10 Must-Haves for Happy Road Trips With Little Kids

little kids in car on road trip

Little kids and long road trips go together like peanut butter and, uh, tuna salad. Which is to say that small children and travel are NOT always two great tastes that taste great together, if you know what I mean. Still, at some point this summer, you'll most likely have to spend a substantial amount of time in a moving vehicle with your tot.


My kids are older now (though not too old to whine about how much longer and are we there yet over and over again), but I remember their early adventures quite well -- how could I possibly forget?

Anyway, if you want to survive that substantial amount of time, you'll need to arm yourself accordingly. Here are 10 tried-and-true must-haves for any road trip with kids ... don't leave home without 'em!

1. A folding travel potty. Do I even need to explain why this one is an essential? Trust me, rest stops don't just materialize out of thin air! Roadside assistance, indeed.

2. Crackers. I never got carsick as a kid, so I wasn't sure what to do when my daughter turned out to be a queasy rider. I learned quickly, though -- crackers, nibbled slowly, one at a time. (Nothing fancy, either. Just plain old crackers.)

3. Baby wipes. Not just for those potty breaks -- baby wipes are essential for clean-ups on the go (sticky hands, runny noses, sweaty feet -- you name it, they make it less yucky).

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4. Hand-held video games. Not that they have to be "games," per se -- basically, anything that lights up, makes sound, and holds your toddler's attention for a while will do -- a few kid-specific apps on your tablet (that don't require WiFi) really work. Just make sure you have a car charger or extra batteries or whatever you need to keep it going.

5. A metal cookie sheet. Confused? A cookie sheet (especially one with upturned edges) on a kid's lap makes a fabulous tabletop for coloring, spelling with magnetic fridge letters or playing with little toys.

6. Kids' ibuprofen or pain reliever. Because there's nothing worse than a rapid-onset earache or fever or whatever else when you're still hours away from your destination.

7. Audiobooks. Whether it's to play for everyone in the car or on a smartphone or tablet for one kid, it's better than watching a movie for carsick types!

8. Emergency clothes. I know you've got a whole suitcase full of outfits in the trunk, but those aren't easy to access if there's a spill/accident while you're barrelling down the highway. An extra change of clothing in the backseat can be a lifesaver.

9. Side window shades (or sunglasses). You'll understand the first time you get this backseat complaint: Mommeeeee! The sun in my eyes! Make it go away!

10. A forbidden fruit. This is different for every kid -- maybe it's a certain type of treat or maybe it's Mommy's charm bracelet. The point is to have something with you that your child isn't ordinarily allowed to play with or eat or whatever. So when all else fails, BAM! Look what I have!

Bon voyage! (And good luck!)

What are your road trip must-haves?

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