10 Things You Need to Survive a Long Distance Road Trip

Planning a cross country road trip? Preparation is key for a fun and SAFE journey! These long distance road trip tips will help ensure that you reach your destination without too much stress.  And without  ‘accidentally’ forgetting your kids in some nowhere rest stop along the way! Don’t forget these road trip essentials when you hit the road this summer.

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car packed with suitcases and beach raft and text overlay 'Road Trip Tips for fun and SAFE long distance drives'

How do you survive a long road trip? It’s not always easy!

My husband and I are in the midst of planning a long distance road trip. We will be taking 2 weeks to visit an assortment of friends and family that are scattered between 5 different states.

Needless to say, a road trip of this size requires a significant amount of planning. Think along the lines of a military invasion of an enemy country! It is a bit hectic but we have made similar trips almost every year since the kids were babies.

backpack and other road trip essentials in front of a car tire

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Road Trip Essentials for Fun and Safety

Living far from family means that a road trip is often the only way you get to see anyone!  So, if you are planning your own road trip (or military invasion!) here are a few things I recommend that you pack:

Herbal tea 

I honestly don’t go anywhere without it! I have tea to help me relax, tea to help me deal with year round allergies, and tea to help easy the upset stomach that I ALWAYS get when I go on a long distance road trip.

To avoid too many boxes, I take a handful of each variety and put it in a large Ziploc bag. Tea is easy to make at a hotel or even at a roadside gas station. Just take a travel mug, fill with hot water and toss in your tea bag. Your car companions will be happy to have you feeling better!

chocolate energy bites made from dates in a bow

Road Trip Food

You will want food for your road trip. If you are traveling with teens like I am, you will want large quantities of food. Low blood sugar makes for a cranky mommy and irritable teens.

Pack not only food for your car ride but also food for your hotel room, your trip to the amusement park, and wherever else you might need sustenance. You will save a ton of money and eat healthier if you don’t rely on fast food, vending machines and gas station snacks. Try my no bake peanut butter chocolate energy balls for your next road trip!

small travel swiss army knife

A Swiss army knife for travel

Okay, my backwoods training is showing here but I have never traveled anywhere (except by plane) without my Swiss army knife.

There are scissors for opening packages so you don’t rip out a tooth. There are tweezers for that splinter you get walking barefoot on the boardwalk. I guarantee there are many other useful tools on a Swiss army knife that will come in handy on your next long distance road trip.

Buy one. Stick it in your purse. It may very well save your life. Or at least help you snip off that annoying hangnail. Check out this Swiss Army Knife for Travelers before you head out. 

A travel backpack

I hate purses that keep falling off my shoulder while I am sightseeing. You do not have to be a fashionista on your road trip. Get a sturdy and comfortable backpack with lots of pockets and room for your water bottle. (see number 5 below!)

stainless steel reusable water bottle

Reusable water bottle

Skip the sodas and plastic bottles full of various flavored drinks. Bring a reusable water bottle and stay hydrated on your road trip. Don’t spend $4 for a bottle of water at the snack stand at the museum. Bottled water is a waste of money AND bad for the environment!

car radio with text overlay 'fBest Pod Casts for long distance road trips'


I have found that between the car ride and waiting in lines at museums, restaurants, etc it is important to have something to entertain both you and your kids. Whether you choose to pack books, crayons, electronics, or silly putty just don’t go anywhere without something to do in case of down time.

Ever stand in a line for something with a 4 year old? Not fun, is it? Time passes much more quickly if that 4 year old has a few My Little Pet Shop toys to play with. And a car ride with a book goes much faster for mom as long as she isn’t the one driving of course!

Load your iPhone with a few good podcasts if you are the driver to pass the time and help keep you awake. Here are a few of the best podcasts for road trips:

  • 1619 is an audio series by The New York Times that commemorates the 400th anniversary of the first arrival of a slave ship to America.  Check it out on Stictcher.com
  • Bear Brook is a “podcast about a cold case that’s changing how murders will be investigated forever.” 
  • Last Seen explores the mystery behind the largest unsolved art heist in human history.
  • Ted Talks Daily allows you to listen in on speeches on various topics like health, astronomy, geology, psychology, and more.

first aid kit stocked with supplies

Well Stocked First Aid Kit

Inevitably, you will need a first aid kit on your next long distance road trip. We have had skinned knees on hikes, jelly fish stings at the beach, headaches in line for the next amusement park ride and an assortment of other ailments. (remember that upset stomach I mentioned at the beginning of the post?)

Pack a first aid kit, make sure your items are not expired from the last time you used it, and pray you don’t need it. Better safe than sorry!

Female passenger sleeps in car while rides on long distance, uses small pillow as has pain in neck, takes nap, has rest, feels tired for being in motion much time. People and travelling concept

Travel Pillows Are a MUST:

From personal experience I can tell you that car windows do not make good rest places for your head. Hotel pillows are often so high that you end up with a crick in your neck. Friends and family often don’t have enough pillows to go around.

Toss your pillow (or a small travel pillow)  in the car on your next road trip just in case you want somewhere comfortable to lay your head. If you are short on space there are many travel pillows on the market today that are incredibly comfortable.

legs hanging out a car window with sneakers on feet

Patience and a sense of humor: 

Obviously these are not really things you can ‘pack’ but they are definitely things you should not leave home without. Understand that no matter how much planning you did, something will go wrong.

Babies will pee through several layers of clothing. Toddlers will vomit. Preschoolers will cry. Mommy and daddy will probably argue. Frequently! Vacations are stressful but try to remain patient, flexible and calm.

You will look back on this road trip one day and laugh at the flat tire you had in the middle of rural Alabama. It might not be funny when the Texas police officer pulls you over in the middle of the night to search your car for drugs (yes…that happened!) but you will look back on it in a few years and laugh hysterically!

And no, he did not actually FIND drugs. Apparently just driving a truck at 3 AM through rural Texas is suspicious enough to warrant a thorough search!

small toy car on map indicating long distance travel

Making the Most of Your Road Trip

I am really looking forward to our road trip and can’t wait to see a few sites, hang out with family, and enjoy some regional cuisine. If you have a road trip coming up I suggest you do a little planning ahead of time and pack a few of these road trip essentials to help you stay sane on the road! What do YOU never leave home without for a road trip?

More travel tips to check out:

  • Night Driving Tips for Safer Evening Travel: These night vision tips are vital to keep us safe on the road. 
  • Beach Vacation Tips for a Smaller Carbon Footprint:  If you are looking for a few beach vacation tips to make your life easier, I wanted to a share a few that will reduce your carbon footprint. 
  • How to Save Money on Gasoline : Here are a few ways to save money on gasoline during your next long car ride. 

3 thoughts on “10 Things You Need to Survive a Long Distance Road Trip”

  1. I agree with the water bottle; it’s painful to buy water when it’s free everywhere you go. And a first aid kit is a must, especially with kids! To your list I would add a compact microfiber swim towelfor each person. Especially ones that can double as a blanket, poncho or changing robe for kids, and are compact enough that you can fit a whole family set in the space of 1 cotton towel.


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