Young kids can be challenging to manage and entertain when they’re in their comfort zones, and they can be exponentially harder outside of it. So, any trip away from home comes with a fair amount of risk.
Road trips take A LOT of prep, list-making, and small-human wrangling.
We’re taking the guesswork out of mini-human travel and have pulled together our road trip essentials for traveling with toddlers and young kids. So bookmark this and consider it your go-to guide for everything family road-tripping. We know it’ll save our sanity, and we hope it saves yours, too!
See more of our favorite travel toys and products in our Traveling With Kids Hub.
Let’s start here because getting organized is key to a successful road trip with kids! Trust us – it’s no fun to have to dig around in the back seat to find missing markers and water bottles, and the best way to prevent this is for everything to have a place.
Kids’ Travel Tray: When looking for things to add to our organization essentials, our primary criterion was “total lifesaver,” and a kids’ travel tray is just that! It provides them with their own space to draw, create, play, and snack. As a bonus, it keeps them organized.
Back Seat Organizer: For a more compact option, a back seat organizer makes all the things accessible to your toddler they would probably grouse about for the better part of the ride if not right in front of them.
Car Seat Organizer: This car seat organizer is one of our personal favorites for road trips and even every day. Use it anywhere in the car to organize tablets, headphones, water bottles, diapers, wipes, and various on-the-go activities. Then fold it down to store away when not in use.
Insulated Cooler: If you plan for a long road trip, an insulated cooler will keep drinks, fruit, and other snacks cool. Both the Tourit Insulted Cooler and Tourit Insulated Backpack are great options.
This multipurpose car organizer doubles as an insulated cooler for the best of both worlds! It’ll keep snacks and drinks cool for hours, so you’ll be prepared when potty breaks turn into tailgate picnics.
Multisize Zipper Pouch Set: Buy this set of zipper pouches now and thank us later. It will be one of the most valuable items on your trip – use it for everything from game pieces to markers to hand sanitizer to headphones and more.
Car Clean-Up: Bring a portable trash can to save your sanity on a road trip with kids. One other product we can’t live without is a car vacuum. Two popular options include the ThisWorx Portable Car Vacuum that plugs into the 12v outlet, so it’s ready whenever you need it, and the Bissell AeroSlim Cordless Handheld Vacuum with a USB charger.
Also, one of the best road trip hacks we’ve heard is to bring a grabber toy to pick up items that have dropped on the floor – planning to give this one a try on our next road trip!
Diaper & Potty Essentials
Dealing with diapers and potty breaks is essential to a successful road trip, so we’ve rounded up our favorite potty essentials. We’ve got you covered whether you’re dealing with a little one in diapers or a potty training toddler.
First up, you will want somewhere to place your baby that keeps them and your car clean. You may already have a portable changing kit, but when you’re hitting the road, it’s best to have an extra level of protection, and for that, we recommend these disposable changing pad liners. If your portable changing kit gets dirty or you need to change your babe somewhere less-than-ideal, these will be a lifesaver.
You might also want to grab a few of these scented diaper packs so you have a place to store that dirty diaper until you can find a place to toss it.
Travel Potty: There are many travel potty options, but our pick for the road is a 2-in-1 travel potty. Designed to use on its own or over toilet seats in public restrooms, it adapts to any on-the-road potty situation. If you are in the middle of nowhere with a potty emergency, pull over and open the trunk, pop open this potty, drop in a potty bag, and…crisis averted.
Disposable Potty Liners: Truly, disposable potty liners are one of those toddler products that makes you wonder how people took toddlers on road trips back in the day! They have an absorbent pad inside and attach securely to various travel potties.
And don’t forget the wet wipes for clean up!
Waterproof Wet Bag: Whether you discover you have an unidentified liquid on your shirt or your little one has an accident, you’ll want a few of these wet bags on hand while you’re on the road. They’re waterproof, machine-washable, and come in various sizes and patterns.
Hand Wipes & Sanitizers: Trust us, you’ll go through many hand wipes and sanitizer spray on a road trip, so be prepared. If the past few years have taught us anything, it’s that we all have our preferences, but a few of our favorite sanitizing sprays are here and here, and a few of our favorite sanitizing wipes are here and here.
Snack essentials would fit equally under “entertainment” because snacks are one of the best ways to keep kids entertained on the road. Bring lots of snacks and a good variety to keep it interesting.
Insulated Water Bottles
To keep kids’ drinks cool, take a leakproof insulated water bottle. You can’t go wrong with the Yeti Rambler Jr. Water Bottle or the Simple Modern Insulated Water Bottles for a more affordable option.
There are various options for snack containers, and which one is best depends on how long you’re traveling and your kid’s age(s).
This insulated food jar is excellent at keeping fruit and veggies cool. Plus, it’s leakproof.
Reusable Snack Bags
Audiobooks are one of the best ways to entertain kids on a car ride. Our blog post 14 Favorite Audiobooks for Young Kids is a great place to start.
Tablets & Accessories
Few of us will attempt a long-distance road trip without a tablet. We pull these out later in the road trip when things get desperate.
Our kids each have a Fire Kids Edition Tablet to watch their favorite movies and listen to audiobooks. There are two versions – the classic Fire Kids Edition Tablets (ages 3-7) and the Fire Kids PRO Tablets (ages 6-12).
We recommend LilGadgets Connect+ Kids for headphones because they are durable, have a max volume for kids, and you can connect multiple headphones to one device with no splitter (also available with Bluetooth). Or, if your child doesn’t like traditional headphones, CozyPhones are another excellent option for the car!
Don’t forget to bring an extra portable charger for charging tablets and other electronic devices. This Anker Kids’ Portable Charger is excellent because it has a bright BPA-free silicone cover making it easy to grip and easy to spot when it drops. Also, getting a car headrest holder for your tablet can prevent a sore neck.
Other Entertainment Essentials
Be prepared to pull over for an outdoor snack break or visit any fun tourist spots you come across on your trip. Pack a bag of easily accessible extra clothing and sun protection like a rain jacket, packable sun hat, sunscreen, and kids’ binoculars. It’s also good to bring along a waterproof blanket and a few toys to burn energy outside.
We at Thrifty Littles wish you a successful next toddler road trip! We’re parents, too, so we know it’s an “adventure,” never a “vacation,” but it sure can be a memory-maker. If you take any of our suggestions on the road with you, we’d love to see! Tag us @thiftylittles so that we can join in the fun.
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