12 Amazing Road Trip Essentials to Keep Your Car Organized

If you’re getting ready for a road trip with kids, one of your main concerns is probably how to keep the car from becoming a big mess. Kids are notorious for making a mess, and it can be difficult to keep them entertained and organized on a long drive. In this post, we will discuss different ways to organize your car so that the drive is as smooth as possible. We’ll cover everything from totes and organizers to diaper caddies and storage bins. So read on for tips and tricks that will help make your road trip a success!

Need more ideas? Check out 58 Screen-Free Road Trip Activities, 9 Simple Car Organization Hacks Anyone Can Do and Mess-Free Snacks For Road Trips Kids Will Love

Road trip essentials

What should I put on my car for a road trip?


Just like anything in life, if you take time to prepare for an event, then there is much less stress. This is exactly how it is for a road trip! Taking some extra time to prepare for the actual drive can really go a long way and make things go smoothly. Not only this but it will help you be organized and things will be so much less stressful so you can enjoy road tripping.

You will know before your road trip begins that you have enough snacks (and where they are!), you have enough activities, all the iPads are charged, you downloaded a route planner app just like route4me.com and some podcasts, and everyone has some books to read.. Instead of frantically trying to run around the house at the last minute, (which realistically happens for everyone anyway) take some time to make a list of needed items and your road trip will be a breeze.

I personally love to make a list of items that we will need in our suitcases, and items that we will need in the car. I have an extensive list of road trip activity ideas that are as mess-free as you can possibly get. So you can check out the article here if you’re interested.


It may seem common sense to pack road trip essentials according to when you will need them but a lot of times we get in a frantic rush and we just throw everything in the back only to realize that we can’t get to the things that we need.

So take time to think about when you will need to access certain items and that will determine where you put them in the car.

For example, packing your cell phone charger in your suitcase isn’t going to be very helpful to you on the road if your phone runs out of battery. Only put things in the trunk that you know you’re not going to need until you arrive at your destination. Other items can be located throughout the car at a closer range so that you can get to them when you need them. This will help your family road trips go much more smoothly. Below are a few ideas and car accessories to keep your car organized

USE BINS TO Organize your car for a road trip

Bins are a magical tool that will allow you to keep your car organized during a road trip. It is one of those road trip essentials that you just can’t forget!

At the very least, getting a bin with a lid and throwing in some of your kids’ favorite mess-free, screen-free activities can really go a long way to help to keep them occupied. Utilizing a bin will really help contain all the items so that everything can stay in one place.

There are several different kinds of bins that you can use. My favorite bins are these Sterilite snap-top bins. They’re really low profile but they’re just big enough that they can fit things like coloring books and iPads.

You can choose to organize your things according to the type of item or you can even organize things according to the age of the child. For example, your 2-year-old is definitely going to be interested in different toys and activities than your 11-year-old will. So you could consider creating a bin for each child so that they can keep all of their items in one place.

kids travel activities

I have these awesome flip-top Sterilite containers that are just awesome! The link allows you to buy several different sizes.


What treats to bring on road trips

Everyone knows that those long hours in the car can be tough, especially for kids. That’s why it’s important to bring along plenty of snacks and treats to keep them happy and entertained. But what snacks should you bring? When packing snacks for your road trip, it is important to consider both healthy and unhealthy foods. Here are a few ideas:

  • Granola bars
  • Fruit snacks
  • Dried Fruit
  • Beef Jerkey
  • Water bottles
  • Plastic Bags (for trash)

If you’re looking for an extensive list of ideas, you can check out my list of snacks________

Plenty of mess-free activities for the kids

Sometimes we are so concentrated on keeping our kids occupied in the car we forget to take into consideration all of the messes that those activities create.

How do you organize your car for a road trip?

How to organize kids’ toys in the car

Keeping your kids entertained on a long car ride can be tricky, but it’s important to try to avoid letting them get too stir-crazy. A good way to do this is to pack plenty of activities that will occupy their time and keep their minds off the fact that they’re stuck in a car. Create a shopping list ahead of time full of activities and snacks that will keep your family trip fun and exciting!

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Use Backseat organizers for extra storage space

This is one of the best and easiest ways to organize your car for a road trip! They add extra storage space that allows you to keep small toys, or snacks easily accessible but off the floor.

I am SUPER picky with the organizers that I choose because there are a LOT of crappy ones out there that are flimsy, low quality, and just generally are a poor choice. I prefer back seat organizers that are rigid and have a faux-leather look to them. These tend to help you keep the car tidy while also looking high-quality themselves. These can also be placed in the passenger seat if you don’t have someone sitting there.

They have multiple compartments and they really help you to feel properly prepared for your next family vacation.

Create Personalized Activity Bags for road trips

I mentioned this a little bit before but it can be really helpful to take an extra few minutes to personalize activities for each child. It’s significantly easier to think about it and organize it when you are at home and able to spread things out rather than trying to dig through a bag full of activities trying to find something that a particular child might enjoy. This is one of my favorite travel tips!

Giving just an extra 20 or 30 minutes of thought before you leave can really help things go smoothly on a road trip. For example, if you know that you have a little girl that loves Disney princesses, then take a few minutes and gather up some activities that you know are Disney princess-oriented that she will love. And my best advice is to even print out new coloring pages or grab a couple of cheap activities from the dollar store that your kids have never seen or played with before. This goes a very long way and keeps them occupied because it’s something that they haven’t done or played with before.


I have particular bags that I have set aside that are extra helpful for keeping me organized when we are headed out on vacation. These things fold up nicely and compact and I just store them on the side of my washer when they are not in use. They take up virtually no space but they are extremely useful when it comes to packing for a road trip. This is one of those road trip essentials that I really can’t go without.

When I am organizing the car using bags, I store things like pillows, blankets, snacks, grocery items, or even electronics and devices. I even set up a bag right by the door of the garage so that I can put in those last-minute items such as phone chargers and snacks for the road trip.

I ordered these clear travel bags and put each kid’s name on it (using vinyl and my Silhouette machine). Each child is in charge of their own bag and activities. I feel like my kids are finally to the age where I feel that’s appropriate and they love it! Everyone has their own activities, travel pillow, headphones, etc.

I even labeled everyone’s headphones with the same font on their bag to give it an extra fun touch.

personalized headphones

I definitely have my favorite bags, and I will link them below, but they don’t have to be anything fancy. In fact, some of the best road trip bags are the cheap extra-large bags that you can get at the checkout stand at most grocery stores. I especially love to get the giant bags from TJ Maxx and Ross. they only cost a couple of dollars but they hold tons of stuff!


If I had to choose any one road trip essential to keep my car organized during a road trip, I would definitely use pouches of some sort. The bags that I have pictured are simply from the office supply area of Walmart. They are nothing fancy and they only cost me a dollar.

They are a great way to be able to organize activities and easily pass them around to the kids without handing them all the activities at one time. They can do all the activities that I’ve organized in one pouch and when they’re ready for another set of activities they can either trade with a sibling or ask me for a different pouch.

organized activity bags

I have organized these in several different ways but I have found that my favorite way to organize road trip essentials like activities is to organize them according to age. If you were to organize your pouches with all of the puzzles in them, then your kids may get sick of doing puzzles quickly and want to change activities.

But if they have a variety of activities in one pouch, then they will keep that pouch for a longer period of time meaning that you don’t have to keep reaching back in the back to trade things around as often.

You can then contain all of the pouches inside a tote bag to keep everything contained from there.



One of my no-compromise road trip essential items is a travel pillow. There is no sense in bringing your own pillows and blankets if you are going to a hotel and they will already have pillows there for you.

kids bags for road trip

Unless you will be needing them at your destination, leave your own pillows at home and invest in some small travel blankets or pillows.

This will significantly decrease the amount of stuff that you have in the car and will help with the mess. Each of my kids has a small travel pillow that unzips and can double as a blanket if they get cold. They obviously can’t use both at the same time but it’s so much better than bringing all three of my kid’s giant blankets and pillows.



This method may be a bit over the top for many people but this is something that I have found to be really helpful for me and my family. Oftentimes when we go on a road trip, it’s a time for us to splurge and we usually take our kids to the dollar store or the grocery store to pick out one special treat. But when my kids were younger especially, it was hard for me to trust them to not inhale the entire contents of the package within the first three seconds.

So if you find that you want to ration or have a bit more control over how quickly your kids are filling up on treats and snacks, using Ziploc containers or bags is a great way to keep things organized. This is one of those road trip essentials that I don’t always make time for but when I do, I’m always grateful for it.

When we are on the road and my kids ask for a treat I can easily get a small bag of pre-packaged jelly beans or M&M’s or whatever and pass them back. It makes my job easier in the car and it keeps my kids from going into a sugar coma. You could also use regular size Ziploc bags for things like crackers, chips, or anything else like that. It really pays off to plan ahead!

Of course, there is always the option to buy pre-packaged snacks if you are short on time but if you are looking to save money and just use snacks from around the house then this is a great method! Either way, make sure that you can have easy access to your snacks.

Use a Diaper Caddy to Organize Road Trip Essentials

Using a felt diaper caddy or something similar is a really great way to keep things organized in the car. This is especially helpful if you have a baby and you need to access things quickly to keep them happy during a long drive. Or if you simply have kids that are old enough to access all of the activities on their own without going overboard then this is a great method!

One thing that I really love about this diaper caddy is that my kids were able to keep this organized themselves. It was a simple as sliding it back into the compartment. Things definitely don’t always end up as nicely as I started things out but they definitely do well with this method. I also love the handles because it’s really handy to carry around.


How to organize electronics on a road trip

Everyone knows that electronics are a lifesaver on road trips. But, they can also be a pain to keep track of and organize.

One way to help with this is to get a charging station. This is great because it will allow you to charge multiple devices at once and keep them all in one place. Another great way to organize your electronics is by using a travel cord organizer that keeps cords organized but still easily accessible. Plus, it can be small enough to fit in your glove box so it is out of the way.

If you don’t want to purchase a charging cord organizer, you can also use something simple like shower caddies to contain the cords and the devices so your vehicle stays tidy.

Make sure all electronic devices are charged

Nothing is worse than packing your family into the car for a road trip only to realize that mom forgot to charge the electronics. So make sure that this is on your list of things to do before you leave on your family trip!

Keeping your car clean on a road trip

Pack Cleaning Supplies

It’s important to remember to pack some cleaning supplies so that you can keep your car clean on your trip. This will make the trip more pleasant for everyone involved. Some essential cleaning supplies to pack include:

  • Wet wipes
  • Trash bags
  • Lint roller
  • Disinfectant spray
  • Paper towels
  • Trash can
  • Hand Sanitizer

With these tips, you’ll be able to keep it clean in case of food or drink spills, or even if someone gets sick.

bags in the trunk for road trip

Organizing your car for a road trip with kids doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming. By following these tips, you can make the process much easier and ensure that everyone has a great time on the trip. One of the best things you can do is to bring a trash bag (or a few!). You’ll be surprised at how often you’ll use these on your next road trip.


Prepare for emergencies

No matter how well you plan, there’s always a possibility that something could go wrong on your family road trip. Be prepared for anything by packing a first-aid kit, bringing along a map of the area, and having a list of emergency numbers on hand.

Having things such as emergency supplies, a roadside emergency kit, a spare tire, jumper cables, and a tire inflator! It’s also important to keep up on your car maintenance before you leave so you can avoid any preventable issues.

Organized road trip

Always Have an Emergency Kit

It’s important to always have an emergency kit in your car, no matter how short or long the drive is. You never know when you might need it. And if possible always try to keep your emergency kit handy so you don’t have to fully unpack the trunk in case you actually need to use it. At a minimum, your emergency kit should include:

  • A first aid kit
  • Jumper cables
  • A spare tire
  • A jack
  • Flares or reflectors
  • A flashlight
  • Tools (screwdriver

As you can see, it takes a bit of prep time before your family road trip can actually begin. But if you take the time to do it right, it will be worth it in the long run! A little bit of planning and organization can go a long way towards making your trip more enjoyable for everyone involved.

Do you have any tips or tricks for organizing your car for a road trip? Share them with us in the comments below!

Happy travels!

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One Comment

  1. My kids are grown now and I am looking for ideas for my granddaughter (age 18 months now) and one thing we did for our kids was to buy a backpack (on sale after back to school sales ended) just for travel activities. I would pack these with some toys and leave lots of space as we left. We went on many long camping trips or back to visit family, often 2 very long days of driving to reach our destination. Some of the toys/activities were ones we had from before, some were toys that I packed away several months prior to the trip, some were new from the Dollar store and one time I went into a thrift store and was able to get about 60 Beanie Babies with tags. I also had a bag with me that contained “surprises”, that almost always included at least one of the Beanie Babies for each child. (I found I still have some, so I’ll use those with the newest generation.) The travel kits were fun to put together and I think they are why my kids are excellent travelers today.

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