Our average road trip length is six to seven hours, and usually several times per year to visit family or close friends. I keep certain things in my truck 24/7 because you never know when you will need them. My husband often complains about the amount of stuff under the backseat, but if I remove something, sure enough I’ll need it in the near future!
My friends often laugh at the package of baby wipes tucked in my door when my kids haven’t been in diapers for a decade now! (Whoa, I feel old..) Funnily enough, the adults use the baby wipes for a variety of reasons and just as much, if not more often than the kids….
Moving on – here is a list of things I keep in my vehicle at all times. This is not me telling you to run out and get all of these things to be successful on a road trip, I am simply sharing what has worked for myself and my family.
- Baby Wipes (as discussed above) – sticky hands, faces, spilled coffee, sneezes on the upholstery, the list goes on….
- Portable air compressor – it plugs into what used to be a cigarette lighter and you set it to the tire pressure you want it at. Some models even come with a flashlight in case you get a low tire in the dark!
- Basic First Aid Kit – this usually includes Advil and Tylenol, in adult and kid form! As well as the Band-Aid “ouchless wash” this stuff has lidocaine in it and the perfect top for cleaning the wound, especially if there is gravel or debris in it – which there usually is when traveling.
- Newspaper, Matches & a Hatchet – we also spend a lot of time at the river so these are good to have with us all of the time, especially when I go on my solo adventures.
- Ratchet straps – in case you need to haul something unexpected home, or a bin gets overloaded and the lid needs to be strapped down (speaking from experience!).
- Waterproof picnic blanket – these are so handy and fold up super small! Mine fits under my seat and is also sometimes used on the backseat when my dog gets muddy! Perfect for last minute picnics or a “play mat” for the kids to sit on.
- Bottled Water – it’s not the best system, but I buy a flat of bottled water. It goes in the back of the truck at the start of the trip and we can grab them as needed.
- Snacks – if you open my centre console, you can will find a few granola bars and a package of mixed nuts. They frequently get eaten by other people and are great to have on hand.
- Hand Sanitizer – stored in the door, handy for bathroom stops, gas stations, etc.
- Hot Hands – Individual packets of hand warmers for a cold day.
How I pack for a last-minute trip:
This has actually grown more difficult as my kids get older, because they want to pack themselves and they don’t always remember everything…. Last time we went away my daughter packed 4 dresses, 3 pairs of pajamas, a bunch of shirts, and no pants!
Now I know I can let them be independent and pack their own suitcases, but I also just pop in while they’re packing and ask if they remembered to pack x, y, z. Then I walk out again and their fate is in their own hands! Lol they will learn – as evidenced by my daughter’s suitcase for this trip (pictured below) where she definitely over packed!
Just like Santa does, I make a list and I check it twice. I tick things off the list as they get packed and then I double check that I didn’t miss anything right before we leave.
I try to group similar items together on the list, Clothes, Toys/Games, Snacks/Drinks, etc. Then I also pack things specifically for in the vehicle.
A quick trip to the dollar store and you can find all sorts of activity packs and road trip items these days! My daughter loves bubbles so I usually grab her some of those for our pit stops. Or, just rummage around your toy bins and pull things out from the very bottom that your kids likely haven’t seen in awhile – just like a new toy! When my kids were toddlers, I would start putting favorite toys into a bucket about a week before the trip and that bucket would ride up front with me. When a child became bored or cranky, I would bring out a new toy to surprise them with! This worked well, especially on long stretches of Highway without rest stops.
Now that my kids are older, we’ve moved on from Portable DVD players to individual devices, so it’s a matter of downloading things to watch before you leave and remembering to pack headphones. Packing the device + headphones + charger in the same bag is usually helpful and prevents suitcases being ripped apart in search of cords. This trip my daughter packed a small toy bin for her cords and devices and that worked well. My husband added his charger to her bin too!
Snacks – I go through my fridge and look at what will go bad before we get home. That is going to get packed up and come with us! I rinsed and cleaned berries to bring with us, and they all got eaten! The empty glass bowl was full of greek salad by the time we left. I forgot to grab styrofoam bowls out of the camping bin before we left though! All of this went into the cooler in the back of the truck with water, juice and pop.
I also pack easy, quick snacks not only for the truck, but also for the hotel room! Extra cups become bowls for nuts, fruit or veggie straws.
Ginger ale is always good to have within reach in the vehicle. This bin (pictured above) goes in the backseat so the kids can reach it, and instead of stopping for food along the way, we can snack our way through most towns!
As always, thank you for reading! I hope one or two of these tips will help you and your family on your next road trip!