This post contains affiliate links. This means if you make a purchase through a link I provide that I may be compensated. This does not change the price for you and I only recommend products and services that I believe in and trust.
Weekly Parenting Series
Our Parenting Focused Email will land in your inbox each Monday morning giving you themed ideas on fun things to do with your kids.
We will have seasonal topics, food topics as well as other general topics like ice, the solar system and firefighters.
Road trips with kids are not as stressful as we may automatically assume. Like anything, the best way to avoid a stressful situation is to plan ahead as best as you can.
I tend to avoid electronic devices in general because I personally feel they put my children into a “mood” that I don’t really like. My kids get argumentative when you try to take the electronic device away no matter how long they have been allowed to play it.
No matter what blocks I put on their devices they somehow fall into a show or video I don’t really approve of them watching. I mean have yall seen those creepy toy unboxing videos on youtube kids?
Honestly, I also refuse to be one of those moms who parks my kid in front of a phone or iPad either. My kids will learn how to communicate in social situations and GASP even learn how to be bored at times!
Road trips are no exception.
Plus, I really don’t want to listen to that noise for hours on end.
So, my goal in creating the perfect road trip bag for my kids is one that is electronic-free, minimally messy and provides a good amount of entertainment.
Let’s start with the things that I really don’t recommend for one reason or another. Most of these I have learned from experience so please just take my advice and save yourself the drama!
Items to Avoid in a Kids Road Trip Bag
Crayons – These will melt…. and even if you think you have gotten them all up, you probably haven’t.
Regular Markers – My oldest is almost five and she is still “accidentally” drawing on herself with markers. When you give a child a marker in the car, in an essentially unsupervised situation in the back seat markers may end up everywhere. Trust me.
Colored Pencils – I mean the ones that you have to sharpen. Those ones that are like mechanical pencils are totally fine, as long as you get the ones that don’t just let the pencil part fall out when you turn the pencil up to color.
Crumbly Snacks – There is nothing worse than having to scoop out chunks of snack crumbs every time you stop. Unless you have given your child a crumbly snack and a drink that they can spill. Then it’s a disgusting soggy mess, and yes that is way worse than just chunks of crumbs.
Sugary Snacks – I would hope this one is obvious HOWEVER my husband would never think twice about loading our kids up on sugar before sticking them in a car seat for 10 hours.
Spillable drinks- Wet car seats are gross and so are sticky, soggy kids
Noisy toys – If it requires batteries just don’t bring it. Those books that make noise and talk to you, terrible choice. You don’t want to hear the Jake and the Neverland Pirates song on repeat for an hour. Anything that lights up is also a no-go. You don’t want a disco party in the backseat once it gets dark outside.
Anything that can be thrown – Technically everything can become a projectile on a road trip. I generally have to pick Goldfish out of my hair at each pit stop. However, try not to bring anything that can cause serious harm if it’s thrown at you or a sibling.
Okay, so now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s get to the good stuff. Most of the stuff on the list below I get at discount stores and the dollar section at Target. You can also get lots of these items on Amazon too!
What Should You Bring in your Kids Road Trip Bag
No Mess Markers – The Color Wonder markers and paper sets are GREAT! They literally only color on the specific Color Wonder paper so there is no mess!
Dry Erase Books – So while technically a child can draw on themselves with dry erase it’s not as hard to get off as a regular marker. Plus the dry erase books are erasable so they can be used over and over on your trip.
Stickers – I get regular sticker books for my 4-year-old and re-positionable sticker books (Melissa and Doug Brand) for my 2-year-old. Both make a slight mess but they love them and they are fairly easy to clean up.
Felt Books – These are always a win because they are re-positionable. Endless play and zero mess! Plus because the felt sticks to itself these pieces aren’t likely to fall in the floor. I got mine from Target for $1 each this year!!
Look and Find Books – My kids are really into these currently. They take up way more time then a normal book PLUS since they are looking for items they don’t even need you to read to them.
Magnetic Stories – The same benefits as the felt books but just a different medium.
Refillable Cups – I attempted to just do juice boxes on a few of my road trips but they always seem to get spilled and it makes a soggy, sticky mess. Plus if I am avoiding sugary snacks I should probably avoid sugary drinks too. Get each kid a refillable cup and some water!
Favorite Toys – I let my kids choose a few of their favorite toys to bring on the trip too. I mean like one stuffed animal and a handful of figurines or something similar. My two year old usually picks a baby doll and a few doll accessories and my oldest picks whatever figures she is into lately. On our last trip, she brought smurfs.
How to Pack it All
Since my kids are under 5, I don’t give them their own bag. They aren’t going to pick up after themselves and really can’t reach to get a bag since they are strapped into car v seats anyways.
I put everything together in one big bin. In the past I have put the bin in between the kids seats so they could reach in and get what they wanted. This trip I put it in the floor, where only I could reach it. This worked out SO much better. They couldn’t just bounce from one activity to the next so they spent time on each one until they were genuinely bored.
If anything comes in plastic wrap or any kind of packaging, go ahead and remove all of that before you start your trip. No need to bring extra mess in the car.
I clean out my console and put all our snack foods in there. This way its really not taking up much space, the kids can’t just eat it all at once and it makes me limit how much I bring.
I also make sure we have a bin for trash! I dump the trash at every stop!
And that’s it, guys! Do not overload your car with too many toys and activities. The same rule of not overstimulating your kids with too many toys in their playroom applies to road trips.
Ditch the noisy, messy, overcomplicated toys and opt for a few simple, reusable, multi-purpose toys for your road trip.
I would love to hear what other items you have found helpful on your road trips with little ones! Leave me a comment below!