‘Tis the season to pack up the family car for a road trip or two (or three)! During the months of November and December it seems we are always busy cramming in all the last-minute family visits and activities on our yearly bucket list. And with all this traveling, things can get crazy. Luckily I have a great system for packing and loading up all the things to keep everyone organized–and sane.  I’m sharing my 6 tips for packing for a road trip with children!

Over the summer, many of my readers asked for tips for traveling with a toddler on a road trip.  I am by no means an expert, but I have friends who are because they travel in the car with their kiddos quite a bit.  They helped me generate this list of six tips to keep things running smoothly while traveling in a car with children.

6 Tips Packing Road Trip Children

Check out my tips for packing for a road trip with children, because sometimes it’s just easier when you drive instead of fly!

1. Make Lists

It’s probably no surprised that a professional organizer loves lists–but you should too! I start the packing planning by making lists of what each family member needs for the road trip.  Each individual family member gets their own list, making sure to include what specific items they need for the trip.  Include EVERYTHING that person nees: diapers, pony-tail holders, jewelry, shoes, SleepSacks, blankies, phone chargers…you name it, it should go on the list of things to pack.

I learned my lesson the hard way when I didn’t write that I needed the key to my parents’ house for our trip to Arizona.  When we got to their house, the garage door code box was broken, so we couldn’t get in!  Of course it’s the middle of summer so it’s like a million degrees, and we have baby Eli. So moral of the story is to write everything down!

Pro Tip:

I created this free PDF downloadable printable Packing Checklist for each family member.  I find it easier to keep things organized by having each family member have their own list. Packing for a road trip with children is easier with lists!

Outfits Packing

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2. Make Outfits For the Trip

Once my lists are made, I pull outfits for our trip. I do this for each person in the family so that I am not over-packing.  I take my list for one family member, and pull out clothes for the day, pajamas, socks, shoes, etc.  Then I make outfits based on possible trip activities. Are you hanging out at a house all week? Going out to a fancier dinner? Keep all of that in mind. I don’t plan specific days for the outfits, but I do try to have them packed together, making it easier to remember what goes with what.

Pro Tip:

When I make outfits for myself and my family, I rarely feel like I am missing something from home. When I pack for myself, I lay out each outfit with shoes, jewelry, and undergarments before packing.  I have some helpful tips for packing your jewelry here!

Boys Clothes Packing

© The Organized Mama.com | 2019

3. Pack in Laundry Baskets

It sounds a bit odd, I know…but whenever we go on a road trip, I pack in laundry baskets. I especially love using the Rubbermaid Stack N’ Sort Nesting laundry baskets because I can stack two baskets on top of each other in the back of our car.  And then I can get three baskets across the the trunk of the car.

I organize how I pack the clothes based on where each family member is sleeping.  The last time we went to my parents’ house, I slept upstairs in my old room with Eli.  Ben slept in the basement with Adleigh in the crib.  Because I didn’t plan for this sleeping arrangement, I had to sort the clothes many times and some clothes didn’t get worn because they didn’t make it to the room where that family member was sleeping.

This time, I packed each family member with their own laundry basket.  This way I know everyone will get their own clothes, diapers, toiletries, etc.  Then, I can use the laundry baskets to do laundry at my parents house. It really helps keep things organized while we are away from home.

Pro Tip:

I love packing in laundry baskets because it makes things so easy when we come home. Before departing, I sort all of our clothing into dirty and clean baskets. Then when we arrive home I can immediately get the dirty laundry in the washing machine!

Toiletries Make Up Packing

© The Organized Mama.com | 2019

4. Organize Your Toiletries

I typically pack my toiletries for a road trip the same as if I were flying (travel sizes), as it really keeps down the amount of stuff we have to bring for a long drive. I hate feeling super crammed into a car for a long road trip, so I always aim to pack light.

As I emphasized above, I put everything I need for toiletries on my list! I typically keep my make-up separate from my make-up brushes.  I put my make-up and brushes in pouches I get from the make-up counter.  Then my shampoo, face wash, contact solution, etc. goes into a plastic baggie in case anything spills. This happens a lot to me when I travel!

back pack road trip

© The Organized Mama.com | 2019

5. Load the Inside of the Car

Yay, you did it! All of your items are packed, now it’s time to load everything into the car. Start with the packing the important items first, such as the books, toys, and food.  I recommend keeping the cooler and baggies with snacks packed in arm’s reach near the passenger seat.  It makes things so much easier when the kids need a snack.

I hang the kids backpacks filled with books and activities to the back of the driver and passenger’s chairs using sturdy clips like this one. This way, they are able to grab their own activities while we are driving. I have horrible motion sickness, so me turning around constantly is just not a good idea!

Items like the diaper bag with diapers, wipes, and changing pad are packed on my daughter’s side of the car, closest to the door. This way I can easily access the diaper bag when we make stops without having to take everything out of the car just to get to the bag. I recommend putting anything you might need for pit-stops in the diaper bag, making it easy to grab and run into a restaurant, play space, or rest stop.

Pro Tip:

There are many items like computers and cameras that shouldn’t be stuck in the too hot or too cold trunk. I pack those items underneath the important bags and things needed for the actual trip (like the diaper bag)!

6. Load the Trunk

I put all five of our laundry baskets in the trunk of our Kia Sportage. It’s a bit snug, but I know nothing will really move around back there as we are driving.  Using the stacking handles of the laundry baskets, I stack them two-high and three-across.

When packing the laundry baskets, always put the fuller baskets on the bottom, and the baskets that don’t have as much stuff on the top. Since we only have five of the laundry baskets, we end up having one extra basket. That is the basket we fill with the kids bedding, pillows, shoes, and other larger items that might overflow the other baskets.  This way, we can pack it nice and high and it will stay in place because of the other two baskets.

Learn how to achieve car organization when you are on the go with professional organizer, The Organized Mama. Her tips will help you get organized. #carorganization #organized

© The Organized Mama.com | 2019

Packing for a road trip with children doesn’t have to be stressful. I hope these simple steps and ideas help you prepare and enjoy your next road trip!

  1. Make lists using my Packing Checklist.  Print off one checklist for each member of the family, write what they need, and check it off as you go.
  2. Plan out your clothes based on outfits, including jewelry and shoes, so you won’t forget anything you might need.
  3. Use stackable laundry baskets for each person, which make it easy to do laundry when you come home.
  4. Pack toiletries like you are flying on a plane to reduce the amount of stuff you are bringing on your road trip.
  5. Load the inside of the car by starting with the most used items first, then filling in the space around and under with other items you don’t need for the drive.
  6. Pack the laundry baskets in the trunk by putting the fuller laundry baskets on the bottom, and the rest of the baskets on top of them.  This way it will hold down everything in the fuller laundry baskets.

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I'm Jessica

I am a mom to two kiddos + a fur baby. I am wife to Ben. I enjoy coffee, gluten-free desserts, and sleeping in. And I am The Organized Mama. 

I help families make the every day more enjoyable with practical organizing, decorating, + diy tutorials to maintain order in your home!

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