It's Totally Possible to Road Trip in a Small Car

(with kids...)

Road trip in Small Car

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We LOVE road trips with kids (even in a small car)!

I've shared our list of items below to keep in the front of the car as well as in the trunk!

Being able to plan stops along the way, thank you to Roadtrippers, makes it so enjoyable.  Depending on where we are going will depend on how many stops we plan to take.  This task will soon be given to my oldest child.  It’ll be a great skill for him to develop.  He will love having a say in our road trip planning!

Even though we now have a van (affectionately known as the big yellow bus) we still love to road trip in our small car. Because of our size limitations we have to be very intentional about what we pack.  Driving can take a toll on us mentally and physically and we want to keep our space as tidy as possible while road tripping!

And, given the fact that we took backpacks only for our two weeks in Europe means we can definitely pack light!  Keeping that in mind when we have a vehicle is tough because it’s easy to want to continue packing it full just because we have the space.

Plan Ahead for a Successful Road Trip with Kids

  • Packing lists are key.  Don’t just toss things in as you come across them because soon your entire vehicle will be stuffed! Be sure to make your kids use their own packing list - teaching them this skill helps free you up from a task!


  • If you’ll have access to a washer/dryer then do not pack enough clothes for everyday.  Take half of what you would normally pack and a small amount of laundry detergent.


  • If you’ll be stopping halfway for one night go ahead and pack the toiletries and everyone’s change of clothes in a quick grab bag (freebie - later add on).  Then everyone’s backpack or suitcase can remain in the back of the trunk. Taking in all the bags for a quick stop is not fun!


  • We pack paper plates, utensils (I save the utensils from various take out restaurants, etc.), and napkins.  These stay in the trunk because when we stop to have a meal we all get out to stretch our legs.


  • Fill the car up the day before.  


  • Give the kids a job of filling everyone’s water bottles up the day before

Road Trip Food

We usually don’t have room for a cooler since we have a small car.  We have the kids pack their own Planetbox to have access to their snacks whenever they want.  It’s also great because they get the appropriate portion sizes since you are packing these at home. 


Sometimes we have the space to pack a cooler in the trunk and that makes it super easy!  We just empty the fridge at home and pack our food.  Finding a rest stop or a park is a great choice for a picnic and to allow everyone to stretch and move. For the trips that we don’t have room for a cooler we have a plan to stop and eat at grocery stores to save money.  Instead of stopping at a restaurant it takes just as much time to run into a grocery store and grab food.  Be smart - you can still overspend at a grocery store! 

General Road Trip Tips

  • Every time we stop we clear our the trash
  • Tell those who are hot natured to wear less clothes on the drive
  • Tell those who are always cold to bring an extra blanket or jacket
  • Play a game of tag or have a race during a pit stop to get some energy out.  
  • To allow the kids to stretch their legs during a gas stop they get to wash the windows.  For some reason they think it’s great fun! 
Road trip in small car

Things to keep in the front of your car for a road trip

Things to keep in the trunk of your car for a road trip

  • Cooler (if one can fit)
  • Paper plates, utensils, napkins
  • Backpacks/suitcases
  • Quick grab bag (for an overnight stop - packed with a change of clothes, pjs, and toiletry bag)
  • Frisbee or ball for exercise during a food stop

PLEASE take the time to comment with some of your tips for road trips!!  We know that we are in a very specific stage of parenting and so we may have forgotten some things from when our kids were tiny!  Your comments and tips can help other families planning their next road trip.

And, I’d absolutely love it if you could pin this blog post to your favorite travel board on Pinterest!

If you are interested in more check out these other blog posts you’ll love:


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