Traveling with kids – Packing the Car Tips and Tricks

Traveling with kids is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get…

My parents always traveled with us 6 kids growing up. We never flew anywhere. Paul and I do the same with our kids, we drive any place that we have to go. For a few reasons…

  • 9 plane tickets is expensive
  • When we get there, no one has a vehicle that we can rent that will fit all of us. We have to rent 2 and that stinks.
  • They get to see the country
  • We get to spend more time together

Yes there are many drawbacks, but that is another post! There are a few things that I do to get ready each time. Make sure that the oil is changed, the car is vacuumed out, and the laundry is done.

Each child is allowed a back pack and a duffle bag or their rolling suitcase. The back pack goes on their lap or under their feet in the front of the car, this is what you can find in them:

  • Books
  • iPod and ear phones
  • 1 change of clothes and P.J.’s
  • Personal things they want to have with them while driving
  • Blankies

They are not allowed to drag a bunch of stuff into the car, all they can have is what they can fit in the backpack. This is also what they will bring into the hotel/motel when we stop. We don’t want to unpack the entire car each time we stop, so this is their overnight bag also.

In the duffle is the rest of anything they are bringing, all their clothing etc. Each child also travels anywhere we go, day to day in town as well, with a water bottle that is their own and that they are responsible for filling up when we stop.

Behind the driver’s seat, is where I always have had the baby seat. This works for us as a lot of open space for extra things since it is not interfering with anyones legs. I have 2 tall Rubbermaid’s with lids that hold a few important things…

First one is filled with all the snacks. I try and not get anything that has a lot of little wrappers as I don’t want them all over the car. This time we have fruit snacks, nuts, M&M’s, beef jerky, apples, granola bars etc.

Second one is the art box. This has anything that I am bringing for the kids to do. Crayons, colored pencils, paper etc. This box will also go in the back row under the little kids feet there, a big kid can help them get things out of it.

Last is the yellow bag you can see, this has diapers, wipes, books and a few things for the baby. I usually have a package of wipes in each row of the car. You always seem to need wipes!

In the back of the car are all the duffles and suitcases. Plus the cooler, unless it is on the hitch haul on the back of the truck, and a few more Rubbermaid’s.

I have a small bucket for all the electronic cords for all the devices that come along. Otherwise they are falling out of everywhere and kids are losing chargers. I have even written on the lid what we have with us on trips to keep from leaving a charger in a hotel room or a cord somewhere. Kind of anal I know…

The last few buckets are all the supplies to make breakfast ( if needed) lunch, and snacks on the road. We like to stop at rest stops or when we get gas, make sandwiches and swap out snacks. It really saves us a lot of money to not eat out along the way, plus it is just healthier for you.

A 6 pack of soda {the bottles with the tops on them} is $3.48 at Walmart. These 20 oz. sodas in a gas station are $1.39 – $1.59 each! I pay $.58 by getting them at Walmart before we leave and keeping them in the cooler. We stocked up on Goldfish from the mega event sale at Kroger last month for $1 each, price matched at Walmart. The chips I got at Randalls BOGO last week and the fruit was price matched at Walmart from Fiesta grocery store. I cut all the fruit up before we left and used leftover Glade Christmas containers to store it all in. I would rather have the kids snacking on fresh fruit then junk all day in the car. Somehow a large bag of M&M’s made it in… but that is ok! We are teaching the baby her colors and that is the only way to do it right?!

Traveling with the kids can be a lot of fun, you can even make it easier on yourself by having things for the kids to do in the car, and keeping the car uncluttered and organized.

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  1. Vee says

    I love that you guys do this. I also do something very similar but I only have 2 kids and a van. Each kid gets their suitcase full of clothes and such in the back and they each get a box in the car with toys they want to bring. It has to fit in the box or they don’t bring it. We also have 2 dvd players and a carrier for movies. I pack snacks and keep them in the front or the will constantly ask to eat something. We have a ziplock bag we throw all cords and chargers in and keep them in a door. Organization is the key when traveling with kids.

  2. Tricia says

    I only have one child and he only gets a pillow and a back pack in the car with him. The rest is in the trunk. We always pack snacks. And in the trunk is an overnight bag for the 3 of us and the dog.

  3. Tammy R in Ca says

    One thing I do is I have little back packs I fill all my snacks in snack bags ,I put enough for a day in each one.(I have a bag of pre done snacks to last the way there)So I don’t have to stop and get them out.I also buy little toys like hot wheels,cheap little hand held games, card games and such.The kids look forward to the toys at night when we stop for the night.It keeps them busy while I get everything ready for bed. For packing clothes I lay out pants,put a shirt on top,then undies and socks,I then fold in half and the kids just grab one bunch to wear that day. We travel to Mo.where we have a little cottage out there and some family. Its about 1500 miles one way there. (I have 4 kids home)

  4. Maricela says

    Thanks for the post. Now that we have a child of our own and have started traveling, your post reminded me of the things I loved when I traveled in the car with my parents, as a child. I would love for him to experience those same things! Bag of M&M’s and all LoL

  5. Julie says

    Exactly how we travel with our 5 kids! We did invest in tv/dvd players(WITH HEADPHONEs) built in the Suburban. BEST MONEY IVE EVER SPENT!!! We traveled alot more when everyone didnt have as many activities but have slowed in the last 2 years. Was so much fun, they now talk about our travels and have SO many good memories.

  6. Rebecca says

    We don’t get to travel out of town but any where I go we have everything packed in bags and containers. It’s great because the kids are learning to do the same and they know where everything is. Even baseball time I bought a red wagon that can stay in my car all the time, that is great for hauling all the groceries from the car to the house. People laugh at me because I pack for everything but they are always the first to not have something.. So who’s laughing now..LOL

  7. says

    I’ve used a lot of these same tricks for years with my 6 kids. They help relieve a great deal of stress! With the 1st one, I learned a few valuable tips. Especially if you only have 1 small child.
    My daughter wanted me to sing with her. I knew I would not last, singing constantly for 2 1/2 days in the car, so I recorded myself singing her favorite songs. She could have mama sing the same sing 20 times now, without being tired.
    Have more than 1 bag of travel toys. Switch them out to prevent boredom.
    Kids backpacks also contained a sweater or hoodie for drafty restaraunts or tours. Also a hat or visor and sunglasses on strings.

  8. Amy says

    Great information! I love the one backpack, one duffel rule. I always avoid buying soda to take along, thinking we will be healthy. Then we end up buying them at a gas station. This time I am packing them.


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