Concepts for Kids: Road Trip Vacation + Free Printable Packing List for Kids

The following is a guest post from regular contributor with a packing list for kids, Rachel at Useful Beautiful Home.

I want to share a quick side-note from my last post to all you incredible I’m an Organizing Junkie readers.  Your lovely comments and feedback made my heart swell with gratitude!  Consider this my genuine extension of thankfulness to you!

Moving on to my Organizing Concepts for Kids series…  Summer is around the corner and I know countless vacation blogger tips await you.  Although I have thoughts on that matter too, today I narrow my focus to share about travel organization for children.

I implemented the following for our recent road trip, but you can certainly apply it to most types of traveling.  The overall concept was to teach the value of list making & following a list.  Additionally, I’ll share how I organized our time in the car.  My goal was to eliminate the dreaded “are we there yet?” question.  🙂

Planning a road trip vacation with kids? Check out these awesome tips plus free printable vacation packing list!

I decided that teaching my daughter about the packing process was a good idea from the standpoint of parenting.  I’m NOT telling you she packed like a pro, but she did manage to learn the basics of organizing for a trip.

I’m a list maker and love the accomplishments of crossing off the items (anyone with me here?).  Whether your list is paper & pen or on your favorite digital device, list making seems to be a basic entity of getting thoughts organized.  So, I took the concept down to preschool level and made a picture list.

Picture Packing List for Children

Download the free printable packing list for kids by clicking on the link below:

Vacation Picture Packing List

I tried to make it as basic and gender neutral as possible and only included sets of 5 because I had access to a washer/dryer on vacation.  However, if you’re interested in designing your own more specifically, I used a combo of clip-art from Word and Photoshop.

The process is simple; set up your child(ren) with a designated packing station, a crayon or marker, and the picture packing list.  I arranged a small suitcase and the picture list next to my daughter’s closet.  I then instructed her to cross off each item on the list as she packed it in her suitcase.

*If you want to control the process a little bit, you could put out more clothing sets than necessary on the bed and let your kiddo pick his/her packing choices from that designated pile.

checking off the list

She took her task seriously skipping around the house retrieving items and tucking them inside her bag.  As a bonus, the packing took her a good portion of time, allowing me to get my own packing finished.  🙂

I will confess I did remove her shoes and toothbrush.  Even though I put them on her list to pack, I don’t want those items together in one place due to potential germ swapping.  I separated those things out like I normally do for trips.

I also reviewed her clothing choices and made appropriate changes where necessary.  Yes, I want her to gain independence with organizing, but I also have to incorporate proper guidance where necessary.  Overall, she did a good job following directions and she was proud to accomplish her own packing.

I found some toys tucked inside too.  She took a few liberties in adding them to her suitcase.  🙂

child packed suitcase

For the car ride, I created a “busy bag”.  I found this compartmentalized bag (made for containing craft items) in the fabric section at Walmart.  I’m sure there is a clever bag designed specifically for the car, but this price met my budget allotment.  With all the pockets and dividers, it’s sure to fit a variety of car traveling needs.

Car Busy Bag for kids with great suggestions with what to include inside

Any loose items (like crayons and stickers) were placed in individual baggies or containers first.  I used the idea of keeping smaller items in travel soap dishes (I got this idea from here).  I continued the concept by adding one for small markers and one for ring stamps.

3 open soap dishes

All three of them fit nicely inside a pocket of the divided bag.

soap boxes inside busy bag

I appreciated how the busy bag promoted independence for my daughter during the trip.  Since everything had its own spot, retrieving and then returning the items was easy for a child.  Even while traveling, I do my best to incorporate the same guidelines (responsibility, stewardship, etc.) we teach at home.

The thin innermost divided area was the perfect size for coloring and activity books.

coloring and activity books inside busy bag

I had other mom tricks up my sleeve to keep our car ride running smoothly and organized.  However, I want to be careful and not veer away from the subject of organizing.  So, if you’re interested in a tutorial of the following DIY project LEAVE A COMMENT and I’ll post it on my blog this week!

For now, I’ll touch on the following things briefly since they pertained to organizing road trip time.

I found that what happens in preparation before a vacation is a large part of what makes it so enjoyable.  So, I made a kid version of a “AAA TripTik Map” for the car ride.  I took a long piece of ribbon, sewed Velcro strips on it, and made move-able pieces to coincide with our voyage timeline.

full shot of ribbon and velcro hanging on wall

I set my cell phone to alarm every hour we were in the car.  When the alarm would sound, my daughter would move the princess dress one step closer to the castle piece (which marked the end of our journey).

I safety pinned the ribbon to the outside of her car seat so the ribbon was reachable but not the pin.  The dress started at the topped and moved down the line as our trip progressed.

This is the angle from inside the car.  You can see how it reached around the seat.  (Ideally, I would rather attach it to the other side and have the princess dress move from left to right, but for our car packing purposes, that wasn’t possible.)  The ribbon served as a visual to explain the distance of our car travel and provide a guideline for handing her treasure filled goodie bags that I had prepared.

diagrammed ribbon stretched across carseat

Prior to the trip, I had her decorate some treasure bags ~ this ended up being a huge success because it built anticipation for the car!  I filled them with snacks and simple surprises.  Then throughout the duration of the trip, I would hand her a bag to occupy the time.

goodie bags decorated

Again, I don’t want to stray too far from the topic of organizing.  So, I’m not going to venture into the details.  I just want to point out that before the trip began, I made sure all the items I used to fill the treasure bags would fit inside the black activity bag.  For me, to keep a car trip efficient, I try to maintain “a place for everything and everything in its place”.  🙂

This is the half empty activity bag & the grab bags.  Each red bag had a riddle attached to the front.  She had to solve it before opening the contents.

UBH 2 Bushel Basket for outdoor bouncy balls

Lastly, here is how I organized snacks to be user-friendly for children.  Let me mention how I LOVE the idea of using a tackle or bead box to individually contain an open variety of snacks (yet another beautiful tip I found on Pinterest).  However, when I showed my hubby, he wisely pointed out that would be a spill hazard in our vehicle.  He was right, so I had to come up with something else.

I needed a hinged lid container, so parts weren’t falling on the floor.  (I get carsick easily and can’t turn around frequently to retrieve fallen items.)  I started with a Charmin wipes case with an easy push-to-open lid for small hands.  It is similar to a baby wipes container, but this smaller size fits better inside the divided pockets of our busy bag.

charmin in front snacks in background

Next, I removed the package of wipes inside and filled the box with snack size zip top baggies.  I pre-filled the baggies with a variety of snack foods.

The Charmin container was the only one that had an easy push-button opener and a wide mouth to pull the baggies through.  The other brands weren’t as ideal for this homemade system.  You could also use a pencil box (hinged-lid style) but you run a small risk of all the baggies falling onto the floor if it’s tipped while open.

open charmin box with baggies inside

Of course, the tub was never used for restroom purposes and I washed it thoroughly before using it to contain food.  🙂  Once the baggies were loaded up, I wiggled them through the small opening.

pull baggies through opening in Charmin box

I hid the snack box inside a grab bag.  When she opened it, I made sure to explain the basics of rationing her treats.  🙂  I did have back-up snacks if she ate through this container, but that didn’t end up being a problem.

I noticed it was a little more difficult for my daughter to remove the first plastic baggie from the box.  I think part of the problem was how full I had stuffed it, which made retrieving the first one harder, but all the following baggies were easier to pull out.

We had a cooler in the car for keeping perishables and drinks.  All the extra snack baggies I packed went into a large zip top bag.  This was mostly used for the return trip home.  I also packed un-stuffed goodie bags and a few treasure items for the return ride.   Don’t forget about the trip home.  🙂

individual snacks in large ziplock

I have so many more things to share about traveling with little ones, but I better call it quits for now.  🙂  I hope this gets your gears turning about including the car ride as part of your family fun this summer!  For children especially, getting there is half the fun with the right amount of preparation!

Rachel In the professional world, I’m a nurse by trade. But, around our house, I’m known as Mommy to our young daughter. My two worlds collided and began shaping into a blog. Useful Beautiful Home represents the hours I’ve dedicated to managing my household as efficiently as possible. I offer you motivation to keep your home healthy, organized, and welcoming. My goal is to share what I’ve implemented in my home to inspire you with fresh ideas and to encourage you to keep up the good work in yours!

Related posts:

Family Travel Checklist

Filed under: Guest Bloggers, Kid Stuff, Rachel, Travel/Auto Organization


24 Responses to Concepts for Kids: Road Trip Vacation + Free Printable Packing List for Kids

  1. 2
    Lindsay P says

    Thanks so much. I will be using these ideas this summer! I would love to see more posts about traveling with small kiddos. Not just the organizing portion ;). This is fabulous! Very smart mommy!

    • 2.1
      [email protected] Beautiful Home says

      Thank you Lindsay! You can see other travel thoughts over at my blog, but I try to stick to the organizing stuff here. 🙂

  2. 3
    Jana says

    This post is chock full of good ideas! We will be flying across the country for the first time this summer and I am using ALL of these ideas!

  3. 4
    LuAnn Braley says

    I am SO digging the kids’ picture/packing list that they can check off stuff that they have packed. Our next trip to Texas will consist of two adults, 3 children and 1-4 dogs, so anything I can shove off on the kids (er…make that provide them with a great learning experience) would be great! :O)

  4. 5
    Chelsea says

    So awesome!!! My family and I(pregnant me, husband, and my two under 10 stepsons) are heading from Missouri to California next week, this was EXACTLY what I needed!! So many great ideas, thanks so much!!

  5. 6
    Barry says

    Wow, great photos showing how to get everything organised for the kids!

    Thanks for sharing!

  6. 7
    Kim says

    I love everything! A lot of great ideas! What type of riddles did you use for the treasure bags? We are going to Disney in 18 days and would love some ideas for my 4 and 9 yr olds!

  7. 8
    Anne says

    Thank you so much for that printable packing list! My son is autistic, so pictures mean much more to him than words. He just packed his suitcase for the first time, gleefully!

  8. 9
    Megan says

    What did you do for the return trip?

  9. 10
    Alicia says

    I just found this post on Pinterest and love it! We are taking our first long drive vacation with 3 kids in a month. I will definitely be utilizing many of these tips!

  10. 11
    Erin Flint says

    I just found this on Pinterest and have to say its going to be a HUGE help this summer while we drive from Michigan to Maine to visit some old Army friends of my Husband…my kids were used to long road trips to visit family but now that they are older I know they aren’t going to sleep the whole trip out there and this gave me a bunch of ideas to keep them happy. Thank you for the ideas.

  11. 12
    Veronica Linarte says

    Some great ideas! Where did you get the divider bag? I’m so doing this so my 2 and 1 yr olds!!!

  12. 13
    Anna Ferrin says

    I stress out so much whenever I need to get out of the house, and now the stress is rising, with 4 kids 17 hours…It’s hard to breathe. When I saw this site…I was able to take a breath. I’m now looking forward to this trip, so many fun activities for the whole family. The kids will have fun packing-I love the visual packing list LOVE IT….

    Thank you, Thank you, Thank you,

    I will comment when we get back and let you know how it went…I’m stoked.


  13. 14
    Amanda says

    I would love to know which specific bag this is and try to order it at

  14. 15
    Elizabeth Lewis says

    Thank you SO, SO much, I LOVE your posts! I too am a lover of organization and lists. I find, especially since having a little person to take care of, that I need lists to keep myself on track and keep myself sane! I loved so many of your great ideas and I plan on implementing some of them (at least to some degree) during our family vacation this July (2018). Thanks again for the great ideas, and I can’t wait to see your next post(s). Smiles to all, Elizabeth (Izzy)


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