a mess. I can also easily distribute snack portions in the bowls, without giving my kids the whole bag of pretzels.

Creative activities – My kids enjoy using coloring books and colored pencils, which are much less messy than markers or crayons. The girls also love playing with Water Wow! activity pads, sticker books, magnetic dress-up dolls and small toys. Boogie Board makes a great kids’ drawing tablet with a screen that can be reset at the touch of a button. Picture books, puzzle books or young readers for kids who can read are a great car activity to distract kids from feeling bored.

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Screen time – We also have a few Amazon Fire tablets which the kids can use during road trips. We still limit their screen time, although the kids sometimes play games or use educational apps somewhat longer on a car trip than we would regularly allow at home. ABC Mouse is a fun learning app you can install on any smart phone which allows kids to play phonics games and do educational puzzles.

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Occasional stops – We also plan occasional stops into our family road trips. Our kids always have fun stopping at a park or running around at a rest stop. We often take a driving break at a scenic overlook or get lunch at a family-friendly restaurant. When we stop we also encourage the kids to use the restroom and our driver (daddy) takes the opportunity to stretch his legs or buy a coffee drink.

What do you bring along to make road trips relaxing, fun and engaging for your family?

Author Bio


Katie has been married for 9 years, has 3 young children, and loves creative projects, photography, decorating, and encouraging others to pursue their ideas. She loves the Lord and feels blessed to be a stay-at-home mom with opportunities to enjoy creative outlets from home.

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Laurie NykazaBarbaraLizzieLauren PattonAmy Howard Recent comment authors
Laurie Nykaza
Laurie Nykaza

I love all the ideas for traveling especially the sunblock and glasses to help protect from the sun. I always wear a hat too.


Great tips on traveling to keep in mind.


Great ideas!

Lauren Patton
Lauren Patton

We are currently on our first long road trip, but we traveled at night on the way here. Heading back tomorrow with my 21 month old with snacks, books, bristle blocks, screen time if needed, and hopefully napping. Occasional stops are a must for everyone, but especially the L.O.

Amy Howard
Amy Howard

Thanks for the helpful tips!

Renee Rousseau
Renee Rousseau

a bucket of Legos works too! Love the drawing board idea! When my granddaughter was 4 she had me guess the weights of all the pokemon on her pokie deck!(now that is one hard game!)

Pat F
Pat F

Wish more people were familiar with wet bags… so many great uses besides cloth diapers!

Ashley Chassereau Parks
Ashley Chassereau Parks

Great advice!! Car activities are such a great idea. We use Badger sunscreen and love it. I don’t mind rubbing it on my little ones since it stays on so well. Love the sunglasses too!!


Some amazing tips and the list sounds great. Sometimes even the smallest thing, if missed, can be a big trouble when travelling with kids. Kids sunscreen is a must in my bag when I travel with my kids.

Samuel frodo

A road trip could be a really joyful experience or a disaster, depending on how well prepared one is, this is a great post and honestly what would a road trip be without car activities??


Such a lovely post. Carrying a collection of car activities is one of the utterly essential items for a road trip.

Elizabeth O
Elizabeth O

This is such a helpful post. Travelling with the littles can be hard but with these ideas you suggested it can make things so much easier indeed!

Melanie Frost

These are great ideas for a family road trip. The spray-on sunscreen is essential. That’s the only kind I use on my kiddo.