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Car Travel with Children - what to pack

For some parents one of the worst aspects of car travel is the fact that you have to take your children with you, after all, the one-hundredth refrain of “Are we there yet?” is grating for even the most patient of parents!

However, as with many aspects of parenting, one secret to success when it comes to travelling by car with children, is to bear in mind each child’s needs and schedules.

Thus a little planning and preparation can go a long way and remember, it’s the parents who ultimately pay the price for bored children – and the only thing worse than bored children?  Bored children in a confined space!


A number of factors come into play here, not just the destination and the route, but the timing of the journey (can it be done to avoid busy times/days on the road?) and of course the trip’s length.  How far can your children tolerate being in the car for one sitting?  Some can manage 2 – 3 hours, others much more.  Of course, any scheduled overnight stops require accommodation to be booked in advance.

You also need to factor in toilet stops, refuelling and, if you’re like my husband, coffee shops too, which, if a garage is in the vicinity of a park or open area, also allows for running, jumping, walking and generally exercising and stretching without scheduling extra stops.


Part of the preparation will include gathering and charging iPods, iPads, Nintendos, phones, DVD players, etc and of course downloading suitable viewing material and or games onto the iPad and packing DVDs into a carry case.   In addition though you will need a packing list for the car (yes, the car!), which might include some or all of the following:

  • Audio books (borrow or download from your local library or use something like www.audible.com);
  • Backpack per child to include:
    • healthy snacks, treats and drink(s) specifically for that child,
    • favourite soft toy, or cuddly,
    • age appropriate word search/sudoku/colouring/sticker books,
    • pencil case (containing pens, pencils, texters, eraser, pencil sharpener),
    • current reading book,
    • age appropriate printed travel games such as spot the sign game, maths grids, (check out http://parentables.howstuffworks.com/family-travel/36-free-printable-travel-games.html or google ‘printable travel games for children’) on a clip board (or bulldog clipped onto a piece of cardboard),
    • a new, wrapped, toy or travel-size game, eg toy car, toy doll,
    • their own earphones if they have an iPod,
    • change of clothes;
  • Wet wipes;
  • Hand Towel;
  • Basic medicine pack, including child friendly Nurofen/Panadol;
  • Car chargers for phones, Ninetendo’s, iPods, iPads, dvd players, etc, double jacks, earphones and mp3 speakers (if kids at the back cannot hear audio clearly);
  • Chuckies Travel Sick bags;
  • Car pocket organiser;
  • Car trays (particularly useful for littlies);
  • Eskie with drinks, snacks for everyone;
  • Park toys eg frisbees, footy, soccer ball and, if there’s room, scooters or even a metal detector (www.minelab.com) – these, of course, should be packed last for easy access.

All of these items should mean that children are relatively well entertained, catered and cared for during the car trip.  So, plan and prepare for the journey as you do for every other aspect of your holiday and you (and your children) can avoid the tedium of car travel.

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