10 Essential Items For The Family Car Trip

10 Essential Items For The Family Car 540

We have made a few trips to my home town of Mildura recently and I have collated a little check list of the essential items that we must have for the long drive.

(1). Healthy Food.

I like to make a food pack for each child so they can eat when they feel hungry. I find that if the kids eat junk food while travelling their behaviour deteriorates, so I try to keep the food as healthy as possible. I generally make homemade treats, so at least I know they are not preservative and additive laden.

The additional positives to packing our own food is that it is much cheaper and it gives us much greater flexibility with regard to stopping. My little ones tend to wake once the car stops so if they are sleeping, we just keep going, if the others are hungry they can eat from their pack.

(2). Water (Lots)

It is amazing how thirsty you can get sitting in a car. I will fill around four large water bottles and then use them on the trip to refill the children’s individual drink bottles if they need it.

(3). Mini First Aid Kit

For us this includes simple items like band aids, Panadol, Dimetapp, Clarantyne and  tissues. I have had to use some of the medicines on occasion, so prefer to have them packed in a handy to access place in the car. If we don’t use them in the car, we may need them when we arrive at our destination at some point.

(4). Wet Face Washers

I also put one of these with the children’s food packs. Fruit can often be sticky and you need something wet to clean little hands and faces.

(5). Children’s Activities

At the end of my very long post about Planning For the Easter Holidays you will find links to a number of different sites to print out children’s activities. They span for kids aged 2 to 9.

I have also created one of my own, which is called Spot The Sign Game. The children simply put a stroke near all the things that they see during a defined time period. Initially when I did this I just let it run, but found it runs out of steam if there is no purpose.

Now we agree on a time frame for observing items. We will choose one sheet at a time. Each child nominates what they think will be the most and least popular items that we spot.

By setting up the game in this way, we can have a couple of sessions through out the trip and maintain the children’s interest. The below link is the word document of this game which you can download and edit for your trip.

Spot The Sign Game

(6). Audio Books and CDs

So far I have resisted the temptation to purchase a portable DVD player and we still rely on the CD player as a source of entertainment. We also compile playlists on my iPhone and play those through out the trip as well.

We have a rotation system, where every one has a choice and keep taking it in turns until we arrive at our destination. I compiled a list of my favourite audio books here and be sure to check the comments as well. There were some fabulous suggestions made by readers.

(7). Secret Stash

This flies in the face of point one above, but I always like to have a stash of emergency treats if all seems to be on the edge of falling apart. Small packets of chips or tiny teddies work well for us and there is no melting possibility which is also good.

(8). Pillows

To be honest this one is probably for me more than the kids. Their flexible little bodies don’t seem to stiffen like mine does if I fall asleep in the wrong position.:) But I think the kids do find them comforting as well.

(9). Small Sheet or Towel

This item has a dual purpose:

  • We don’t have shaded windows, so it can be wedged in the window to block out sun if it is annoying any of the children.
  • Thankfully even though I suffered badly from travel sickness as a child, my children do not. We have encountered a gastro sickness though when travelling, so to have a towel or other cloth item to clean up mess is incredibly helpful.

(10). A Flexible Attitude

When we travelled as a child from Mildura to Melbourne, we would have one very quick stop in the 6 hour drive and that was it. The drive was just that a drive to get from A to B.

We tend to make ours more like a journey, stopping where needed (this is determined by the level of whining/fighting etc!!!) at local parks to let the kids stretch their legs and have a play. We have created many great memories from our stops along the Calder Highway.

Once we reload everyone into the car, I find that we are all refreshed and in better spirits.

What tips do you have to ensure a fun and safe car trip?


  1. says

    We always travel with the portable DVD player on car trips -it’s a lifesaver for the 5 year old. That plus colouring books and pencils keeps her pretty happy. We have a great travel art centre from ELC, which is like a stable table with spots for paper and pencils etc.

    Like you, I also make sure we’ve got lots of snacks – my kids are the same – they wake up if we stop so we try not to until they wake up.

    I love the idea of the individual packs – I know Guerita would be excited to have her own little lunchbox/bag with all “her stuff” in it and maybe it would minimise all the requests for food (and all that twisting into the back seat!)

    Gueras last blog post..Happy Mother’s Day

  2. says

    As my children have gotten older (14,12,11 and 4) they pack their own car bag. Over the years I have taught them to put aside those things that would be good on a trip like : little dolls, hand held games (with a mute), good books, activity books, restaurant trivia games (from kids meals).
    When we see something during the course of the year that would entertain for awhile, we put them in the “car bag” so that they are with us on ball trips, vacations or traveling to Grandma’s.
    They’ve been trained to spot good toys and aren’t tempted to bring things with lots of little pieces or something not all that good for the car like a ball!

  3. says

    great ideas – my husband got a car DVD when we traveled to Queensland in Nov … not that we put it in till we arrived in Gympie 1000+kms later.
    So we could have got by. Thye still don’t watch hardly any TV.

    We had to stop every 2 hrs or so – breastfeeding and food, and short playtime though.

    Trishs last blog post..I am finished …

  4. says

    You are spot on about the decent healthy food – and the secret treats!

    We drive a lot and have found one of those ‘stable tables’ for each of the kids is great on a long car trip. It just makes playing in your lap a little bit easier.

    For this last holiday I bought the girls a little mp3 player each (really cheap off ebay) and loaded them up with our spoken stories – although I loathe to think of my kids ‘plugged in and switched off’ to the world around them all the time this as a life saver for us as it stopped the arguing about stories and the tears etc etc.

    katefs last blog post..Anyone for Cheese?

  5. says

    What great ideas PQ! We do a lot of “spot it” too which passes the time easily. We’ve also got a lot of the Magic sticker playscenes which keeps my 5 year old quiet for a long time (which is nice sometimes as he’s forever chatting!).

    We take turns in telling stories – each one of us makes up a line of a story, and the next person continues etc and it becomes a very funny story.

    I also have a stash of secret toys/things that they haven’t seen before. These are my secret weapons! It works a treat and especially if you wrap it up … even better!

  6. says

    Great tips! My kids have ‘quillows’ in the van that Grammy made–a fleece blanket that folds up into a pillow, so a 2-for-1 deal and more compact way to keep a blanket in the van for them! I also try to take with us a folder or binder with some of their favorite rhymes, songs & fingerplays to sing together as we go. (if they’re in the right mood, of course! My oldest is 4, so this probably won’t keep them interested for too many more years.)

    I enjoy your concise and practical ideas, keep it up! Thanks for leaving a comment at my blog. :)

  7. says

    Great tips! I love audio books in the car – it makes the time seem to fly. In fact, I use them just driving around doing errands too – it makes getting stuck in traffic much less frustrating.

    Thanks for visiting over at my blog. I look forward to the day I can use more of you planning with kids tips.


    Jennifer at Joy of Frugal Livings last blog post..Biscuits!!!

  8. PlanningQueen says

    Guera – The packs really help me with the turning around issue. If i do this too much I start to get motion sickness!

    Jena – Hope you have a fantastic trip.

    JB – I know what you mean about toys with little pieces. We have learnt the hard way on that one.

    Trish – When I was breastfeeding my youngest and made the trip to Mildura one time, it ending up taking 8 hours will all the stops and was such an exhausting trip.

    Katef – I have never thought of using stable tables. They would be perfect for in the car.

    ickle kids- you are such a prepared mum! Hope your current travelling goes well.

    Melanie – The quillows sound like a gorgeous idea!

    Jennifer – Thank you for dropping by my blog.

    Preschool Mama – I think my kids would love the cloud formation game. Shall give that one a try.