30 Car Essentials for Travel with Kids

30 essential car items for travel with kids
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I was a child of the 80’s with a very young, free spirited mother.  

My mom loaded up our 1978 gray Ford Pinto with 3 essentials when we hit the road:

1- a cooler (cokes and beer) 

2- Pringles

3- a blanket

Really, what more did you need in the 80’s? 

Hopefully I had my swimsuit on under my clothes, and sunscreen was a hit or miss!  

Ford Pinto 70's

My how times have changed.  

Or maybe it’s just my intense desire to turn our car into a rolling survival kit…

Whatever the reason, I like to keep it stocked for whatever situation might arise as we travel throughout the summer months. 

Here is my ultimate list of 30 car essentials for travel with kids: 


1. Ibuprofen/benadryl/medicine

You just never know when or where a headache, allergic reaction, upset stomach or any other issue might arise.


2. Paper towels or napkins

Spills and accidents are pretty much a given when kids and travel are involved.  A roll of paper towels or some napkins work great to limit the mess.


3. Quarters

Quarters are great to have on hand in case of a toll road or for rest area vending machines.


4. First aid kit with band-aids

It’s a good idea to keep a small first aid kit in the glove compartment so that you have some basic items like antiseptic wipes and band-aids for minor cuts and scrapes.


5. Bottled water

Bottled water is not just for quenching a thirst.  It works in a bind for everything from rinsing off a pacifier to brushing teeth.


6. Ziplock bags

Whoever thought of ziplock bags obviously knew they solved multiple problems!  They can be used for everything from holding snacks to emergency ice bags.


7. Wet washcloth in a ziplock bag (or wipes)

For anyone (like me) who has still not learned that a kid eating an ice cream in the car is not a good idea!  


8. Sunscreen

Keep sunscreen in the car so that you don’t end up having to pay double the price for it in a tourist spot!  


9. Plastic grocery bags

A trash bag, an uh-oh sick bag, a wet clothes bag… plastic grocery bags can be used for all kinds of situations!


10. Hand sanitizer

Hand sanitizer is great to have after shopping (think grocery cart handles) or when lots of hand shaking takes place and you need a quick soap substitute!


11. Scissors or a pocket knife

Scissors or a pocket knife can become emergency tools for all kinds of repairs.   


12. Flashlight

The motto around here is “never leave home without a flashlight!”  💡 


13. Umbrella

An umbrella can help make the difference between soaking wet or partially wet when the only other alternative is to make a run for it or use #9.  


14. Bugspray

This might be more location dependent, but my home state is included in the 10 buggiest cities in the US!  Tip:  A not so secret effective and simple solution for bug repellant in the Southeast is Johnson’s creamy baby oil.  It stays out of stock in our neck of the woods!

15. Pens & notepad

If you’re stuck in traffic or a drive thru, having pens & notepad is great for adding to the to-do list or making one!


16. DVD’s

If you’re lucky enough to have a car with a built-in DVD player or you have a portable one, these are sanity savers when it comes to a long trip! 


17. Phone & Chargers

Phones & chargers are a given these days, but having an extra charger in the car can take away the stress from forgetting it.  We drive used cars and have to add a few things to keep us up with tech.  Our favorite is an extension mount charger with USB ports.


18. Sunglasses

A spare pair of sunglasses in the car will save you on a bright sunny day!   😎 


19. Blanket

A blanket can be used as a makeshift towel or to keep the cold natured people in the car happy.  


20. Spare change of clothes

Kids.  You just never know.  


21. Tablets/headphones

Tablets are great when you hit that long stretch of road and the kids are reaching their limits of sitting in one place.  


22. Snacks

Don’t get caught with a car full of people with the hangries!  Snacks are both a way to keep the kids occupied and keep the hangries under control.  


23. Books or magazines

If you’re one of the lucky people who does not get car sick when reading, then road trips are the perfect opportunity to get caught up on a book or some magazines.  


24. Nail clippers

Hang nails are annoying and distracting!  Having a set of nail clippers in the car is a quick fix!


25. Printed directions/tickets

There are still a lot of places with little or no cell service.  Printed directions are a back-up plan!  


26. Jumper cables

A set of jumper cables solves an urgent problem when you accidentally leave on the inside lights or find yourself away from home with a dead battery.  


27. Gum or mints

Gum or mints are not just for fresh breath.  They can be a real help when you’re somewhere in a higher altitude and your ears start to pop!  


28. Toys

This is when all of those Happy Meal toys actually come in handy!  Some dollar store toys or those that haven’t been played with in awhile can provide a much needed distraction on the road.  


29. Hair brush or comb & rubber band

For cases of “car ride bed head” when you’re finally getting closer to the destination or a restaurant!


30. Spare keys

Spare keys can prevent a really stressful and costly situation! 


Anything you would add to this list?  Happy and safe traveling with kids!

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