Your Essential Checklist For Planning a Family Road Trip

Looking to get out and about as a family? There's never been a better time to explore or take that long-overdue trip to meet with family and friends. Long journeys can be challenging, especially with the kids in tow, and thinking of everything you'll need can be a real headache. Our essential checklist for what to take when planning your road trip will help make it as stress-free as possible and keep everyone happy along the way.

Your essential checklist for planning a family road trip

1. Check your car before you go

One of the worst things that can happen when on your road trip is a breakdown so make sure your car is in tip-top condition before your journey. You’ll want to ensure your servicing is up to date as coolant levels, oil and filter changes are all regular maintenance checks that can help improve the efficiency of your engine and stop it from giving up on you.

Spend time giving your car a once-over by checking that all your lights are working, the wipers are functioning and you have enough windscreen wash. The condition of your wheels is really important, too, so check your tyre pressures and tread, not forgetting your spare! Always keep a jack in the car in case of a flat.

2. Essentials for your car

Gather together all of the essentials for your car in advance of your journey. At the top of the list should be your roadside assistance in case you break down. Take details of your insurance so you can share these if there’s an accident and keep your driving licence with you so you’ve got it to hand if you happen to get stopped by the police. Check your policy if you’re road-tripping out of the UK to make sure your insurance is valid for trips abroad.

If you’re going out in the summer, a sunshade is a great investment. They usually suction easily onto side windows to help keep passengers cool and protect them from harsh sun rays. Taking a trip out in the winter? Don’t forget to pack de-icer and an ice scraper. You may also want to take a shovel if travelling in rural areas in case of snow.

It’s important to check you have an emergency car kit in your boot. You could take items such as jumper leads, spare bulbs, a small torch, tape and a screwdriver to help you take care of any small issues yourself on the road.

You might also want to give your car a clean inside and out so that it’ll feel nice and fresh when you drive. Yes, it will get dirty again but it’s always nice to start your journey off on the right foot.

3. Plan your journey

Taking a few minutes to plan your route before you travel can help you avoid roadworks and long delays. You’ll also be able to see the total travel time and work out where to stop for petrol and rest breaks.

Most of us use our phone or in-built sat-nav when driving a new route but it’s always handy to have the back-up of a paper map, too, in case you lose reception or want to take a detour along the way. Working out the route on a map can also be a fun learning experience for kids, so why not give it a go the old-fashioned way?

4. Take the essentials

There are a few essentials you don’t want to forget when planning your road trip:

Car charger: You don’t want to run out of juice at a crucial part of the journey so an in-car charger for your phone is a must. Take a couple with you if you can, so that the kids can keep batteries topped up, too. You can get portable battery packs that do a great job at keeping your phone charged up if you want to keep your USB socket-free.
First aid kit: It’s a good idea to bring a basic first aid kit with you to deal with any in-car mystery cuts or trips and falls when taking a break. You might want to include some travel sickness tablets and pain medication in the kit.
Tissues: Have plenty of tissues and wet wipes to hand to cater for spills, snotty noses, and messy hands and faces!
Snacks: Take a good variety of snacks to cope with the whims of your kids and keep them occupied.
Water bottles: Everyone should have their own water bottle so they can keep hydrated during the journey.
Rubbish bag: A bag for rubbish clean-up as you go will save time on tidying at the end of the trip.
Sunglasses: Useful for both drivers and passengers – choose 100% UV protected sunglasses to prevent glare and harm from the sun.

5. Get comfortable

A comfortable child is a happy child – take a pillow and blanket for them to snuggle up in the back with. It’ll also encourage them to get some sleep, especially if you’re travelling into the night, which will give you some peace and quiet and make the time go faster for them.

Spend a bit of time adjusting your driver’s seat, too, so that you can keep comfortable but alert during the trip. Most cars will have steering wheel and seat adjustments – have a look in your manual to check out the controls and get the right position for you.

Want a car with a comfy interior and all the gadgets? Take a look at our list of the ten best car interiors.

6. Keeping kids occupied

You won’t want moans and groans of ‘are we nearly there yet’ from the back as soon as you set off so pack up some bits for keeping the kids occupied such as their favourite toys or colouring books. You can also play some family games while on the road – from I-spy to word association or even counting games. You could consider a screen holder for tablets to give them the option to watch their favourite film when on the move. Or, try out a child-friendly audiobook or the kids favourite playlist and have a sing-song on the way.

7. Babies and toddlers

For smaller children, keep your nappy bag to hand and include a change of clothes for any accidents. Take a portable bottle warmer to help you feed them easily while out and about. Remember to bring along their cuddly toys to keep them settled and invest in a couple of sticker books to occupy their time.

8. Roadside breaks

You should take a break from driving for at least 15 minutes every two hours so build this into your travel time. It will keep you alert and also let the kids run around to use up some of their excess energy. Bring along a picnic, ball and blanket to help you make the most of the outside when the weather is nice.

Planning for a long road trip shouldn’t be a daunting task with our handy list of essentials. You’ll have all you need to keep you and the kids happy and enjoy your ride. If you’re looking for a new car to take the family away, check out our guide to the best large family cars.

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