Don’t Leave Home Without It: Must Haves for Your Summer Road Trips


I grew up 320 miles north of Knoxville, so quite literally “from birth” my kids have been strapped in tightly and hauled across both Kentucky state lines. While I don’t fancy myself a professional car packer, after six years of schlepping kids, I do have some experience in attempting to keep the peace in the car.

In fact, as I write this post, I’m enjoying all the comforts the Macon, Georgia Marriott has to offer. Our annual “friend vacation” to the beach begins tomorrow and we’ve just spent almost five hours driving down I-75. Thankfully, while we heard our share of “don’t touch me/this” and “I’m hungry,” we didn’t hear too many “I’m bored” or “when are we gonna be there?” comments.

As with most things in parenting, the “perfect car bag” is sort of a moving target. We’ve tweaked its contents as the kids have gotten older, but we’re in sort of a sweet spot right now. This is what we put in it:


Tricked you with this first one! I don’t often pack any snacks. I do fill a water bottle for each of my kids, but part of the fun of a road trip is getting to peruse the snack aisle at a gas station. Waiting until we stop for gas to get a snack gives me an extra way to bribe the kids, too. “If you don’t get along back there, we won’t stop for a snack…” Sometimes expensive and a bit of a waste of cash? Of course. BUT, this one goes a long way when we’re all breathing each other’s air for half a day!


I ditched all the big plastic DVD cases and instead keep our car movies in one of those CD storage cases. It’s easy for little hands to flip through and it zips up so everything stays in place. We have those dual portable DVD players so they each jam out to their own movie, via their own headphones.


I’m totally not uptight about electronics in the car. At home we have rules around when we do and don’t play on the iPads, but in the car I really don’t care. We have some great games that are both fun AND educational {wow, I feel like a real mom for saying that}, so in some cases we encourage them to keep playing!


When we’re at home, one of the favorite pastimes is “art projects” around the kitchen table. While I’m not about to break out the scissors, glue and glitter in the car, I always have a stash of plain paper and markers at the ready. My son loves creating his own robots, and tonight I begged him to take a break from that genre and draw a picture of us at the beach. He obliged – complete with “fancy eyelashes and lipstick” because evidently I had just come straight from a “special occasion.” Ha ha! Whatever floats your boat, buddy!


This is one you’re going to want to stash in your back pocket for your next trip. Shamelessly stolen from my amazing friend Katie, we give the kids a stack of quarters for the ride. Whenever they whine, fight, talk back, etc., they give us a quarter. Whatever is left at the end of the journey is theirs to keep. My little money grubbers love filling their banks {or their bellies at one of our gas station stops} once we arrive home.

Now that you know what is in my car bag – what’s in yours?!


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