Car Trip Essentials for Every Age

We polled staff and site visitors to compile a list of the top 30 car trip essentials. Let’s dive into the health, safety, and entertainment items guaranteed to keep road trip travelers — from infants to adolescents — in their seats. And happy.

Chevy Chase in car for "Animal House Vacation."
The Griswolds embark on a road trip in “Animal House Vacation.”

So, without breaking the bank or loading down parents with a lot of excess gear, here’s a Car Trip Essentials Kit any parent can assemble, probably from gear you already own.

Car Trip Essentials for Parents to Carry & Administer:

  • Cooler to hold drinks and snacks. Try for healthy ones like KIND bars and unsweetened, flavoried waters and juices.
  • Moist towelettes or hand-sanitizing wipes
  • Paper towels
  • Zip-loc bags for trash, dirty diapers and car sickness attacks
  • Masking tape: stakes out territory for siblings
  • Roll of “discipline” quarters: start your trip with a full roll for each child;  take one away for infractions or add one for good behavior (you might need dollar bills for your brood!)
  • Flashlight: to reward kids who want to read after dark
  • Car charging unit for all electronics

Essential Road Travel Items for Infants & Toddlers

  • Cooler to hold small chew toys in hot weather
  • Baby safety mirror: clip on visor so driver or passenger can view baby without turning around
  • Pop-up top on sippy cup for juice/milk
  • Bottle warmer with cigarette lighter power adaptor
  • Pull-down, lock-in-place back window shade to keep sun away and divert vision of motion sick kids
  • Plush toys
  • Padded toy bar to clip onto rear or front-facing car seat
  • Sports bottle caps to convert bottled water into no-spill container
Three girls eating snacks -- a car trip essential -- on the tailgate of a car. Photo c. Lasislav Sturcell for unsplash.

All The Gear for Preschoolers to Have in the Backseat

  • Sing-along recordings with book of lyrics for whole family
  • Plush toy and picture book for sibling to read aloud
  • Auto Bingo or “I Spy” out-the-window games on highway
  • Playsets with self-stick felt pieces to place on cardboard scene, or washable crayons and pad of paper

Necessities for School Age Children to Enjoy Car Trips

  • Selection of absorbing books with large type
  • Favorite comics, manuals, “Waldo” search-for-clues type books
  • Audio Books or Children’s Story Channel on Sirus radio (Kids Place Live at Channel 78 and Radio Disney on Channel 79) 
  • DVD player, iPad or mobile phone with headset (Y-jack for siblings)
  • Magnetic chess and checkers gameboard
  • Deck of cards

For Tweens and Teens on Road Trips to Carry on Own

  • Most of the above plus:
  • Spotify, personal mixtape or collection of tunes to play on car stereo
  • Language Learning apps like Rosetta Stone so they can tune up for school
  • Selection of books
  • Portable video games
  • iPad, Chromebook or small laptop with power adaptor to run off the car’s cigarette lighter. Be sure to secure the player safely with Velcro to the back of the front seat, in the well between front seats, or another convenient spot where kids can watch but not touch it.

Tip! This is a car, you can always pack in more. When in doubt, bring it along!

Tip! Here are 50 (FIFTY!) more road trip tips from seasoned family travelers in case this is going to be a really long ride.

Remember! None of these suggested amusements take the place of using car trips and plane rides to get to know your captive kids a little better, and to discuss what’s on their minds. That may well be the strongest family memory you take away from your vacation.

Anything else you think is an essential car trip accessory?  Please note it in the Comments Field below.

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2 Replies to “Car Trip Essentials And Survival Kit”

  • Robert Allinson

    Make sure to have lists of important contacts, in case of any emergency like health issue, car issue, towing issue (for emergency roadside assistance nyc), police issue, these all contacts make a trip safe and secure

  • Eva Longoria

    Great information while traveling with children. Children safety first.

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