Family Road Trip Packing List: 9 Essentials You’ll Need

Is the thought of hitting the open road calling?  No matter whether it be a road trip to camp, caravan, stay at a self-catering chalet or a luxury vacation, which all involve packing up the car before you head out on the open road.

I live in Western Australia – the road trip state. We have been taking road trips to explore our great state for years and in doing so I have perfected the art of packing for a family road trip. Join me as I share with you the essentials I take for a road trip including documents, personal items, food plus snacks and activities to enjoy along the way.

In this Article You Will Learn What to Pack for a Road Trip

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9 Essentials to Pack for a Road Trip

Let’s look at all the things you need to bring on a road trip including documents, emergency kit, first aid kit, personal items, food, linen, road trip snacks and activities plus ideas for pitstops

1. Documents

On long drives, you often end up in areas with no mobile reception.  This means that you may not have access to Google Maps or your emails with your booking confirmations.  With that in mind, it is advisable to print copies of some of your documents.


  • Maps
  • Booking confirmations
    • Accommodation
    • Tours

Additional documents you will need for the road trip include:

  • Driver’s license
    • International drivers license (if you are overseas)
  • Passport if you are driving between countries
  • Medicare and private health cards (in case of emergency)
  • Travel insurance documents
  • Roadside assistance

Discover the entire…

2. Emergency Kit for the Car

The next step is to get the car ready for the journey.   Nobody expects to break down or get a flat tyre.  However, the last thing you want is to be broken down in the middle of nowhere and not be able to try and fix the issue.

Most cars come with some emergency equipment like a jack and spare tyres.  Check that they are in working order and the spare is fully pumped up.  To stay safe on the side of the road include some compact tools like:

  • Safety cones
  • Jumper leads
  • Screwdrivers

You can either get these items individually or buy a kit like this one*.

Before you leave home check over your car:

  • Pump up tyres
  • Fill up with fuel
  • Clean the windscreen
  • Top up the windscreen wiper fluid
  • Check the oil

Read all our…

3. First Aid Kit

Sometimes it is us who needs the assistance, not the car.  As you endeavour on long car trips you stop to explore locations and little injuries may occur along the way.  Have a few basic first aid items on hand.  I like to include:

  • Paracetamol
  • Antiseptic lotion
  • Band-Aids’
  • Bandage

Put together in my own first aid bag*.

Or create your own…

4. Personal Items

When packing clothing, the type and amount of clothes to choose from will depend on your individual trip.  Take into consideration:

  • How many days you are away
    • Taking enough outfits for each day
  • Or are there washing facilities
    • Don’t forget to include laundry powder
    • I portion out detergent into small ziplock bags (one for each load of washing
  • The weather – allow for sudden changes, always include
    • Hat
    • Jacket
  • Activities planned – will you be
    • Swimming
    • Skiing
    • Hiking
    • Evenings out to restaurants or sitting by the campfire

As well as your clothing you will also need toiletries.  Check what is already provided at your accommodation and then pop the following items into a toiletry bag* to help keep your clothing dry.

  • Toothbrush/toothpaste
  • Shampoo/conditioner
  • Hairbrush/comb
  • Shower gel/soap
  • Deodorant
  • Shaving equipment
  • Makeup

Ensure you have everything with this…

5. Food

Stays in caravan parks, chalets and cabins are what often spring to mind when you think of a road trip.  This may mean packing food for your meals.

Start with considering:

  • The number of days you are away
  • Which meals’ you will be preparing
  • The type of meals you will provide eg.
    • BBQ’s
    • Sandwiches
    • Reheating frozen meals
  • What supermarkets and farmers’ markets are available en route or at your destination
  • What facilities do you have to use at your accommodation
dining table and small kitchen with box of self catering items on the bench

Check what kitchen amenities are included at your accommodation in regards to crockery, cutlery, pots and pans.  You may need to pack these as well.

Sadly at the end of the meal, you need to wash up.  Again check with your accommodation what is provided.  You will want:

  • Dishwashing liquid
  • Cloth and scourer
  • Tea towel

To complete your meal planning and packing use the…

6. Linen

If you are caravanning or camping you will definitely need to pack linen.  If you are staying in self-catering accommodation you will need to check with the individual establishment as to what is included.  Let us assume you need everything.

  • Sheets or at least a fitted sheet for the mattress
  • Blankets or sleeping bag
  • Pillow
  • Bath towel
  • Face wash
  • Beach towel (if you will be swimming)

Top Trip Tip: I like to take my own pillow regardless as I get a better night’s sleep

7. Snacks for the Road

To help you stay alert and hydrated as your continue with your long drive it is important to have water and snacks at hand.

When choosing your water bottle, choose one with a sippy spout or straw, this will help prevent spillages as you drive.

If you are taking the kids make sure you choose food they like.  Ideas for snacks include:

  • Crackers
  • Potato chips
  • Rice wheels
  • Tiny Teddys
  • Muesli bars
  • Dried fruit
  • Cut vegetables

Some of these you can buy in snack-size versions at your local supermarket or create or own using stackable small storage jars.  These ones are cool* as you can put the stack of jars into a cup holder for easy access.

COMING SOON: Healthy Snacks for Road Trips.

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8. Activities for Kids

When planning road trip activities for the kids you need to take into consideration their age and their ability to cope with motion sickness.  For example, my son feels ill if he reads or watches his iPad whilst in the car, meaning I have to come up with lots of games ideas.  You on the other hand may be able to include books etc.

Some of our popular games include:

  • Eye Spy
  • Treasure hunt
  • Counting specific items
  • Granny went to the market and bought….

Other activities are:

  • Reading
  • Colouring
  • Small toys
  • Magnetic games
  • Card games

Pop all these items into either a seatback organiser* or one that sits in the middle of the back seat like this one*.

9. Plan Stops with Picnics

Eventually, you will need to stop along the way.  Part of your road trip planning should include choosing a pit stop location with toilets, a playground for kids and either a cafe or picnic grounds.

We often stop at a picnic ground, I have a small picnic set and then we grab a few items out of the Eski and head off to find a table.  It is all relatively simple but the important thing is to stretch your legs, and breathe some fresh air before getting back on the road.

Uncover more ideas on what to include in your…

Luggage Style Options to Load the Car

How you pack your items for a road trip will largely depend on:

  • The style of accommodation you have booked for your trip
    • Camping
    • Caravan
    • Self-catering chalet
    • Luxury accommodation
  • How much room you have in your car

To pack your personal items you could use:

  • Suitcase
    • We use one large one that fits our entire families things
    • The disadvantage of this is the shape is hard and rigid
  • Soft duffle bags
    • My sister uses a small one for each family member
    • Soft bags can also be easily moulded to spaces within the car
  • Plastic storage boxes or crates
    • These are great for camping
      • They keep your clothing dry
      • Prevent animals from getting in
    • If you are caravanning choose a box size that fits into the cupboard with wheels
      • This saves you carrying loose clothing to and from the caravan when loading
      • It also means the box can be used like a draw and you can easily reach everything right at the back of the cupboard
  • Another really nifty idea for your clothing is to pack them into soft storage boxes like these*.  You can have one for each person and when you arrive at your accommodation juts pop it into the wardrobe and your car is unpacked in moments.  Plus they are folding so when not in use they won’t take up as much room as sold plastic boxes or suitcases.

If you are self-catering add:

  • Cool box/eski
  • Plastic storage boxes for dry goods

Get more ideas for your…

Top Trips Tips: Loading the Car for a Long Road Trip

  1. Ensure your phone is fully charged before leaving
    • Emergency calls in Australia can be made through any mobile carrier
  2. Have your mobile phone connected to a hands-free device
  3. Pack the largest heaviest items at the back or bottom of the boot
  4. Keep items that you may want to access during the journey to the front
    • Items such as your cool box/Eski
    • Picnic set
    • Beach towels
  5. Do your best to keep your line of sight from the rearview mirror clear
  6. Keep snacks, water and road trip activities within reach

All the additional travel packing lists mentioned throughout this article include printable PDF checklists that you edit and use over and over, so you don’t’ forget to pack a thing on your next road trip.

Read all our Road Trip Tip Articles

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One Comment

  1. Hey Sally-Ann! My name is Allison and I LOVE packing so in the past months your pages have been helpful, exciting, and fun!

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