9 Road Trip Packing Hacks That Will Make Traveling With Kids + Pets a Breeze

Snacks? Check! Games? Check! Charged electronics? Check! Trashed car? NOPE!

Similar Topics:

Summer's here and family vacations are in full swing! Exploring new spots and spending some QT with the family is always a good thing, but in order to make sure you get the most out of your trip, we have some great packing hacks to share. Before you load up the kids in the car, keep reading for our favorite road trip packing hacks. (You'll thank us later.)

Bring Plenty of Snacks

Photo by: TipJunkie.com


Don't forget to bring snacks — seriously! Even if you’re taking an adults-only road trip, having a good selection of snacks can be the key to an enjoyable car ride. If your kiddos will be joining you on your trip, we love the idea of making a snack "tacklebox." You can fill up all the sections with your kids' favorites, including a good mix of vegetables, salty snacks and a couple of sweet treats. You can even switch up the offerings each day to make snacking more fun.

Use a Shower Caddy for Food

Photo by: Michaels


While we’re on the topic of food, it’s important to think through meals in the car with the whole family. If you plan to occasionally stop at a drive-thru, consider bringing a shower caddy to help the kids better manage their food (and keep things mess-free). The caddy will allow you to easily put a small meal (and even a drink!) all in one easy, lap-friendly spot.

Don't Forget About Trash

Photo by: Tara Kuczykowski, Unsophisticook.com

Tara Kuczykowski, Unsophisticook.com

Something that many of us don’t think about before a long trip in the car is what we will do with all the trash. A great solution in the car is to use a plastic cereal container with a lid. You can line it with a grocery bag to be sure that you won’t have any unexpected spills. The bag will be easy to dispose of the next time you stop for gas.

Pack an Emergency Kit

Photo by: EndlesslyInspired.com


Another important must-have for a road trip is a car emergency kit. Hopefully you won’t need it, but you definitely want to be prepared for any and every circumstance. Put your kit together according to the unique needs of your own family, but a few good things to include are: band-aids, antibiotic ointment, adult and children's asprin, Tums, wet wipes, hand sanitizer, instant ice packs, tweezers, headache medication, allergy meds and some stashed bottles of water. 

You’ll also want to prepare for any automotive-related emergencies, including a flashlight and jack and jumper cables. (You might also want to consider getting AAA coverage before you embark on your trip.)

Download Some Apps

Photo by: TV Food Maps

TV Food Maps

These days there are a number of great apps you can download on your phone before a road trip to help you navigate, find interesting places to stop, play games or even to find the best prices on gas.

An app that I really love (and use even when I’m not on a road trip!) is TV Food Maps. It gathers info from a variety of shows on both the Food Network and Travel Channel to let you know which restaurants around you have been featured on TV before. This route from Knoxville, Tenn. to Charleston, S.C. pinpoints 47 restaurants featured on your favorite food-centric shows, from Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives to Man v. Food.

Get All Charged Up

Photo by: The Container Store

The Container Store

With the whole family in the car, you’re likely going to need the ability to charge more than one device at a time. If your car only has one USB charging port, you might need an adapter that will allow you to charge up to four devices at once. If you happen to have two USB ports in your car, you can have twice as many devices charging, which is great when people have multiple devices such as phones, Kindles or iPads.

Skip All the Luggage + Try Plastic Drawers

Photo by: PrincessPinkyGirl.com


This is an interesting solution for a longer road trip: don’t stuff the back of the car with multiple pieces of luggage and instead try a set of plastic drawers. This is much more convenient when you're going into different hotel rooms each night and don’t want to lug in everything you brought for the entire trip. This type of setup allows you to just easily grab pajamas and a few toiletries, then leave the rest of the gear in your car.

Use a Shoe Organizer to Store Toys + Games

Photo by: See Vanessa Craft

See Vanessa Craft

Whether you’re taking a short trip or a longer getaway, you’ll definitely want to have plenty of games and activities to keep the kids busy. One of the best ways to organize everything is in a shoe organizer hanging on the back of the seat. If you only have a longer shoe bag, simply cut it to the proper size of your car seat.

Make sure to bring along a few of your kids' favorite games and toys, as well as some great go-to activities like playing cards. Even small stuffed animals can fit in the pockets, and they'll be great to have at night when you're traveling from one hotel room to the next.

Don't Forget About Your Pets

Photo by: Amy Burkert, GoPetFriendly.com

Amy Burkert, GoPetFriendly.com

If your pet is joining you on your road trip, don’t forget to pack all the necessities that they might need on the journey. Some must-have items include food and treats, waste bags, a couple of towels (to wipe off dirty paws), a few toys and a dog bed to keep in the back of the car and bring with you into hotels. You should also bring your pet’s vaccination papers, just in case any of the hotels require it.

DIY Kids' Road Trip Art Kit

Think of this portable art kit as your 'are we there yet' insurance.

Keep Kiddos Busy

Next Up

It's Hot Out There! 7 Ways to Keep Pets Cool This Summer

Keep your furry BFFs sun-safe with these tips and cool-down tricks.

5 Tricks to Make Spring Cleaning Fun

Yes, you read that right. We've got tips to get the whole family motivated to join in on the seasonal cleaning spree.

Chic Rugs That Make Having Pets So Much Easier

We took a deep dive into the world of pet-friendly rugs and are ready to share tips and tricks for fellow pet people.

Buy or DIY? Fun Pet Products for Your Furry Friends

HGTV Magazine found 20-plus fun products you can buy, or you can try your hand at one of our DIY projects.

10 Kid-Friendly Snacks for Your Next Road Trip

Make those long car rides run even smoother with these kid-proof snack ideas.

11 Expert Tips for a Colorful, Personality-Filled Kids Room

We asked the kids' space gurus at J&J Design Group to give a girls' room and a boys' room a virtual makeover. Get their tips to copy the look.

4 Last-Minute Kids' Costumes Made From a Basic Hoodie

Let's just pretend you've been planning this all month. 

Check Out This Kid-Friendly and Contemporary Home

A family wanted a house that was not only kid friendly, but better suited for entertaining. Designer Claire Paquin worked with them to create an elegant, contemporary space that included multiple seating areas, a billiards room and a master suite for the parents' own personal retreat.

Meet the Team

Get to know the talented writers and editors of HGTV's show and design blog. 

Go Behind the Blog

From the Archives

Take a look back at our past posts, from entertaining and design trends to up-and-coming HGTV shows.  

Read All Our Past Posts