I remember the first time we went on a weekend road trip with little kids. My daughter was just a baby then, and my husband and I filled our Honda Accord to the brim with every item she could possible need: the pack and play, the baby papasan, several board books, several stuffed animals, the play mat, multiple changes of clothing, and a pack of extra diapers. As you might expect, we ended up using about a third of the items we packed.
These days, my husband and I are a bit better about putting together our vacation packing list for a weekend road trip. We have a bigger car now, to accommodate more people in the family, and even though we have the extra space, we try not to pack a full car. But every once in awhile, we still end up bringing along something that doesn’t actually leave the car the entire trip. Sometimes it helps to have a list, at the very least to pare down our stuff to only the things that we need.
This post was updated on December 6, 2019.
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Going on a weekend road trip with our baby
We just returned from a weekend road trip down to Portland, Oregon, so I thought I’d share with you what we brought along for our trip. I like grouping things into categories, and in this list, the categories are clothes, toiletries, other items, snacks, and gear.
For our family of four, here’s what went into our suitcase for a weekend road trip.
Clothes for the parents
We try and pack as minimally as possible when it comes to clothes. That means reusing bottoms and mixing and matching outfit combinations. We try to stick to the same color combinations, so that we don’t have to pack whole outfits that can only be worn once.
Also, we separate out our traveling clothes from the clothes that get packed in the suitcase, but we still make sure that we can mix and match it with the rest of the clothes we pack. To keep our clothes organized, we like putting them in packing cubes.
Per parent, here’s what we packed for a weekend road trip:
– Two tops
– One cardigan, sweatshirt, or hoodie
– One pair of pants
– Two sets of underwear (plus one bra for me)
– One pair of socks
– One set of pajamas
Clothes for kids
Our kids’ clothes tend to be more in quantity than our own clothes, mainly due to the fact that they tend to get messy when they eat. Reusing clothes is not really an option for them. We like to pack one extra outfit in case they have an accident or a major spill on their clothes.
Per kid, here’s what we packed for our weekend road trip:
– Three tops
– Three bottoms
– Three pairs of underwear
– Three pairs of socks
– One sweater (not pictured)
– One set of pajamas
Toiletries for the weekend road trip
We have a nifty little toiletries bag that we take with us when we travel. I like it because it has three separate compartments, and you can lay it out flat so that you can see what are in the compartments. We pack small travel size bottles of shampoo or tubes of toothpaste in order to conserve space.
Here’s what we packed for all four of us for our weekend road trip:
– Four toothbrushes
– Two tubes of toothpaste (one for grown-ups and one for kids)
– One comb
– Hair ties
– Two bottles of shampoo (one for grown- ups and one for kids)
– One bottle of lotion
– One tube of chapstick
– Nail clippers
Since we have a toddler, we also packed enough pull-ups and wet wipes for the weekend. We converted the day pack portion of our backpack carrier into a diaper bag, which makes carrying it around convenient and discreet.
Even though we try and stick with the bare essentials when we travel, it is nice to have a bit of entertainment. When traveling with kids, it’s okay to let them bring a couple of toys along for the ride. This helps them feel comfortable and to have something familiar in an unfamiliar environment, but it also helps them pass the time while on the road.
We also like to give them blank notebooks and crayons to color and draw. Our favorite notebooks are the Moleskine cahier journals. My daughter is a prolific drawer, and will go through these notebooks before the trip is through. I’m also not opposed to using the iPad on the road if need be, although this is usually brought out at the end of the trip when we’ve all been in the car for a long time and need some time to decompress.
Here’s what went into our activity bag for our weekend road trip:
– Two stuffed animals or a toy
– Two blank notebooks
– Two small bags of crayons
– Two iPads
– Two pairs of headphones
– Two iPhones (not pictured)
– Two chargers and a car adapter (not pictured)
Although we usually pick up snacks while we’re on the road, it’s nice to pack along some snacks since gas station prices can add up over the course of a road trip. Plus, the selection at gas stations are sometimes lacking.
Here are the snacks we took along with us during our weekend road trip:
– Fruit (stick with sturdy fruits that you can throw into a bag, like apples or oranges)
– Plantain chips (my kids love the plantain chips from Trader Joe’s, and they are a healthier alternative than standard potato chips)
– Trail mix or nuts
– Four bottles of water
– Sunflower seeds (my husband and I like to munch on these while we drive)
– Plastic cups (for eating snacks)
Now that our kids are older, we don’t bring as much gear when we travel, but there are still some necessities. It’s good to have a sturdy backpack. I bought a travel backpack from REI almost eight years ago, and we still use it today. It has two compartments, which makes it perfect for keeping your clothes separated from your toiletries. The bag also came with a day pack, but that was unfortunately stolen while we were vacationing in Costa Rica several years ago.
For our family, this bag is usually not enough to carry everything, so we usually supplement with a couple of sturdy canvas tote bags. We use the tote bags to hold the other items and snacks. It also helps to pack a stroller if you’re traveling with kids.
We bring our umbrella stroller, which we bought at Target for less than $20, since it folds up really well and doesn’t take that much space. Another nice thing to have is a backpack carrier, especially if you’re planning to do some hiking, like what we did on our weekend road trip.
Here’s a list of the gear we took along:
– One travel backpack
– Two canvas tote bags
– One umbrella stroller
– Backpack carrier (not pictured)
Limiting what you pack for a weekend road trip
It’s surprising how little room all that stuff took in our car. For such a short weekend road trip (it’s only a three hour drive from Seattle to Portland), we didn’t need very many things to keep our kids occupied in the car. And keeping the snacks and activities in the back seat, within reach, helped to prevent us from needing to make very many stops.
The key to packing for a weekend road trip with babies, in my opinion, is to limit what you pack. Most things you may need will be available at your destination.
Have you done a weekend road trip with babies? What are your packing tips? Share them in the comments.
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