Top 10 Family Road Trippin’ Essentials


(Photo: Allison Czarnecki)

Today we’re excited to have guest blogger Allison Czarnecki, who writes the wonderful blog Petit Elefant, share her ideas for road trippin’ en famille. Welcome and thank you, Allison!

We travel a lot as a family. A lot. But in order to see the country with a family of four and a tight budget, we’ve found the best way to travel is by car. Road trip, baby. I love road tripping with my family, and over the years I’ve gotten better at what to pack, what to leave home, and what’s absolutely essential to bring in the car. Here’s my list of Top 10 Road Trip Essentials:

  1. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: pack wet wipes. There are any number of wet wipe-able emergencies on a road trip, especially with kids, and one pack of big wet wipes is essential to keeping everyone happy, clean, and moving towards your destination.
  2. Assign everyone their own luggage. It might seem obvious, but there’s always the temptation to cram everyone’s gear in one big bag since you’re all on the road and in the car together. Don’t give in to temptation. Give each traveler their own bag, color-coded if need be, to keep their stuff separate from the rest.
  3. Pack a cooler with your favorite drinks. Yes, a cooler might slosh around when you take corners too fast, but it’s worth it. Completely worth it. Having cold drinks available at your disposal, for a fraction of the cost at a gas station will save your wallet.
  4. Assign a designated spot for trash. A bag, an actual garbage can, whatever it may be, keep your garbage separate from the rest and everyone will be happier. Empty it out at every rest stop to keep the car in tip top shape.
  5. Make a road trip playlist or two. Or three. The tunes will give you a soundtrack to your trip and will get you through the less stellar hours of your travel time.
  6. Take pictures! I know it sounds cliche but you’ll love seeing the photos after the fact. And later, when you look back at the photos you’ll have a visual reminder of the time your kids ran into the ocean fully clothed upon seeing it for the first time. Worth it.
  7. Pack light. I had a tendency when we first started traveling as a family to pack everything I could fit in the car. I literally would have taken the kitchen sink if I’d thought it would fit. It’s not worth it. You can do laundry on the road, and it’s pretty likely you’ll be traveling within the walls of civilization. If need be, you can buy what you’re missing once you get where you’re going. You’ll thank me later.
  8. Pack healthy snacks. I know, I know, it’s boring not to eat nasty food while you’re on the road but you’ll regret it later. There’s nothing like a frozen slushy drink and some chips to make you feel like summer, but you won’t feel so happy two hours after the fact. Take healthy things you won’t be able to find at a gas station. You can always buy chips on the road but bananas are $3 each at the Gas n’ Sip.
  9. Take games! U-NO is fun for everyone and can be played anywhere, even the car.
  10. Remember to have fun. Embrace the unexpected. Roll with it, and have the time of your life. There’s nothing quite like a road trip in the summer so enjoy it!

13 Responses to “Top 10 Family Road Trippin’ Essentials”

  1. Lori Says:

    My favorite tip is the healthy snacks. The only thing worse than being stuffed into a backseat is being stuffed into a backseat while you’re stuffed with junk food.

  2. Chris davis Says:

    I totally agree about games. Our favorite is Roadtrip Bingo! You have to find everything from farm silos to city skylines. Perfect for non-reading little kids too because there are pictures!

  3. jviale Says:

    Towels on the backseat to protect against/hide all the gunk that ends up back there…family iPod playlists that we can all sing along to…spray-on sunscreen. Powder for, you know, chafing…and definitely stop at all the weird places on the road. Don’t stress about the time or nutritional quality cuz you’ll never forget those places. One of our all-time favorite weird places is The Mystery Spot outside of Santa Cruz. Totally made our trip memorable.

  4. Megan Says:

    Playing games is definately the best way to pass the time. We like to play the alphabet game. It does get kinda tricky when you get to letters like “X” or “Z”, but we are usually pretty creative.

    I also love to take pictures of interesting things we might pass. Helps keep the memories!

    • Kristina Hjelsand Says:

      Hi Megan,

      We’re excited to let you know that you’re the winner of our blog giveaway for two 2-hour surf lessons from Billabong ( in Huntington Beach. Just e-mail me at with your address and we’ll get you your prize.


  5. Stella Cook Says:

    My favorite supplies are wet wipes, sunscreen,Umbrella,towels for laying on the beach,Aloe Vera lotion if you get to much sun and plenty of healthy drinks and snacks. Nice card game is good when the kids are playing in the water or building sand castles.

  6. Peggy Says:

    Don’t leave home without a navigator (aka Garmin)! The large screen with audible directions makes it much easier to get where you’re going. Google Maps on the iphone can help too, but don’t even think about whipping out one of those circa 1990 paper maps that takes up half the car and is impossible to fold back up (although that could fall into the games/puzzles category).

  7. Regina Fredenburg Says:

    Hand Sanitizer for everyone’s hands
    light blanket, towels, sunblock
    H20, Cool Drinks & a cooler with some fruit

    On our way to So Cal from Nor Cal to stay in Huntington Beach for my daughters Sweet 16!! We are so excited to stay at yet another one of the BEAUTIFUL Joie de Vivre Hotels!!!!

  8. Stephanie Kays Says:

    Travelling by car is something I did a lot as a kid with my family. All these tips are great, but I’d like to add that as an adult it’s fun to make the trip part of the fun. See if you can stop at some funky places along the way ala ‘ griswold family’. If you make stops every couple hours everyone can look forward to something soon and talk about it.

  9. Chandini Davis Says:

    OH MAN ZIPLOCS!! So many uses on a road trip!

  10. Erin Says:

    Not so much something to bring, but think of car games to play, like 20 questions, or the license plate game, etc.

    Bring lots of water, and a headlamp or flashlight!

  11. McKenzie Ward Says:

    I always bring water in a gulpy for my dog in case we’re in traffic and she gets overheated. Not having air conditioning in the car, that can be a problem sometimes. I am also a big fan of the Evian water spray mist to help me stay refreshed while driving. It helps keep me alert on the road. I always time my road trips to my sons naps or leaving at bedtime so we don’t have to deal with an angry baby in a car seat.

  12. Everest Trekking Says:

    This really is beneficial! can’t wait to check out more.

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