Traveling soon? Download the new, free Family Road Trip Packing List

This Thursday, my family and I head out on a three-week road trip.  We’ve traveled a lot, both cross-country and worldwide, in a variety of cultures and climates.  And I’m amazed that each time, our packing list is more or less the same.

I’m a huge believer in packing light and not bringing the house in order to leave it. But isn’t it amazing how much the little people in our lives need?  And I’m talking about the things they actually need, because if it were up to my five-year-old, we’d bring every stuffed animal and Lego block we own.

You don’t need much, but you do need to pack smart. And a list really helps, in my opinion.

Several of you have asked for a master packing list, and it’s been awhile since I made a new downloadable checklist for your home management notebook, so here you go — our packing list.

Head to the downloads page

Keep in mind that this is a master list, created for a trip at least seven days long.  You’ll probably need to cross off or add your own things.  Oh, and I realize I should have added this earlier in the summer, before the height of the family traveling season.  But you know, baby and all.

Here are some other things I’ve written about traveling with kids:

And from Simple Mom contributors:

What’s the one essential item you bring for yourself on a road trip?

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Tsh Oxenreider

Tsh is the founder of this blog and just finished traveling around the world with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

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  1. Road trips are the best….have a great trip! We are really enjoying our own long road trip through Europe and loving the south of France right now.

    Love this: “You don’t need much, but you do need to pack smart.”

    Looks like a great packing list! We travel for months at a time with just a small carry-0n each which makes it all so easy and fast. Less is more.

    I love your travel articles! For those traveling in high season who want to avoid the crowds, this also may be helpful:

  2. Our list is very similar to yours (although not as pretty!) We’ve been able to ditch most of the little kid stuff that seems to take over as our kids are now older. The packing list is invaluable for reducing stress in the days leading up to a trip, particularly as the older kids can now read and pack their own things (with a quick check from me). I find that our list doesn’t change much at all except for perhaps an additional jumper and pair of long pants in winter.

    As for what I pack for myself – there are always things I take with grand plans but they never see the light of day. My absolute essential that I do use each trip are my very unglamourous thermals. We usually camp when we go away and I always get cold at night, no matter what the weather. Mum without a good night’s sleep does not make a happy holiday!

  3. Similar to soultravelers3, we use a small carry-on (clothes/toiletries/medications) and a small entertainment bag (books, toys, electronics) for each family member whether we’re traveling for a few days or a month. If we’re driving to somewhere other than family, we have one grocery bag of food, too. We learned quickly that all the baby gear really isn’t necessary, just enough diapers. Any more stuff in our tiny car, and we would have to leave someone at home!

  4. I absolutely love simple tools that make life easier. This will be a help to many travelling fathers and mothers. It’s also a LOT more extensive than I thought. By the way, Denise, a fellow editor at Femita, wrote a very complementary article on how to prepare your home for longer vacations and keep it burglar-free. Feel free to check it out.

  5. Perfect timing. We leave Thursday for a 3 week road trip as well. Not too excited to drive with an 18mo (he’s a terrible traveler), but we’ll see how it goes!

  6. Thanks for the great resources! Have a wonderful trip!!

  7. Tsh, having a list is such a boon when traveling. I created a similar list on my computer when my kids were young. In addition to what we needed to travel, I wrote a leave-the-house checklist that includes turn down heat, water plants, etc.

    It’s in Word so it’s been easy to adjust as we grow. Furthermore, I’ve found it’s been great to keep with me so I can do a checklist when we leave our destination to make sure we’ve still got everything.

    Also, created a similar checklist for daytrips with babe, hiking and ski trips. Makes it so much easier and less risk of those Oh NO I Forgot moments!

  8. Awesome download! I feel like taking a little family vacation now!

  9. I LOVE checklists. I honestly don’t know what I’d do w/o making lists.. I’d probably go crazy. Checklists are a great way to stay organized. You bet that I’m the one who never forgets anything when we go on road trips. Definitely downloading your checklist. I’m gonna be going on vacation in 3 weeks so it’ll certainly come in handy! Thanks!

  10. I love your list, and it’s pretty too! I’m appreciating having moved out of the baby stage, but your baby gear section is great (and not something you find on every packing list!). Thanks for making the downloads available for free!

  11. Thanks! We are taking a 10 hr road trip to Boston next week – this will really help!

  12. Thanks for this list! I’ve just been updating my own for an upcoming road trip, and it was nice to have another one to cross-check.

    One question about an item under “kid gear”: I’m assuming this is a joke, the “invisibility shield, for use during backseat fights”? If one actually exists, please share your source!

  13. Isn’t it funny that once you have kids the “essential” items for adults get much, much shorter. We used to make a big detailed list for trips with just my husband and I. Now, I figure I can purchase or borrow anything we forgot for ourselves, so the “adult” things on our list are:

    I also fully subscribe to the notion of purchasing diapers when you get there. We just bring enough for the plane or car and buy what we need when we purchase groceries.

  14. Your list is similar to mine. I get all giddy when it comes to making a list. I try to keep us to two small carry ons. My daughter and I share one and my hubby and son share the other. Most places we travel have laundry facilities so that makes for less clothes which is great. Have a great trip!

  15. I’ve learned the hard way to pack plenty of first aid and medications. It’s so incredibly expensive to buy them on the road unless you’re lucky enough to be near a discount store. I had to pay out the nose many times before I had enough sense to realize that yes, we do have headaches and boo-boo’s do still occur when we travel. Hope the trip is wonderful!

  16. Yeah, I could not agree with you more. Pack light but pack smart! It’s interesting because the more you travel the better you get at packing! It makes sense I suppose, but as person who has travelled so much, I too find myself if a relatively concise and small suitcase everytime. Packing, truly an art!

  17. We have a lot of packing lists when we go out of town! Our family loves to camp; it’s our ideal vacation trip. We have a list for each child (we have 5), a generic supplies list, a food list, and a Mommy/Daddy list…and another “kids” list which includes any toys/activities that the kids absolutely can’t live without, but that they share. You’re right, a list DEFINITELY helps when packing a family!

  18. My favorite part of your post was the picture with the two guys pushing the van to get it started. Now, that’s the way to start a family trip!

  19. Road trips is the best to enjoy various places while roaming, and it is really very adventurous. I really love to fun!

  20. We used the packing list for our trip last week and LOVED it! We added a few destination specific items to the list (beach chairs and swim diapers for example), but all the basics were there. Thank you so much for putting this together. ModDad was amazed by how quickly I was able to pack and organize everything we needed for the trip. All the tips and tricks helped me tremendously as I prepared for our first vacation as a family of three. Thank you again!

  21. Thanks so much for this list! Can you tell me what program you use to make your lists? I really like them but want to personalize them and either Mac’s Pages isn’t cutting it for me or I need a good source for some fun fonts and graphics. 🙂


  22. Great list! Thank you!

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