Travel Kits for Families

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A group of kids sitting in an SUV posing for the camera.

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Getting ready for a trip? With the holiday season upon us, families find themselves packing the kids, the dogs, the food, the presents, and a partridge in a pear tree into the family mobile and heading out on the open road. Traveling with children can be a wonderful experience. But, it can also be worse than a root canal if you’re not prepared.

Experience has taught me that you don’t want to incarcerate yourself in a vehicle with one or more children without some advance preparation. That means entertainment and snacks. You’re on your own for entertainment. Our CD player busted a few years ago as did the travel TV/VCR combo. Our kids tend to entertain themselves. Or the GameBoy and DS do….

I concern myself more with infrastructure. You know, necessary items, those that prevent whining and those that help me in the case of a blowout — diaper, that is. For those, you need a few travel kits.

Last spring I found these very handy plastic shoe boxes with snapping lids. They are the perfect size to hold a lot of kid supplies in a compact package that also slips under the seat of the car!

One travel kit is for snacks. It includes paper products and nonperishable snacks. This box looks like a birthday party, doesn’t it? Junk food and Nemo, what a combo. Truth is the junk food was cheap or free (after coupons) and Nemo was a clearance table purchase. I suggest you first raid your pantry to see what you have.

Plastic box with nemo cups, plates, and napkins as well as snacks.
Some great car-friendly, kid snacks:
  • trail mix
  • dried fruit
  • fruit leather
  • crackers
  • cookies
  • pretzels
  • juice boxes
  • peanut butter
  • applesauce
Don’t forget to include utensils and anything else you might need for an impromptu picnic, including a tablecloth. Often the fast-food restaurant you hit on the road forgets to provide necessary napkins and forks. If you’ve got your travel kit, you’re set.
Our other box is a diaper-changing box. Despite your best-laid plans, the diaper bag can get left at home, forgotten at Grammas, or it may just simply lack what you need. Having a box with diapering supplies is a blessing and a half!
Box filled with diapers, wipes, and lotion tube.

Things to include in a Diaper-Changing Kit:

  • diapers
  • wipes in a ziploc bag (small size that is easy to refill)
  • plastic grocery bags for disposing of soiled diapers (a lot of these bags will fit in a ziploc)
  • diaper cream
  • lotion
  • hand sanitizer

With a little pre-planning and pre-packing, your road trip with kids can be a smooth ride.

What do you take along to make your car trip a pleasant one?

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  1. When my boys were still bottle feeding, I would keep a case of little bottles of water & a box of the single bottle formula powder packets in my car. Expensive, but since I would only use them in an emergency it was worth it. That way I could always make a bottle if needed.

    We also keep a bottle of windex (cleans everything from windows to upholstry in a pinch), a roll of papertowels, and, of course, some plastic bags.

  2. I keep a potty in the mini-van and carry a collapsible one in the stroller (folds two ways, as a stand alone potty or as a seat that can be placed on a regular toilet to keep them clean and from falling in). This is probably the single, most important travel item for my 2 year old twin girls, who are potty trained.

  3. I am taking my girls (who will be 3 and 5) and my son (who will be 11 months) on a trip with my husband back home for my sister’s wedding (24 hours of traveling). I am trying to think of things for my son. I am having a hard time. Do you have any ideas for me???

    1. @Andrea, ah, those were the days. I remember that toddler-stuck-in-the-carseat thing quite well. The best suggestion is to drive at night and nap time. The parents might be wasted, but that’s easier on kids. Otherwise, having lots of change of activity is helpful: videos, songs, snacks, books to look at, toys to play with. Keep a huge box next to you so that you can hand one back. The fussing is generally because they’re bored. Keep them from being bored and you’ll be okay.

      Easier said than done, I know.

  4. When my oldest was 3.5 yrs old we took a 4 hour weekend road trip to a waterpark. On the way back, she ended up getting sick and throwing up all over her booster seat (very curvy part of the road we were traveling on) In this particular canyon there is only 1 rest stop and thankfully we had not passed and pulled over – except they used hand heaters, and had no paper towels or anything! Hubby decided to grab a roll of toilet paper, so with that roll of tp and pulling out some old clothes (everything was dirty in the dirty clothes bag!) I cleaned up and changed her!

    After that fiasco I started carrying what I call the barf bag in the car. It’s a big paper bag filled with paper towels, spoons (for scooping up chunks – I know gross), extra plastic bags, anti-bacterial wipes and tissues! In case any of my kids ever get sick again in the car I will be prepared!

  5. Hello, I was thinking that I saw a great homemade recipe for Fruit Leather on this or on Good Cheap Eats, but I can’t find it, do you happen to even have this post? Thanks a bunch! Great sites by the way;) I read them daily

  6. what a fantastic blog post! I am currently getting ready to do a 14 hour road trip in June with my family. the kids are 3.5 and almost 2 so will be interesting but this post is giving me great ideas to be organized and make it as successful as possible. Thank you so much for such a wonderful blog:)

  7. My youngest is 7 years old, but I still keep the van stocked with a container of baby wipes. I just seal it in a gallon ziploc bag so they don't dry out, but they have been invaluable many times for spills, sticky hands, and getting stains out of clothing or upholstery. Another thing I would add for trips is a roll of paper towels for using as napkins, kleenex if needed, or cleaning up spills.

  8. I have just been using what I call the 'art bag' in our car, for drawing supplies (crayons, markers, pens, pencils, notebooks, colorbooks, etc). And, there are always a few books in there too; but, I love the idea of the plastic containers for snacks and other items. The bag seems to overflow at times and get all messy, but the containers with lids seem ideal.

  9. We add carrot and celery sticks and use unopened ranch dressing packets to dip in.

  10. In our vehicles we packed a small diaper kit in an empty wipes container. A diaper, cream, wipes (in a baggie) and even an extra onesie will all fit into a wipe container and stores easily in the trunk or under a seat. If you're a mom with young ones and use wipes you don't even have to go buy another container to keep your things.

  11. I am also a huge fan of a change of clothes for everyone. I have tried just packing spare kids clothes, but somehow that is the time when I get peed, pooped, or thrown up on. So I have learned to have spare clothes for me as well as the kids.

    Oh and we always have a case of bottled water in the trunk. We never have to buy vending machine water, and we avoid the sugary drinks that way.

  12. My van has a drawer under the front passenger seat. I keep a complete change of clothes for both of my older kids, a small first aid kit, a few feminine items and a multipurpose tool (Leatherman). I also keep an old shoe box in the middle row (within my reach) of baby toys for my youngest and my older two keep toys in the small cubbies beside each of their seats. Maybe I should start keeping extra diapering supplies and a change of clothes for the youngest also (just in case I forget the diaper bag)…

  13. I keep a very ugly diaper bag I got as a gift in the van stocked with sealed snack size food, changes of clothes for each of the kids and me, diapers, and wipes. I love this post. Great tip for moms!!

  14. I never ever ever leave the house without a change of clothes for my daughter- I keep a set of extra clothes socks underwear in the car at all times. 🙂