ROAD TRIP essentials & what’s inside of our car?

In my last Road trip codex for families article I introduced you to road trips – mainly keeping the focus on baby,- and early toddlerhood. Now, we have an almost 3-year-old daughter & countless road trips behind our backs. With new experiences, and a fresh mindset, let me dive more into the universe of road trips by showing you our road trip essentials & what’s inside of our car?

Roadtrips with toddlers

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The basics – Road trip 1o1

10 reasons you should go for road trips with your toddler!

  1. Sense of freedom.
  2. Uninterrupted family time.
  3. Can be cheaper* than going abroad.
  4. Customize your trip however you want.
  5. Support locals, instead of going abroad.
  6. Discover your close surroundings.
  7. If you stay close, you’ll be more an eco-traveler.
  8. Your child will be introduced to new places, meet new people.
  9. Packing is more permissive than in case of flying.
  10. Your child will become more open, kind, curious human being.

*depends on your preferences

With setting the foundation, let’s have a closer look on the ‘What to pack?’ question – because let’s be real: a good road trip hugely depends on the success of your packing! 🙂

Sunset during roadtrip

Entertaining – the hardest part

Why wait? Let’s just start with the most challenging part: How to entertain your child during the ride? 🙂

Despite all of our effort scheduling all the ride around nap time, we likely have non-sleeping sessions as well - especially when we visit multiple places a day. Play time is super important but now let’s stay in the car.

Party in the car
  • 1 current favorite
  • 1-2 small but engaging ones like stickers, book, magnetic toys.

When she was a baby, basically any object did the trick, so don’t overthink the toy question. Nowadays, we pay attention to continuously rotate the toys, so it doesn’t get boring too soon. There was a time we always had to have the water coloring, but recently she likes to play with the PC magnetic games.

  • We’re in the phase when we can start playing like finding blue cars, red lights - basically a road trip bingo.
  • Listen to some cool music. Tbh I don’t really fancy baby shark & his friends. A good K-pop always puts us in good mood! 🙂
  • Talking is a pretty good one. We always tell her where we are going, what we’re going to do, what she can see if she turns right. Now it’s getting more & more amusing chatting with her as her communication has skyrocketed last year.

💁🏼‍♀️ Unpopular POV No1.:

  • Screen time. It’s not an evil thing in our opinion. We filter (like crazy) what we allow her to watch but in general 20 min of her favorite cartoon can be a holy grail. We just make sure it isn’t the first choice. Golden rule: iPad has to hang in front of her in eye-level. Looking down never made any good. Trust us.

💁🏼‍♀️ Unpopular POV No2.:

  • I usually accompany her at the back when we have a longer ride because we found it easier to ease her discomfort when I’m with her. Because the happy mom = happy kid is valid the other way around: happy kid = happy mom. 🙂

🎁 PRO TIP No1🎁:

Each time I try to pack 1 toy which is in connection with the place we’re going: mini airplane for the Porto trip, teddy bear for the bear sanctuary, Easter egg for the ‘bunny’ chapel during Easter. It’s a good way engaging her and also to introduce the place in advance.

Easteg egg at the "bunny" chapel

🎁 PRO TIP No2 🎁:

As much as we do believe that we don’t need to carry huge number of toys, we still have one hidden piece in the car: a mini sand toy set. Under mini, I mean really mini. 🙂 But this 15 cm tall set has saved so many totally random playground visits, I think it’ll just serve fine for the years to come.

Mini sand toy kit in the car

The essential toddler items

After revealing all the fun stuff, now let’s see the road trip essentials & what’s inside of our car?


While this item is not necessarily something you have to further detail, but I have a thought to share about car seats. A must-have! Without it you cannot even start any journey. For the record: there are gazillion types of car seat, and you will choose the one which is right for you. But, for a little reminder, consider reading through this guide I came across lately:

🎁 PRO TIP No3 🎁

Do you know exactly how to install your car seat & be sure about its correct placement? If your answer is wavering even for a bit, here is a guide to help you out: 20 common car seat mistakes.

🚙 CAR SEAT HOLDER – toddler edition:
  • Above mentioned toys (except the magic mini sand toy kit) – it’s placed at the back
  • Wet wipes
  • 1 swaddle type of cloth for potential accidents
  • For longer trips extra set of clothes
  • +1 Water bottle (not just for her, but for us too)
  • Light swaddle (mostly for shading)
Shade with this blanket/swaddle
  • In the baby period we used the jumbo stroller + carrier combo.
  • But when we had the chance to change from jumbo to compact stroller, we did. Első körben egy Kinderkraft-unk volt, most pedig a NAGY nyári utunk előtt beszereztünk egy Babyzen picire összecsukható babakocsit. We used it for a decent amount of time, but tbh, she was never a stroller-fan.
  • Nowadays we mostly use our Tushbaby hip seat. If you visit their website, you can get 15% off with the code: TRAVELFAM.
  • If we plan a hike, or a longer walking - in a not scorching hot month -, we also place our Manduca carrier also in the leg space.
  • Also, the balance bike (Kinderkraft) or scooter (Decathlon) is a permanent tenant in the trunk lately, for outings we know there’s a chance we’ll use it.
  • Lastly, our current favorite is our Fuxtec wagon. This is a more than handy, sturdy & fun way to move. Ideally, we use it for the beach (or any sort of water places), but it’s great for outings like a children day in the park, picnics, stroll in the zoo. Also, it’s possible to go sightseeing, or even grocery shopping. 🙂
Wagon, compact stroller, 4trike bicycle
Scooter, buckle carrier, hip seat

At this part I want to mention that regarding mobility, we don’t pack all. We wish we had enough space for every item on the list, but the reality is that our trunk has limitation. 🙂

Also note, that not every gadget is ideal for every activity. For beaches I couldn’t ask for more than a wagon, but for just shop hopping in the city the hip seat is just fine. Always evaluate - or at least try to predict – what you’ll need.

The smaller items, like the hip seat or the carrier goes to the legroom of the car in front of our toddler. The bike/balance bike/scooter can go on top of the suitcases at the back, but when we use the wagon, it’s usually the wagon in the trunk, so make sure to plan ahead where to put all your luggage. 👾 But keep an eye on the next section, I’ll give you an alternative solution! 🙂

The Heavy Artillyery - Roofrack

I must say, it’s designed for longer road trips, but last year we had a bliss when we found a good place we can rent from. 🤩

In total honesty we love road trips, but for 2-4 days there is no need for one, however for a weeklong summer holiday it was more than useful! And let’s be also honest about spending huge chunk of money on something you’ll use maximum twice a year.

So, we rented! The pros:

  • Doesn’t affect your speed (under 130 km/h).
  • You don’t have to squeeze yourself into the car with all the luggage stuffed in.
  • Totally epic way to store your packing cubes - especially if you have a stopover somewhere & you only need one packing cube with the essentials.
  • Renting is way cheaper option for 1-2 times a year than buying one.
Croatian roadtrip with roofrack

The ultimate checklist

I know we can’t remember everything to pack. At least we tended to forget something. But over the last 2 years we have mastered our road trip checklist. It also consists of items that are not traveling related, but there are a few, which is typically with us on the longer ride.

Making our road trip essentials & what’s inside of our car? - article complete, make sure to click on the link below to download The Road trip Checklist by JUSTdiariesTravel. 🚙👨‍👩‍👧

🥳 I want the packing list! 🥳



IG Guide with all the roadtrip posts