Photo of 6ESSENTIALSTOPACKWHENYOU’RE DRIVING 1/1 by Baisakhi Chatterjee

Summer is the perfect time for vacations with the family. Whether you’re going to the beach, the amusement park, or to visit family in another state, there’s lots of fun to be had. The biggest challenge can be keeping everyone happy in the car while you drive there and back! Over the years, I’ve found a system that works for us and keeps our spirits up when we have to be on the road for hours at a time. Each person packs his or her own bag, filling it with six items from a special checklist I created, then we all have everything we need: something to read, something to make, something to learn, something to play, something to eat, and something to drink. It works like a charm! Take a look…


One of the best ways to pass time, provided that you don’t get carsick, is by reading something you enjoy! Each family member should choose something that her or she considers pleasure reading. I know I, for one, rarely get the time at home to sit down with a good book, so a road trip is a perfect opportunity to dive into something I’ve been wanting to read. Here are some options.

a novel

a favorite magazine or two

a comic book

a how-to book

a picture book

a graphic novel

a biography


As the Artsy Mama, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that everyone should bring something to create! Each person can choose a project to pack in his or her bag and work on during the trip. Of course, being in the car limits the scope of your craftiness, but there are definitely portable options for all ages, like…

Crochet or knitting





Hand Lettering


Small kids’ craft kids {with foam shapes, stickers, etc.}

Whatever you choose, keeping your project supplies together in a plastic container will help ensure that nothing gets lost. Hmm, there’s that really cool hand lettering workbook again. That sure looks irresistible, right?


One great way to pass time while riding in the car is to spend it learning something new. Of course, our goal is keeping everyone’s spirits up, so instead of bringing a bunch of math textbooks, each person gets to choose something her or she finds interesting.

US State Flashcards

Math flashcards or workbook

Small globe

Biography/autobiography of a favorite historical figure, athlete, or celebrity

US Presidents flashcards

Science workbook

Instructional audiobook

How-to/DIY book

It can also be an unforgettable experience to learn a new language together as a family by listening to a CD or audiobook while you drive. Our family is currently working on learning Mandarin Chinese so we can speak to our adopted son in his native language when we meet him this fall.


Everyone loves to play a good game, and it’s a great way to pass time while on the road! Let each family member choose a portable game for his or her bag…something that doesn’t require a board or lots of small pieces is ideal. It could be store-bought, or it could be homemade too. There are lots of great sites where you can download and print out simple games, or you can create your own version. Here are a few ideas.

I Spy

Travel Bingo

Simple Card Games

Pass the Pig

Alphabet Games

Guess Who

Twenty Questions

License Plate Game

The games can be independent, two-player, or something for the whole family to play at once; the specifics are up to you, the key is just to have fun


It’s always a good idea to be prepared with snacks for when hunger strikes…as it inevitably will. Snyders-Lance snack packs are perfect on-the-go snacks for any occasion, including summer road trips, beach weekends, picnics, outdoor concerts, team sports, and more. The single-serve sizes allow each of us to choose two or three of our favorites and toss them in our own individual bags instead of having to all agree on just one snack. Each pack features a variety of choices from the Snyder’s-Lance family of brands that both kids and adults will love; there’s something for everyone.


It’s important to stay hydrated, but at the same time, you don’t want to have to make a pit stop every five minutes! We find that it’s best to fill one thermos or other non-spill insulated cup for with ice water for each person before leaving home. That way, we don’t have to worry about any trash, like bottles, boxes, or cans, and our water stays nice and cold for hours. If we’re on an especially long trip, we can refill them as necessary along the route since you can get ice and water at any hotel or gas station.

So there you have it! The six “must-haves” for any road trip. You’ll notice that while my bag looks decidedly different from Little Crafter’s, both of us have everything we’ll need to make the drive more enjoyable.

What do you think? What are some of your favorite tips for road trip success?