Road Trip essentials for kids for exploring
the Hudson Valley with ease! (Tips + Free Packing List)

Are you one of those “Need to Plan Ahead”- type of people? Then, you are in Great Company!!! When my children were little, planning an outing required several lists in order to keep everything organized. These road trip essentials for kids will not only make your trip easier but your kids will ask you to take a road trip every chance you get! A little bit of planning can go a long way!

I, personally, don’t like to start a road trip or plan a full-day of activities without knowing that I’m fully prepared for ‘almost’ anything. I stress the word: Almost!

Although, I love the thought of taking the kids Apple-Picking in the Hudson Valley and on other day-long adventures, I love being prepared EVEN MORE. The best time to start preparing for your next road trip is now.

That’s why the following tips will help anyone have a successful road trip and outing with the whole family, especially with young kids and even older kids.

This article contains an affiliate link or two. I make a small commission for purchases made through links at no extra cost to you. Read my disclosure for more info.


How Should you Prepare for a Road/Day Trip?


This is a great time to incorporate the whole family in the prepping aspect of going on an outing.

Hudson Valley day trips and outings are typically a day full of Family-Fun. Because of this, the whole family should chip in with helping to plan the trip. This is one of the easiest ways to get it all done and makes them excited for what’s to come.

By doing this, you’re not only making family members a part of the process, but you’re also teaching them valuable life lessons they will need for the future when they plan their own long trips.

Cleaning the car is road trip essentials for kids

Road Trip Tip #1:

I’m gonna let you in on a little secret…

When I start planning, I don’t just use ONE list. For a long car ride, I use several lists in order to better organize myself. Here are some examples of lists you can incorporate in your planning:

List #1: Items for the Car/First Aid Kit
List #2: Car-Friendly Food Items 
List #3: Road Trip Packing List

A family road trip checklist and other lists are important road trip essentials for kids and adults that you should not do without. These lists also prepare you for an emergency and make sure you have important things, such as if you have a flat tire or need jumper cables, etc.

Roadside Assistance Emergency Kits, like this emergency kit, are an additional cost but it may save you more money in the long run because a trip to a mechanic in the middle of a family vacation is an extra cost you don’t want or need to incur.

Road Trip Tip #2:

Start by having your children help in cleaning out the car of the non-essential items.

Items that are typically left in cars that are not needed on a long drive, include:

  • folding chairs used for sporting events
  • reusable shopping bags left in the trunk
  • any garbage that has been left behind

You want it to be a clean slate before you introduce your road trip essentials for kids into the car.

cleaning out trunk is important to a successful road trip

How Should I Prepare for a longer Road Trip?
One that may take several days?


The rules really change if you are planning a trip that will take longer than your average day trip. During these longer trips, one must be prepared for more activities and will need to pack more road trip essentials for kids and adults. That’s why a family road trip packing list is important.

Packing clothes and additional toiletry items may be overwhelming for some people. That’s why I also use and re-use a packing list of essentials. (free download – no sign-up required)

Packing List Freebie

Keep this list handy and laminate it for multi uses. That way you can always have it on hand and not run into the problem of forgetting an important item, especially when you’re having an outing with your children.


What Road Trip Essentials for Kids should I have on hand?


Road Trip Tip #3:

Keep the garbage contained: Use a large plastic container or pail from the dollar store as a trash can. This reduces the need to purchase something pricey online that will only get used for longer car trips.

Put plastic bags inside as the garbage bags that line the vessel and you can easily dump out the garbage and replace the liner at a rest stop, gas station or at your destination. These road trip essentials for kids may be the difference in cleaning up for hours at your destination and keeping things organized and neat.

Hudson Valley Day Trips

Road Trip Tip #4:

Speaking or organized: Buy a shower caddy from the Dollar Store, so each child can have a place to store their own snacks and items. This is one of the road trip essentials for kids that many overlook.

This way there is no confusion about who eats what and it minimizes the fighting for the ‘last one’ of an item. They can also keep wrappers and empty containers on one side of the caddy and that will eliminate a mess in the car. 

Another tip: buy the shower caddies in the same color, Label them with a Sharpie so that there is no confusion, especially during a long road trip. The last thing you want is a fight over who wants a blue or red caddy. These caddies are road trip essentials for kids when out and about and can possibly be used at home too not only in the car.

Road Trip Tips to explore the Hudson Valley

Road Trip Tip #5:

Download and update any essential apps you need for the trip while at home.

Cell service while driving can be spotty, so it’s always a good idea to have everything downloaded and updated before you leave the house.

Also, don’t forget to back up your photos before you begin your road trip. This will clear up your phone in order to make enough space for the new photos & videos you’ll be capturing on your outing and for any new apps you download for your trip.

Road Trip

Road Trip Tip #6:

These iPhone apps are necessary for a successful road trip:

Accuweather: This App helps you keep track of the weather not only for each day but also by the hour. This can be helpful when taking longer car trips. 

Accuweather App

iExit: This App helps you decide where to stop while traveling. The summary will show you which stop is ahead and what is at each exit (restaurant, gas, rest stops).

iExit App for road trips

Google Maps: I use this App every day when navigating my way from one place to another. I like that it now offers an ‘Alerts only’ option so that you can keep the App running in the background when knowing the route and it will alert you only if there’s traffic and when wanting to re-route you.

Google Map app for road trips

How do you organize the kids for a Road Trip?


Road Trip Tip #7:

Ask each person/child (over the age of 5) to grab a reusable shopping bag or one of their own backpacks and pack things that they think they will need personally.

Try not to edit what they take with them. That way the Road trip with be more successful. Less arguing = More fun. As long as it fits in one bag, then it’s okay. In the past, plastic dinosaurs, a jump rope, fidget spinners, plastic cars and more have made it into my children’s ‘family road trip essentials bag’.

It’s a great way of learning responsibility, as they can’t be upset when something gets left behind because they are responsible for their own items. Believe me that on the next road trip they will make sure their favorites are not forgotten. This trick has worked for a long time for us and it has translated into their own packing for vacations and overnight trips as they got older.

A backpack is a one of the road trip essentials for kids that is necessary

How do you keep kids busy while on a Road Trip?


Things to make a baby’s First Road Trip Successful

No matter how old the baby is, the best travel toys happen to be the ones that don’t make silly noises or play annoying music. A good idea may end up being a simple one, like a small jar with rice inside. Multi-sensory items are always a good idea, as they stimulate the baby’s curiosity. These road trip essentials for kids may be the difference between a good road trip and a bad one.

Playing children’s songs in the car is always the best way to entertain a baby. Singing along also does not hurt and may provide entertainment for the baby and he/she may then start clapping along or try to imitate the sounds you’re making.

Car sickness may happen and it’s always a good idea to speak to the pediatrician about the options to combat motion sickness on the open road. It will be a peace of mind for you and eliminates the need to stop at public restrooms to clean up a child that may get sick and get their clothes soiled. Motion sickness remedies may be road trip essentials for kids that some overlook.

Child in car seat

Fun Ideas for Young Children

Have your children ever made their own edible snack necklace?  It is such a fun activity and something they will request over and over. What’s better than adding cheerios-type cereals and pretzels to a long string and then eating it while in the car. Keeping kids entertained is one of the most important road trip essentials for kids that are very important.

Cheerios to keep little hands busy on a road trip

DIYmamablog  wrote a great blog post about making these edible Necklaces. This is sure to be a big hit with the kiddies. You can read the post by clicking this link: Snack Necklace

Another fun activity is to create an I-Spy Bottle. Collect little trinkets, add them to a wide-mouthed bottle, add rice and hot glue gun the lid shut. Then, create a checklist (either with a picture of the items or text) and have the kids cross off each item they find in the bottle.

Road Trip Activities, like the ones listed below, are fun way to keep your child/children busy on any type of car trip. You don’t have to plan a long road trip in order to enjoy car games and road trip activities, though, as they can be used any time you’re in the car.

Trust me, road trip car games are not only for the children in your life. Adults can also enjoy the games as much as the kids do. These road trip essentials for kids and adults are so much fun!

Having a flat surfaces are road trip essentials for kids that should not be overlooked. That’s why a car seat travel tray, like the one below, is a great idea! We used some similar products way back when and they were always great to have. With cup holders and a place to hold an electronic devices, as well as, giving your child easy access to favorite items, these are road trip essentials for kids that will make your next family road trip fun for everyone.

Fun Ideas for Older Children

While small children sit in car seats, older children have room to move around so a car seat organizer that hangs on the back seat, like this one, may be a great option. It’s a great place to store basic things like sunglasses, important things like wet wipes and also stores accessories for the electronics.

Fun Ideas for Teenagers

While most teenagers are often glued to their cell phone and we would like to reduce screen time, it can be difficult to engage your teenager while road tripping. A long time ago, I tried an experiment that actually worked well with our daughter: audio books. We chose a topic that was of interest to everyone and played the audio book during the time we were in the car for longer distances.

This ended up being the best road trip we took during that time. We had a great time listening and discussing the book. This trip we chose one of our old favorites, The Wizard of Oz, and upon our return decided to watch the movie.

phone in hands

Road Trip Snacks


Packing healthy snacks from home is a great alternative than stopping for unhealthy and expensive snacks on the road, especially for a Day Trip. Not only is the food of low quality but most truck stops offer items at elevated prices.

boy on computer on a road trip

Road Trip Tip #8

I am also a firm believer that everyone should have their own stash of snacks. It could be the same snacks as everyone else but portioned out in Ziploc bags or containers. This way you don’t run into the problem, for instance, of a child who loves popcorn eating the whole big bag on the trip and not leaving any for others.

Trust me, I’ve lived it. 

Some ‘Not’ Road Trip Friendly Snacks Include:

  • Bananas (too slimy)
  • Muffins (too crumbly)
  • Watermelon (too juicy)
  • Juice Boxes (too messy)
  • Crunchy granola bars (too crumbly)

Snacks should, ideally, include items from a variety of food groups:

Some examples are:

  • Proteins – cheese sticks, sliced turkey
  • Fruits/Vegetables – including dried fruit (raisins, etc), fruit purees (applesauce, fruit pouches), individual salads
  • Carbs – crackers, pretzels, rice cakes, popcorn

What Should you NOT do on a Road Trip?


Road Trip Tip #9

Don’t underestimate your budget. Keep your budget in mind during the road trip.

It’s easy to get carried away buying snack foods, fast foods and other knick-knacks in the excitement of being on a road trip.

A great tip would be to buy small trinkets at the dollar store before the trip. Use these trinkets as rewards and special treats during the trip, as it will save you a lot of money. You can keep them hidden in the glove box of your car and offer them during or at the conclusion of your great family road trip.

GPS in a car on a road trip

Road Trip Tip #10

Don’t rely on one GPS Service.

Although I recommend Google Maps as my go-to GPS Service, it is always good to check on another app, like WAZE, to confirm you are on the quickest or more scenic route. Sometimes Waze offers the best option for avoiding traffic and getting you from point A to Point B faster. You never want to be in the position where you have to pull on the side of the road because you don’t know where you are.

Road Trip Tip #11

Don’t overdose on Bad Fast Food.

An extension of filling the car with healthy snack, sandwiches are always good to make ahead of time and bring to eat on the way. Save your budget on eating something once you are at your destination instead of stopping at a grocery store or fast food restaurant along the way. Juice boxes are also easy to pack and are a little better than fountain soda.


Last Piece of Advice


When it comes to planning a ‘Successful’ Road/Day Trip, the most essential part is to plan ahead and be organized.

That may mean having lists made up ahead of time or using a printable, like the ones that I offer here. Even planning snacks can make for a more pleasant trip out of the house.

After that’s all done, you can then enjoy a wonderful outing either on your own, with your significant other and/or with your family.

Woman writing in journal

Important Road Trip Essentials for a Successful Outing

  • This Picnic Blanket not only folds up and can be stored anywhere, even under your car seats, it has a waterproof lining in case you find a spot to sit that may be a little wet.
  • Small Picnic Basket – You can never go wrong with packing lunch for a road trip. This Picnic Basket is super light and so stylish. It’s one of my favorite items.
  • Refillable Water Bottles – I can’t leave the house without water and these bottles can keep beverages cold for hours.
  • Rain Ponchos – You never know when rain is going to try and ruin your day, but with these ponchos, you will not have to worry. Lightweight super portable and compact, as they don’t take up much space.
  • Toilet Paper – as silly as it sounds, taking a roll of toilet paper can be the difference between disaster and success while visiting a public restroom.
  • Ice Packs – These ice packs do not need to be frozen, are great for any injuries that occur on the go and do not take much time to get cold.

Until the Next Adventure…

Signature for Jackie at Hudson Valley Explored

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The perfect Road Trip Around New York starts with a plan. See what essentials you will need to plan a perfect day trip from New York City and anywhere in New York. Hudson Valley NY, New York State, I love New York, New York Travel, I love NY

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