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  • Writer's pictureJenna

Top 11 Must-Pack Items When Traveling With Kids

Updated: Jan 13, 2021

Parents learn on the go for what they should bring on family trips. Here is a list of the top 11 items every family should bring no matter the occasion :)

Hi!! I am Morgan, Jetlagged Jenna’s sister-in-law. I am married to Jenna’s older brother, Josh, and travel is in the blood. Josh and I met our junior year of college when we were both studying overseas in England. Fifteen years, two human babies and one fur baby later, here we are, still traveling.

Although we are not currently backpacking through Europe, we still travel, a lot. I am on a personal quest to run a half marathon in every state by the time I am forty. So far, I have completed 30, with four years left on the clock.

As a mom, I am the packer, the planner. For all the moms (and dads) out there, I am the proverbial purple backpack Dora the Explorer wears. Here goes, I kindly share my top eleven must-pack, traveling-with-the-fam tips. (But seriously, if you have more, PLEASE tell me!! Parents got to stick together!!! The old Google only gets me so far.)


I know, duh, that’s Parenting 101. I wish I was the mom that brings healthy, nutritious-filled goodies, but I am not. Go ahead, judge. But I am on vacation for Pete’s sake!😊 If we can’t cut lose then, when can we? Before we head out, I make a Target/Walmart run and get apple sauce, brownies, chips, popcorn, beef jerky, Pop Tarts, and bagels. If eating food with no natural origin and highly processed (but very delicious) is not your fam’s style, get whatever. Just bring snacks!

Plastic Storage Bin

I found this tip from another family. When road tripping, put all the treats in a plastic storage bin. Before, I was using plastic or reusable bags, and the food went everywhere the moment we started driving. This trick keeps it contained. Warning: it does takes up real estate in the car, but worth not finding a bag of melted Kit-Kats under a car seat later.

Plastic Bags

The kind you get from Walmart or Target when you check out. If you are like me, I have about 500 of them stuffed inside each other like a Russian nesting doll. I bring all of them on the trip. They serve multiple purposes: motion sickness bag, trash bag, I need something to shove my kids’ stuff in to bring up to the hotel room’ bag, and wet swimsuits.

Laundry Bag

With four people, we always have laundry. I hate mixing clean and dirty clothes together in our luggage. We have an old laundry bag from college, we use to put our dirties in, but you could also use a huge lawn plastic bag.

Games, Books, and Toys

Again, Parenting 101. Now that my kids are a little older, I make packing a game, like a scavenger hunt. I have created packing sheet for clothes. I have the boys pick out their own outfits. I double check before we leave, to make sure they packed what I wrote down. (Hard lesson learned when my oldest had one pair of underwear for the entire trip.) I also have them pack a backpack full of toys, books, and games that they will play with in the car or plane.


I am in a love/hate relationship right now with screens. Our kiddos are in virtual school full-time. And Josh and I are full-time working parents. Unfortunately, screens have become the babysitter. So, pick your poison, listen to 9 hours in the car of fighting between the kids, or 6 hours of fighting with three hours of silence while they play on the Kindle…

Hand Sanitizer, Clorox Wipes, and Masks

Even before COVID, I would bring Clorox wipes and hand sanitizer on trips. Maybe its overboard, but we wear masks when we stop for gas and bathroom breaks. We use hand sanitizer when we get back into the car. I wipe down commonly touched surfaces in the hotel room and rental car. This touch free tool also can come in handy to avoid having to touch doors or push buttons.

Wet Wipes or Diaper Wipes

I can’t tell you how many times this had gotten me out of a tough spot. From the time the dog pooped in her kennel, and I had to wipe her down in an Arby’s parking lot to the kid’s chocolatey fingers! It’s a life saver.

Extra Chargers and Cords

My life is one of electronics. There is NO question sometime during the trip, some one in my family will say they lost their charger. I have squirreled away enough device chargers to power a small country. I usually will buy extra around school supply season. Walmart is always going to have a bin of them.

Cell Phone Holder

It’s a simple thing, but Josh and I use our phones for directions to wherever we are going. We got tired of holding the phone or propping up for the other person. It also comes in handy when one spouse needs to help with the kids and the other can still see the phone.

Magnet for the Back of Your Rental Car

We rent a car for most vacations, even road trips. We started putting a 13.1 magnet on the back of the car, to make the car easily locatable in a parking lot. Just don’t forget to take it off at the end of the trip!! Made that mistake too…

Traveling with kids is exciting; with special memories made and frustrations. At least once during a trip, there will be barf, toy throwing, and total meltdowns…but we still go. Why? Because we love it!! And one day, when we are long gone, the kids will remember the time our oldest threw up on a complete stranger on the flight back from Tampa. (To the man on that flight from Tampa to Milwaukee, I am still SO sorry!)

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