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Family Travel

Road Trip with Kids: The Ultimate Packing List

Alright, we’ve done our far share of road trips this last year (with babies in tow of course), anywhere from 3hrs to 24 hrs! So we’re here to let you know packing for a road trip with kids is definitely something you DON’T want to mess up. Don’t worry though, we’ve handled all the #parentingfails for you and experienced first hand what to pack and not pack – check out below our road trip essentials for kids that will make those hours in the car…dare we say FUN!

road tripping with kids

A go-with-the flow, PATIENT attitude

Alright I know, cheesy to start with this right? But this is hands down the number one thing that stands between you and having a really fun, memorable time on your next family road trip.

You must expect disasters.

Things will NOT go as planned.

There without a doubt will be whining.

Expectation is everything. That way when chaos and meltdowns do happen (because they 100% will, and most likely at the worst possible time…as we all know painfully well when it comes to parenting)- you can just say “Oh yes, ok I knew there was going to be a disaster or two…here it is happening now!” A road trip with kids can be challenging at moments, but it’s going to be one of those distinct memories your kid brings up when they’re 20 I’m sure… have fun!!

This portable potty (the less gas station bathrooms the better, amirite?)

Alright this is definitely at the top of the list for a reason. Please PLEASE don’t waste a minute with those portable potties where you have to clean basin…just gross.

This is the best portable potty for kids hands down. No mess, no germs, easy set up and disposal. (This is actually our go-to not just on road trips but ALL the time)

One more gas station bathroom I can avoid in my lifetime is a WIN 🙂 Just don’t forget the extra bags! If there’s one thing those earth-destroying plastic grocery bags are good for…we start stashing bags for a few months before a trip and you’ll be set for your time on the road (and free! absolutely no need to buy the overpriced bags made for potty IMO)

family road trip

These Carseat Trays

We’ve gone the cheap route on these (see below) and these really are the way to go. They fold up, which is key, and provide a surface for your little ones to actually do all the activities and games they want while in their car seat.

i.e. read– your kids staying occupied longer 🙂

I’ve also been eyeing this car seat organizer for our road trip with the kids to Idaho this summer…seems like it could make this organizing-loving mama’s heart VERY happy.

Podcasts and Audio Books to the rescue!

This is the number one thing that keep our kids occupied and happy on those long stints on the road. Here’s a few of our favorites that seem to hold the kids’ attention the best!

Circle Round Podcast

The Bookmarked Podcast

But Why Podcast

The Libby App (we use this to download full audiobooks through our local library before traveling – free!)

Mess-free activities to keep little hands and minds busy

Road trip essentials for kids 101- easy and mess-free activities is the name of the game. We learned the hard way on our 24hr trek to Italy with the kids (read all about traveling internationally with kids here!)…the less pieces and small parts the better.

My criteria for thinking through packing for a road trip with kids is – How many pieces are there? Will it be frustrating if it spills all over the car floor? Can we lose a bunch of parts?

Our older one’s favorite is definitely these Sticker puzzles. And the little one tends to gravitate towards these water coloring books.

Keep reading below for the one activity that just does not live up to the hype and we never bring anymore on the road.

traveling with a baby

The ultimate kid-friendly road trip playlist

Is it a road trip without a dance party?!

Put together a Spotify list of your favorite road trip songs that won’t require ear muffs if you know what I mean. It will be a highlight of the trip for sure…and break up all those hours of activities and movies.

This Visual Timer

Are we there yet???

Here is my answer to that inevitable and incessant question. We use this on road trips (and at home) for a tangible visual for kids to see how much time they have left to the next stop or maybe their next surprise…more on that below! This timer brings us more sanity than we realize I am sure of it 🙂

Roadtrip games (that require minimal effort on your part Mom)

In between the dance party and the movies and the hours of (hopefully) calm activities, you may want to have some intentional time as a family to connect…because hey you are stuck in a small, enclosed space together for hours on end!

Our two favorite road trip games are Would You Rather and any sort of 20 Questions style game. If you need a little bit of Would You Rather inspiration there’s a few apps for that and for 20 Questions, this handheld game with question cards is seriously so fun with the little ones.

road tripping with a toddler

Slip-on shoes for the babes

Such a simple thing that makes a big difference.

The kids will 100% want to take their shoes off on the road. Which is GREAT. But when you stop 50 times (which you inevitably will) your life is going to be soooo much easier when your little one can just slip those shoes on themselves before hopping out of the car. An underrated road trip essential for kids for sure.

Nothing beats Natives– indestructible and even the littlest ones can slip them on themselves!

Blanket & Jammies

Comfortable kiddos means happier kiddos…and that’s really what we’re going for here with all this right?!

If we are on the road at night, we make sure to change into their jammies before “bedtime” and do the whole shebang routine just like we would at home….brush teeth, change into jammies, get back on the road, read a book, “lights out” and time for bed.

A cozy blanket is a must for them feeling comfortable (because really, who likes falling asleep sitting up?). Our very favorite blankets are these Saranoni ones, a splurge but truly worth EVERY penny. Trust us, you’ll agree once you feel them 🙂

A single accessible bag with a change of clothes

You’re going to be kicking yourself you didn’t pack this when you have to get out your whole dang suitcase from the very back of the trunk when the littlest babe has an epic spill.

Packing for a road trip with kids means being prepared for the worst.

I like having one small bag, super accessible, with a change of clothes for each kid. That way when disaster strikes, you don’t even bat an eye!

road trip with shoes on the dash

Movie Entertainment (a given)

Alright this one is clearly an obvious in roadtrip essentials for kids 101, BUT a few things to note:

  • Make sure you have some really good quality headphones. We went with the Target dollar spot ones on last summer’s road trip and it led to more meltdowns than one (and not just the kids). These are our favorite here that don’t break the bank and if you can spring for wireless ones these are awesome.
  • If you only have one device like us, a splitter is a MUST. This way both kids are able to watch the same movie! When all the kids have headphones on, it’s almost like a little mini-date in the car…I’ll take it.
  • Do not make the same mistake we did (BIG #parentingfail) and make sure your movies/shows are ALREADY downloaded on your device prior to hitting the road!

Allllll the snacks

If I am REALLY killing it in the supermom, on-top-of-things department…I like packing a small cooler with nourishing, real-food snacks already cut up for the road. But if not (let’s be honest, usually the later), low-mess snacks are the way to go.

I think I am still cleaning up tiny crumbs from last summer’s gold-fish explosion on our National Parks road trip.

These snack cups and snack spinner have proved VERY helpful.

What NOT to pack on your next family road trip

And as far as #parentingfails go, here’s a few things we recommend avoiding at all costs if you can. They seem like a great idea in theory, but these turned out to be road trip NON-essentials with kids in the end.

  • Window clings – They always seem like such a cute idea for a road trip, right?! But just NO. They never fully stick, they end up all over the floor, and the little ones can’t even reach the window most of the time!
  • These trays – We originally went the cheap route on trays for our road trips and it was a fail. They are just so big, take up the entire back seat, and had a hard time fitting on top of the car seat with a good push.
  • Too many toys for the kids – When road tripping with kids, and traveling with kids in general really, less is SO MUCH MORE. We bring one container of toys for our destination and that’s it. They always, always find ways to entertain themselves and it forces them to actually get more creative and imaginative (a win, win in my book)
  • Snacks of the drive you insane variety- As you’re packing snacks for the road, here’s your criteria for if the snack makes the road trip success cut…can it easily spill? If a kid dropped it, would it be all over the car? Does it require all the wipes?

We so hope this round up of road trip essentials for kids is useful to you and serves you well on your next family road trip! We’re fully convinced traveling with kids is never easy but always 100% worth it! Where are you going next?!

Family Travel

15 Dreamy (and Affordable!) Beachfront Family Vacation Rentals

Anyone else just think being near the water, of any kind, is soul-filling?? An oceanside vacation can be difficult with kids (read: ALL the sand)…but always worth it 100% of the time once your set eyes on that view and those waves are crashing over your feet. SO, we’ve done all the researching for you and rounded up 10 of the *most* magical beachfront family vacation rentals for your next vacay.

Here was our criteria: all directly on the beach, all at least 4.7 stars on Airbnb, all guaranteed to be a little slice of heaven annnndddd even better, all around $300/night or less.

Yes, you read that right- a beachfront family vacation that’s actually reasonably affordable.

Check out the list below, and let us know in the comments if you book any of these dreamy stays!

FLORIDA FAMILY VACATION RENTALS

Flagler Beach House – Flagler Beach, FL (from $185/night)

Wake up to a beautiful sunrise each morning and let the waves lull you to sleep at night. This rare, direct oceanfront property is a wonderful place to relax and unwind. 2 bedrooms and 2 baths and sleeps 6, and bonus the master bedroom has a king bed and ensuite bathroom. You will fall in love with the breathtaking views from the large windows overlooking the ocean. Sip your morning coffee and eat your meals on the private deck or just enjoy the warm ocean breeze outside. No need to bring beach chairs, boogie boards or sand toys for the little ones, these are provided too…now that’s a WIN.

What a view!

Sunset Beach Cottage – Placida, FL (from $300/night)

These views…that sunset. Wow take me there. Spectacular panoramic views of what feels like your own private pristine 7 mile sugar sand beach. 2 master bedrooms with balconies overlooking the beach. There is a restaurant on the island along with a recreation center which offers golf cart and bicycle rentals. And get this – 2 kayaks are provided at the cottage! Access to Palm Island only 3 minutes away, which ensures a relaxing and tropical getaway. Incredible wildlife. This has magical beachfront family vacation written allllllll over it.

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Onda Dolce Blue // Beachfront house with Ocean Views – Fort Meyers, FL (from $268/night)

The Onda Dolce Blue Beach house is an oasis of calm, steps from the Gulf, with a private beach, volleyball court and views you can get lost in. If you are looking to relax in comfort, take in the sunset with a cocktail, or grill and dine ‘al fresco’ on your deck, then this is the perfect vacation home. It’s been recently remodeled and fully equipped, you will find everything you need. It is located on a gorgeous plot – the two beach houses share this private beach – in a quieter area of Fort Myers Beach (now you are talking our language)

Dining table that seats 6 with views of the ocean.

Private Beachfront Home W/ Stunning Views of Gulf – Englewood, FL (from $300/night)

Let the healing smell of the salt air and the soothing sounds of the ocean help you just relax. Because of all the modern comforts in place, this is the perfect retreat for a short beachfront family vacation or an extended stay. Located on Manasota Key, you have the Gulf of Mexico to your front and Lemon Bay at your back. Simply walk around back and your private beach awaits. Pull out a beach chair, pour your favorite spirit and relax, certainly the most important part of the trip. Time to trade in the ties and heels for flops and bermudas….YES PLEASE.

Still stressed about the finances involved with taking a trip like this?? You’ve got to check out our favorite travel hack we use to actually MAKE MONEY while we travel (…really though). See our popular post here and start making regular family trips a reality.

YES PLEASE I WANT TO LEARN HOW TO MAKE MONEY WHILE I TRAVEL!

CALIFORNIA FAMILY VACATION RENTALS

Ocean Front Beach Cottage on the Sand- Newport Beach, CA (from $283/night)

If you’re a small crew looking for a delightful beach adventure full of muddy feet, sandcastles and sunny smiles, this is the place for you. This home is right on the sand in Newport Beach with no boardwalk in front of it. Newport Beach is a coveted vacation location along the Southern California coastline. It, and the surrounding Balboa peninsula, have a huge variety of land and sea-based activities for you and the kids too. Here you are about half-way between greater Los Angeles and San Diego areas, so it’s an ideal location for a few day trips as well as soaking up that family beach rental

Relaxing place to watch the ever-changing colors of the western sunsets.

Modern Beach Front Bungalow – Oxnard, CA (starting at $317/night)

This direct oceanfront home is nicely renovated and professionally decorated, an upscale beach cottage that is the perfect vacation spot. The master bedroom’s stunning ocean views will start your day off beautifully. And then at night enjoy the uncrowded beaches and walk for miles combing the beach for sea glass and shells. Also to note, this one is big at 4 bedrooms and 3 baths!

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*Splurge!* Surfscape Beach House with Private Beach – Bodega Bay, CA (from $495/night)

Alright, no this one is not affordable, but it just felt like it *had* to be included in this list…if you’re up for a splurge vacation that is. This beach house is ideal for the ‘Ultimate Pacific Coast Surf Experience’ because it’s perched atop a cliff overlooking the Pacific (approximately 4 miles north of Bodega Bay). You will have your own private stairs down to a sheltered, secluded beach. I mean really the photos say it all, you’ve got to click through to see this one. Absolutely, tops the list of M-A-G-I-C-A-L beachfront family vacation rentals.

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MEXICO FAMILY VACATION RENTALS

Luxury Flat with stunning view & private beach – Las Jarretaderas, Nayarit, Mexico (from $134/night)

This luxury apartment on the beach has a private swimming pool, terrace with barbecue grill and dining room for 6 people. Internet, Bicycles as well as a fully equipped kitchen. The terrance looks pretty much like heaven and I am already dreaming about having a cup of coffee on that porch every morning. Also, waking up in that sun drenched bedroom (totally makes up for the kids waking you up at 7am on vacation thing right?!) just seems unreal.

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“Tulum Styled” Villa with beach front San Bruno – Merida, Yucatán, Mexico (from $117/night)

This villa is decorated “Tulum” style with luxury finishes and furniture. Perfect for a quiet oceanfront family vacation! Enjoy the terrace and a small swimming pool to cool off outside the sea. In addition, you can nap in a hammock with a spectacular view from the master bedroom and enjoy the sounds of nature. The property is 5 minutes to the village of “Telchac” where you can find regional food and delights such as fresh seafood, as well as tourist service providers. This is the one if you want an immersive cultural experience as well as a beachfront family vacation rental!

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Breathtaking Views on the Beach of Riviera Maya – Chacalal, Quintana Roo, Mexico (from $202/night)

This newly remodeled Luxury condo provides breathtaking views of the beautiful Riviera Maya, & private access to beach area & swimming pools. Simply enjoy a short walk to the marina where you will find restaurants, shopping, dive stores, gym, spa & Dolphin Discovery. Most importantly, the living room and master bedroom have an ocean-view balcony where you can relax, eat, drink and look over the stunning Caribbean sea. You can even snorkel in the famous Great Maya Reef that is a 5 minute swim from your doorstep! SIGN ME UP.

View From private Balcony

Casa Barra Tortuga Beautiful Beach front House – Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, Mexico (from $296/night)

Casa Barra Tortuga is a beautiful beach front house located right on one of the most beautiful, secluded beaches near Puerto Escondido. Also, the house is located about 5 km south of the town on a golden sand beach that extends as far as the eye can see. With virtually no commercial development on the beach, you can walk for miles and see only waves, sea turtles, birds and nature. It is close enough to town but with the privacy and tranquility for relaxation and recharging…really what we all are looking for with these beachfront family vacation rentals right?!

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Looking for more tropical destination inspiration (I mean who isn’t right?!) Join us on Pinterest, click below!

PNW FAMILY VACATION RENTALS

Full-view Beachfront with Open Floorplan – Rockaway Beach, Oregon, United States (from $201/night)

This bright cozy family and dog friendly oceanfront home is in the heart of Nadonna Beach. Enjoy unobstructed expansive views while cooking and eating dinner, reading a book by the fire, or playing games in the loft. Just steps from a quiet beach, this is the perfect spot for a family vacation. Furthermore, it’s a 2 bed, 2.5 bath home plus loft can comfortably sleep 8 people and has recently been updated with new paint and new floors. You can step off the deck and walk right onto the beach or watch whales and fishing boats from inside the living room. Also, bonus it’s centrally located between Rockaway Beach (2 miles) and Wheeler/Nehalem/Manzanita (10 miles) where you can visit the cafes and tourist shops.

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West Beach Retreat – Oak Harbor, Washington, United States (from $165/night)

Most importantly, this property is right on the beach. And goodness can you imagine those unbelievable sunsets! Wake up to Eagles and Harbor Seals right outside your door. The San Juan Islands to your right, Olympic Mountain range to your left ocean in the middle. Also, charming Coupeville is 10 minutes away. With this beachfront family vacation rental you get to experience Northwest oceanside living at it’s best! (Also, a triple bonus is they offer a 10% discount off the daily rental fee for all current active duty and former military members!)

Beautiful home on West Beach Whidbey Island! Olympics to your left, San Juan's to your right and gorgeous sunsets in the middle!  The ultimate island getaway!

Walls of Glass Hood Canal Vacation Rental – Union, Washington, United States (from $265/night)

Located at “Hood Canal Resort in Union, WA,” this home is built on the beach and displays stunning views of Hood Canal & the Olympics through floor to ceiling glass (WOW). The home is spacious, comfortable and resort-like with its private hot tub, outdoor furniture and sauna. Also, get this- has heated floors, a gas fireplace, and A/C. It has a shared dock w/ 4 kayaks and 2 paddle boards. There is no other property on Hood Canal that offers the same combination of amazing views, sunsets, comfort, amenities, and proximity to Alderbrook Resort. Lastly, if it couldn’t get any better- it has a private hot tub and sauna (always a big win with our kids).

Walls of Glass Hood Canal Vacation Rental: Private hot tub just steps away from the master bedroom

Beachfront, Ocean View Condo – Neskowin, Oregon, United States (from $189/night)

Rest, relax and rejuvenate in this peaceful 2-floor oceanfront condo with private access to Neskowin Beach. Watch the sunset, crashing surf or migrating whales from the west-facing private deck. Meanwhile, drink your morning coffee or tea from the east deck looking at the Neskowin Hills. Finish your day and cozy up & light a fire in the wood-burning fireplace or take a walk on the beach right outside your door. You can cook a meal in the fully-stocked kitchen or walk to the Café or the Marketplace and Bistro for a meal. What a dreamy beachfront family vacation if you ask me 🙂

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Alright folk that’s it! If you’re feeling super adventurous we’ve rounded up a few crazy gorgeous international beachfront family rentals (as low as $89/night!!) on our Airbnb board here. And on that note, make sure you pin our post on traveling international with kids before you go.

How many of these can we actually make it to?! I want to book them ALL.