20 Things To Do Before Going on a Family Road Trip

Family road trips are a lot of fun but when you don’t plan accordingly or prepare in advance, things can go wrong. In this road trip guide I am going to share with you the top twenty things to do before you go on your family road trip. From preparing for your road trip, cleaning your home, how to prepare your car, and much more.

With this road trip guide you are sure to be able to go on your trip with some peace of mind that everything will go well. Though emergencies and unexpected delays may always happen, having a good plan in place can make a world of a difference.

car on the road for a Family Road Trip

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20 Things To Do Before Going on a Family Road Trip

1. Clean and Organize Your Car Before and During Your Road Trip

Before going on any trip I always make sure to thoroughly clean my car. I vacuum it, wipe down the dash, throw out the trash, stock my car with some essentials, and even clean the car seat if needed. I like to have a clean car to travel in.

When restocking my car with some road trip essentials I make sure to include:

  • Hand sanitizer
  • Antibacterial wipes
  • Masks
  • Sunglasses
  • Small first aid kit with Tylenol and allergy medication, eye drops, bandaids, alcohol, etc.
  • Napkins
  • A roll of paper towels
  • Reusable straws
  • Reusable utensils
  • Trash bags
  • Car organizer for tablets, toys, snacks, etc.
  • Baby wipes
  • Women items like menstrual cup, pads, tampons, wipes.
  • Car air freshener
  • Emergency kit
  • Spare tire
  • A knife
  • And some protection like pepper spray, a taser, etc.

2. Do Car Maintenance Before Your Road Trip

It is important to do some car maintenance before any road trip. Keeping your car up to date can help keep your car running smoothly on the road and avoid any problems. Some things to check and do include:

  • Oil change
  • Checking the tires for tears or punctures
  • Checking tire pressure
  • Making sure no check engine light is on
  • Fluids and oils are topped off
  • Battery is in good condition
  • All mirrors are good
  • No major cracks on the windshield
  • Gas tank is full
family road trip phone with gps google maps pulled up

3. Download Travel Apps Before Going on a Road Trip

Before heading out on any car trip, make sure to download the best road trip apps. These apps will help make your trip planning and road trip easier. From finding free places to stay along the way as well as finding the best budget friendly gas station in the area.

Here are a few apps to download:

  • Insurance app – Or you can use whichever app is for your car insurance.
  • Bank apps – You can use the app for your bank. It helps you keep an eye on your accounts while on the go.
  • Google Maps (Waze is another good traffic app and route app) – Helps with gps navigation, road trip planning, traffic updates, and more.
  • Gas Buddy – Helps you find the cheapest gas in your area.
  • Hotel Tonight – This app helps you find last minute hotel availability to stay the night.
  • Road Trippers – Free and Pro Plan – Perfect for planning your road trips including stops, attractions, hotels, camping, and more.
  • iOverlander or Dyrt – Free and Pro Plan – Helps you find free or cheap campgrounds and places to stay at during your trip.
  • Flush – Google and Apple– Toilet Finder – This app is good if you are looking for a bathroom while on the road and there are no gas stations nearby. We personally stop at a gas station like Buckees, Flying J – Pilot, or Love’s. We have also stopped at Publix to grab food, snacks, and drinks while also going to the bathroom during our stop.

4. Make Sure to Pack Your Road Trip Essentials: GPS, Maps, Phone Chargers…

You can’t leave home without these must-have road trip essentials. They will make your road trip much easier. Trust me! Here are a few of our top road trip essentials that we can’t leave behind.

  • GPS or GPS app for your phone
  • Phone chargers
  • Table chargers
  • Paper towels
  • Lip balm
  • Lotion
  • First Aid: I include pain medication for headaches and aches, vitamin C, EmergenC, bandaids, alcohol, and other first aid essentials.
  • Sunglasses
  • Headphones
  • Paper map
  • Blanket
  • Pillow
  • Water
  • Snacks
Woman holding a map during a family road trip learning about the surrounding areas and their destination.

5. Learn About Where You are Going and the Surrounding Areas

Once you have picked a destination for your road trip it is important to learn about where you are going and the surrounding areas. Learning about your destination can help you be ready for any difference in culture, language, currency, or even on things to do. This can help you get a game plan going for your time there.

When learning about the surrounding areas you can look for other things to do, places to eat, and even places to stay. Sometimes, if you’re visiting a popular destination, it is better to find a place to stay right outside the city. This helps you get a cheaper rate on your stay but still not be too far away from all the fun. It can also help you have a backup plan incase the plans you have for the day take a turn.

6. Join a Roadside Rescue Plan Like Roadside Assistance

While in the USA it is important to have car insurance, not everyone has roadside assistance on their plan. Having a roadside assistance or rescue plan in place can greatly help you in times of trouble. Whether its a flat tire, engine problems, or some other car issues, roadside assistance will help you get back on the road much quicker.

7. Check GPS and Choose the Best Road Trip Route and Alternate Routes

Before heading out on your road trip make sure to check the GPS route along with the alternate routes available. You can save these routes to your GPS or Google Maps for safekeeping. By checking your routes you can help plan ahead by finding the best convenient route for you. Make sure to choose one right on the highway or a good road with clean restrooms, gas stations, fast food, and hotel access to make your trip easier.

As for alternate routes, it’s good to know the different routes available if you need to detour for some reason along your trip. This is very helpful when making multiple stops along your road trip. Having alternate routes from one stopping point to the next can make things easier if you need to change routes at the last minute.

Most GPS apps now a days already create an alternate route for you automatically along your trip. However, knowing these beforehand can make it easier for you when it comes time to making a decision last minute.

a dustpan and other cleaning products for the home

8. Clean Your Home Before Going on a Trip

I can’t stress this enough. It is so important to clean your home before leaving. It doesn’t have to be immaculate but at least clean enough that it won’t attract bugs or roaches, create mold, or damage your surfaces. A quick wipe down of all countertops and sinks can make such a huge difference.

A few things that I do to make sure our home is clean before leaving include:

  • Wipe down all surfaces like countertops, sinks, and tables.
  • Quick sweep and mop of the floors especially in high traffic areas like the living room, entrance, and kitchen.
  • Quick cleaning of the fridge.
  • Wiping down toilets and adding a little bit of bleach to the toilet bowl to prevent mold build up.
  • Wiping down mirrors in the bathroom.
  • Quick vacuum of carpet areas in high traffic places in our home.
  • Take all trash and recycle out.

9. Make Sure to Take Out the Trash in Your Home

I quickly mentioned this in the list above, but it is very important to take out all of the trash and recycle in your home. There’s nothing worse than coming home to the smell of rotting food. We usually do this last right before leaving. We also take the trash containers to the side of the road so waste management can pick it up while we are gone. If the trash doesn’t get picked up on the day we leave, we kindly ask a neighbor or friend to take it to the road for us and then put it back by our home in the afternoon.

10. Clean Out Your Refrigerator Before Leaving on a Road Trip

Another important to thing to do in your home is cleaning out your fridge, especially if you’re going to be gone for more than 5 days. Making sure that meats are frozen, fruits and vegetables aren’t left to rot and get moldy, and other perishables are consumed before the expiration date or disposed of properly. I also check the produce that is left on the counter like potatoes, bananas, peppers, onions, garlic, etc. and make sure that they are store properly, consumed, or disposed off. Some of these items like fruits and some veggies can be used as healthy snack options for your road trip as well.

a girl listening to music on her table during a road trip

11. Create a Road Trip Playlist for Your Kids and for You

Make the road trip a fun experience for everyone. You can sit down one night with your family and choose songs that you want to listen to during the road trip. It’s even more fun to get songs that you all can sing along too, if that’s something you all like to do. My girls love a good sing-along playlist.

I also create a playlist just for me for when the kids are playing games, watching a movie, or on their tablets. This helps me stay awake and helps make the time go by faster.

12. Make a Packing List

Make sure to plan out your packing list by making a list of everything you need to pack for your trip. I like to section my packing list. For instance, my sections include:

  • In the Car
  • Kids Bookbags
  • Food
  • Suitcase for (name)
  • For the Dog

By sectioning my packing list, it helps me stay more organized and keeps me on track when packing everything for everyone.

13. Carefully Plan Your Family Road Trip

Take some time to carefully plan your family road trip. Do some research, ask questions online, read travel guides, etc. This will help you find the best things to do during your trip, best routes, family friendly hotels, and more. Make sure to take notes as you go. You can even find some places you and your family will enjoy that is in your budget and have each kid pick their favorite to visit during trip. You can do this for different parts of your road trip.

14. Create a Budget Before Heading Out on Your Trip

Make sure to create a budget for your road trip. I like to have a budget for my road trip and take that budget and split it into sections. The things I include in my budget are:

  • Emergencies
  • Gas
  • Food
  • Hotel/Stay
  • Attractions/Excursions
  • Shopping
  • Extras

I sometimes even include a small spending budget for each one of my children so they can get things that they like at the shops.

When budgeting, make sure to break up your budget into a daily spending limit. So for instance, after you have taken into consideration the essentials like food, stay, and gas, take what you will use for attractions, excursions, shopping, and extra and split it into the number of days for your trip. This will be your daily spending limit. Now say your limit is $50 per day but Day 1 you spent $20 then you can spend a little more on Day 2 but not exceed $80. Now say that for Day 5 you have something big planned, you may want to save that extra you saved on Day 1 for Day 5 or even adjust your daily spending limit to $40 instead and have those extra $10 from all the other days go towards Day 5 of your trip.

a boy with a bandaid on his knee.

15. Have an Emergency Plan

Having an emergency plan in place is very important. Emergencies always come when you least expect it. One thing we do is make sure we have space for emergencies in our budget. You also should have a plan in place. Say one parent will go with the child to the hospital and the other parent will take the other kids to a nearby hotel. Have a mental game plan.

For instance, if my son (currently 1 year old in 2022) who’s breastfeeding needs to go to the hospital then I will be the one that goes with him anywhere he goes. But if it’s one of my two oldest daughters, I will be the one going to the hotel while my husband goes to the hospital with the other child. This all depends on the type of emergency and how long it may take.

Have a game plan as well if you or your spouse/partner gets into an emergency situation. How will it be handled. Will you go in by yourself? Will the other wait out in the parking lot or an hotel?

Another thing to keep in mind is your health insurance. Will they cover out of state costs or emergencies? What’s the deductible? What’s covered under the insurance when it comes to travel emergencies?

All these things should be written out on a Google Document or taken note of and kept handy. It makes it much easier to come back to for reference. Also make sure to keep your primary doctor information handy, insurance number, etc.

16. Make Sure to Leave Someone You Trust to Keep an Eye Out on Your Home

We usually use Ring and a security system to watch over our home but we also like to rely on our neighbors for extra precaution. Neighbors are great when it comes to trusting someone close to watch over your home when you have no signal to keep an eye on your security cameras. Make sure to let your neighbor know in advance so they can make plans to be home during that time.

17. Check all Windows and Doors in Your Home

Before heading out on your road trip, it is important to make sure that all of your windows and doors are locked and curtains are close. You don’t want anyone peeking into your home to see your valuables so it’s best to keep them hidden, out of sight, and locked away in your home. Having locked windows and doors makes it much harder and intimidating for robbers to break in.

18. Pack Fun Things To Do During A Road Trip

Bring games, cards, movies, and video games on your road trip. Make it fun for everyone. You can have the kids play the Nintendo and race against each other or even binge watch one of their favorite shows. They can even bring card games to play with everyone. And if you want some quiet time, bring their favorite books to read.

19. Pack Healthy Snacks and Drinks for on the Road

While having sweets and chips can be a fun snack for a road trip, it is also important to have healthy options. Bring some of your favorite fruits, healthy chips, granola bars, and juices to keep snack time more healthy for everyone. Check out our favorite road trip snacks below.

20. Make Sure to Have a Roadside Emergency Kit Packed in Your Car

It is important to have a roadside emergency kit packed in your trunk. You never know what emergency you may have on the side of the road or how long it will take road side assistance to get to you so it’s good to always be prepared. Here are a few things that we like to keep in our car just to be safe.

Road Trip Tips for Families

Road trips with kids doesn’t have to be stressful. As long as you keep your kids fed and entertained, the car trip part of your trip can go very smoothly. Here are a few tips for family road trips to consider:

  • Choose healthy snack and drink options to limit on the sugar intake. Less hyper children equals happier parents.
  • Take frequent breaks. We aim to take a bathroom break every 3 to 4 hours into our trip. If we see a small park along the way, we will sometimes stop there for lunch and a nice break.
  • Bring things to keep them entertained such as books to read, coloring books, card games, magnetic car games, their tablet and headphones, music, video games, etc.
  • Bring a backpack full of fun stuff for each child along with their favorite blanket and pillow.
  • Pack their favorite snacks. When grocery shopping for your trip, let them each pick out their favorite snack and drink.
  • Get them excited about the trip by talking to them about the itinerary and the fun things you have planned for them. Or if it’s a surprise, build up the tension to keep them on edge to find out what the big surprise destination is.
view of the road through the windshield during a road trip

Things to Check Before a Road Trip

I know I mentioned these things throughout the article but I wanted to briefly put it all into one section for you to refer back to. Before heading out on your road trip make sure to check these things first:

  • Make sure that your car has a full tank of gas, recent oil change, water for the windshield, good tires, etc.
  • Double check that your windows and doors are locked and that your curtains are closed.
  • Clean your home and take out the trash before you leave.
  • Plan ahead and do your research on the destination you are traveling too.
  • Check your car insurance and make sure you have a good roadside assistance program in place.
  • Make sure that your health insurance covers out of network emergencies.
  • Check your GPS for the best route and alternate routes before heading out on your road trip.

Summary of 20 Things To Do Before Going on a Family Road Trip

Now it’s time to get ready for your next family road trip. How exciting! Where are you going to next?

I hope that this guide helps you be more prepared for your next trip and have some peace of mind when you leave home or are on the road. Having a backup plan while also making sure that everything is good at home can make a big difference in the overall experience of your trip. Now go make some fun family memories on the road.

Hi, I'm Jessica!

I am a wife and mother to three amazing kids. A coffee addict and wine lover. I also have a huge love for the mountains and the the ocean. Through my blog I hope to inspire families to spend more time outdoors. 

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