Family road trip essentials

The idea of a family road trip brims with fun and adventure, but being unprepared can throw you off course. But that doesn’t mean you should resign yourself to a less-than-stellar getaway experience. Whether you’re looking for suggestions on how to keep kids entertained, need ideas about which snacks and beverages to pack, or you’re simply hoping to make the road trip an awesome and memorable one, these product picks and expert tips will help!

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Your Ultimate Road Trip Packing List

Entertainment essentials

Electronic essentials

Snacking essentials

Comfy essentials

Car cleaning essentials

Car maintenance essentials

First aid essentials

Toiletry essentials

Essential clothing

Baby essentials


Pet essentials

A few more must-haves

Extra essentials

9 Tips for Packing for a Family Road Trip

A well-established Toronto-based travel writer and mother of two, Jennifer Merrick is an expert on all things road trip. She’s been travelling with her kids for almost 20 years and is a pro at pulling off excursions that are light on sibling bickering and heavy on family fun!

  1. Bring an assortment of snacks. Merrick recommends choosing a mix of fun and healthy road trip snacks for the ride. “Road trips are a great opportunity to make memories, and packing snacks that are outside of your family’s norm makes the event extra special. I like to balance treats (think: chips, gummy candies, etc.) with healthier options like fruit, cheese and crackers.”
  2. Pack a variety of drinks: While water is her go-to, Merrick suggests surprising your family with juice, pop or even an overpriced coffee beverage from time to time. “Again, switching things up is a big part of the magic of a family road trip experience.”
  3. Load up your toiletries bag. Though painkillers, calamine lotion and bug spray are musts, Merrick says medications like Benadryl and Gravol are also vital for mini-getaways. “Car sickness can show up out of nowhere and if you or your child experiences it, these are great options to have on hand.”
  4. Bring electronics, but try not to depend on them. Tablets, iPads and phones can be a great way to pass the time, but they can overwhelm little ones with too much exposure,” she says. Her advice: Download a few movies for the trip and stretch out viewing sessions throughout the drive.
  5. Go old-school with crafts, stickers and games. Depending on your kids’ ages and interests, Merrick says picking up stickers, colouring books, and small, non-electronic games for your trek can be helpful. “I’m also a big fan of verbal games like I Spy and First Letter of the Alphabet, where you choose a place or a food that starts with the letter ‘a’ and whatever letter it ends with is the letter the next player uses when naming their place or food.”
  6. Be strategic about your clothing. “I always suggest that each traveller keeps a spare change of clothes outside of their backpacks for easy access should they get sick or spill something unexpectedly,” she says. Merrick also recommends that little ones bring their own pillow and blanket to make sleeping in the vehicle easier.
  7. Check your roadside assistance plan. While many drivers make a point of ensuring that their coverage is up to snuff before embarking on a long road trip, most people don’t take the same steps for shorter excursions. “Regardless of the length of your trip, take the time to confirm that your coverage is up to date before you leave,” she says. “You never know when an emergency will arise and it will come in handy.”
  8. Choose a multipurpose backpack. When possible, Merrick suggests choosing a backpack that features wheels. “My family has used these versions on our trips, and having the option to roll the bag instead of carry it has been helpful in so many situations.”
  9. Keep your memory selective. “You have to accept that there will be amazing moments and there will be difficult moments. My advice is to keep your mind focused on the amazing and choose to forget the difficult.”