Family Road Trip Essentials: Surviving the Journey with Babies and Toddlers

Embarking on a family road trip with a baby or toddler (or both!) in tow can seem like a daunting task. Finding a (clean) location to change diapers? Or continue potty training? Managing snacks, drinks, toys, etc. without them ending up all over the floor of the car? What to pack so you feel at home once you reach your destination? Fear not, fellow parents! With the right preparation and a few essential items, you can turn that potentially chaotic car ride into a smooth and enjoyable journey for everyone involved. Here are our tried-and-true recommendations to ensure your family road trip is a success!

  • Backseat Butler Family Car Organizer: This will be the MVP of every road trip, as it ensures your little one's needs are met without constant stops. Stock it with drinks, snacks (healthy and indulgent), toys, and, of course, wipes for all those inevitable messes in the specially-designed, parent-facing wipes pocket. It’s large and ready to be stuffed full of everything you need to keep within arms reach during your road trip. You can buy it on Amazon too!    
  • 3-IN-1 Toddler Travel Tray & Tablet Holder: This item gives the Backseat Butler a run for its money in the MVP voting, since it can be used for SO many purposes during road trips and beyond. Use as a sturdy lap tray for playing, coloring and eating, or flip over and attach to the back of a car headrest for a tablet holder and hours of quiet entertainment for your little one. Best part…it keeps the tablet out of their reach while a looooong movie is playing 😉 ensuring you much-needed, uninterrupted time. Use on strollers and planes as well! comes in Disney versions too, which your toddler will LOVE!     
  • Toys & Activities: Pack a variety of toys and activities to keep your little one engaged throughout the journey. Think interactive books/sensory boards, soft/crinkle toys, teethers, and loveys for babies and young toddlers. For older toddlers and young kids, we love ColorWonders/Imagine Inks, Melissa & Doug Puffy Sticker Books, WikkiStix, WaterWow, MakeAFace, Doodleboards and any other reusable sticker pads and magnetic play sets.
  • Trash Can with Extra Bags: Keep your car tidy by having a designated trash can with plenty of extra bags, along with wipes and paper towels for quick clean-ups. You’ll be surprised how quickly the trash piles up all over the place, and a dedicated trash can is essential. We like this one, but there are lots of good options.
  • Extra-Large & Packed-Up Diapering Station: If you’re still in diaper-change season, grab yourself this travel Diapering Station and stock it full with everything you’ll need for on the go diaper changes…diapers, wipes, disposable bags, diaper cream, wet bags, etc. The Diaper Station doubles as your changing station at your destination as well, and the changing pad fully detaches from the station to bring with you on daily adventures. 
  • Portable Potty Seat – Always Be Ready When They Are! For toddlers in the midst of potty training, a portable potty seat can be the reason they stick to their potty training when on the go, so make sure to pack one. There are types like these that are toppers for regular toilets, and others like this one that can top a regular toilet OR be used on it’s own, with disposable bags to attach. The second option is our favorite, especially for road trips as you never know when they’ll need to go and a potty may not be nearby.
  • Easy On/Off Shoes: Opt for footwear like Crocs or baby Birkenstocks that are easy for little ones to slip on and off, perfect for those impromptu roadside explorations AND for being shoes-off-cozy during long car rides.
  • Backseat Car Camera: Choose a backseat car camera like this one instead of a mirror for easier monitoring of your rear-facing child's activities. Cameras like this one are much more clear than a mirror and great at night as well. We highly recommend them for everyday adventures as well as road trips.
  • Stuffy/Lovey & Blanket…ALL the Cozy Things: Don’t forget your child’s favorite stuffed animal and small blanket for comfort during the journey. Car naps, or just resting, are made easier with snuggle buddies. Consider a neck pillow if your toddler is old enough and they’ll need to nap in the car. Some kids love them and will take naps with them, while others definitely don’t so it’s a 50/50 shot…but still worth it 😉
  • Window Shades & Portable Sound Machine: Create a cozy nap environment for your baby (and toddler) with window shades to block out sunlight and a portable sound machine to drown out road noise. Even a few minutes of slumber, or rest time, is helpful during long road trips. We like these window shades (or these if road-tripping Disneyland!) and this sound machine is super affordable and easy to attach to anything.
  • Snacks Galore: Keep hunger at bay with ALL the snacks. We recommend a larger, insulated bag like this 6 Bottle Bag that comes with an 8oz freeze solid ice pack, filled with a mix of healthy snacks like fresh fruits and veggies. You’ll appreciate having the ice pack during the rest of your vacation to keep fresh snacks cool. Then of course bring along the indulgent treats and use them to reward good car behavior. It’s a win-win for everyone!
  • Claw Grabber: Yep, you read that right. A Claw Grabber. The most important thing for everyone during long road trips is that you stay in your seat, properly and safely buckled. A claw grabber helps retrieve dropped toys, snacks, or pacifiers with ease and keeps everyone safely buckled. Plus, it’s fun and silly and your kids will get a kick out of mom’s (or dad’s) new toy!

By packing these essential items, you'll be totally organized and fully prepared to master your family road trip. Remember to also pack plenty of patience and a sense of adventure, as parenting is all about navigating the unexpected with as much grace as possible. Safe travels and #travelhappy!