Road in Glen Etive, Scottish Highlands

The Ultimate Family Road Trip Packing List


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Once you have planned your route, booked your accommodation and made all other necessary arrangements, next up is packing for your road trip!

Read More: If you haven’t planned your route, booked your accommodation and made all other necessary arrangements yet, check out our article How to Plan a Europe Road Trip – The Essential Guide

Our Road Trip Packing List has grown over the past few years. What started out as a Family Camping Packing List seven years ago, has evolved into a comprehensive Ultimate Road Trip Packing List.

While some road tripping folks prefer to pack minimalistically, I don’t belong to that camp. I like to be prepared (for various eventualities) as well as appropriately equipped for outdoor activities. 

As a mum who road trips solo with kids, safety is my top priority. Hence, I’d rather take too much (and not need it) than too little (and don’t have it if needed).

I have divided this road trip packing list into categories covering everything you’ll need for a European road trip from UK (or from/to anywhere, really!). It’s a complete packing list of things to take when travelling with kids to help you decide what things to bring on a road trip – tweak it to your needs and enjoy the ride!

Car Essentials & Non-Essentials
Documents to Take
First Aid Kit & Medicines
Personal Care
Outdoor Gear
Kids Entertainment
Road Trip Essentials
Food Preparation
Road Trip Food


Car Essentials

  • Head lamp beam converter kit (if applicable)

    When travelling to mainland Europe, the legal requirement is to ‘not dazzle oncoming drivers’ rather than specifically to adjust/convert the headlamp beam pattern. Without adjustment the dipped beam will dazzle oncoming drivers and this could result in a fine.’

    In the two Travel Kits mentioned above, these are already included. 

    Alternatively, you can get a pair of head lamp beam converters here.
  • UK magnetic plate (if applicable)

    From 28 September 2021, you need a UK sticker instead of a GB sticker. If you are embarking on a European road trip from UK and do not have a UK sign on your license plate, you will need a UK sticker on the rear of your car.

    UK stickers are included in most EU Travel Kits – if not, you can get a magnetic UK plate here.

    More information can be found on the government website.
  • First Aid Kit

    While carrying a first-aid kit is compulsory in some European countries, it is recommended in others and not required in few. The useful PDF document by the AA mentioned above provides further details on most European countries.

    Even if this isn’t a requirement in the country you are travelling to, I highly recommend to always carry one. AA’s Standard First Aid Kit can be purchased here.
  • Electric Tyre Inflator

    Owning an electric tyre inflator can be a life-saver. If you lose tyre pressure and aren’t anywhere near a petrol station, having one (or not) can make (or break) your day.

    Some break-down kits – such as this and this one from the AA – already contain tyre inflators. Hence, check before purchasing. I have been using this tyre inflator for the past few years and it has saved our day on more than 5 occasions. 
  • Torch

    This is a top tip I recommend to everyone.

    Rather than listing a thousand reasons when you might need one, I’ll list only one: You never know when you’ll need one – so just take one with you (and let me know when it came in handy).

    I highly recommend investing in a top quality torch – you can’t go wrong with Ledlenser which I’ve been using for several years now.
  • Kids’ car seats

    Kids grow fast. Therefore it’s vital to ensure that their car seats will last them for the duration of your road trip; or upgrade them if necessary.

Read More: For a full list of Car Essentials to carry out before a road trip, check out our article How to Get Your Car Ready for a Road Trip.

Car non-essentials
(that make life easier)

  • Roof Box

    Whether you need a roof box or not will depend on how big your car is and how much you intend to pack. It is a very handy travel kit to own as you practically double your boot space.

    Our experience: While we managed without a roof box on our first summer road trip in 2016, we bought one for our trip to the Scottish Highlands the following year.

    I had left it too late to book accommodation. Hence, we had to take more stuff because I decided that we would camp instead.

    Made by the world’s biggest car-rack brand, I highly recommend this roof box. Be aware that they come in different sizes so make sure to pick a suitable one for your car.

    When buying a roof box, you will also need to acquire some roof bars. Simply enter your UK car registration number here to find suitable ones for your car.

    Depending on the roof box and accessories you choose, you will need to budget about £500 for the luxury of having extra storage space.

    One thing to note when travelling with a roof box is the additional height it adds to your car. Keep this in mind when booking your Channel crossing via train or ferry. A roof box will also limit access to some parking garages but this is only an issue in towns and cities.
  • Cycle Carrier

    Taking bikes on a road trip; why not?! They’ll be great fun to experience some local adventures en route. 

    However, if you plan to cycle only once or twice during your road trip, you’ll be better off renting bikes onsite rather than dragging them along.

    When looking into bike racks, bear in mind that there a three types available: 

    – Roof mounted
    – Rear mounted
    – Tow bar mounted

    For more information, check out this article by Cycling UK.

    I highly recommend Thule’s roof bike racks of which we have two (soon to add a third).

    A list of all top quality Thule bike racks can be found here.
A row of bicycles in Bruges, Belgium
  • Car Organisers

    Keeping the kids’ stuff organised in the back seats will keep them content and save your sanity. I find these back seat car organisers indispensable (and they are also great at preventing dirty shoes being rubbed off on the back of the seats).
Back-seat car organisers for kids

They come in a pack of two perfect for two little adventurers.


  • Passports
    Check your passports’ expiry dates at least 6 months in advance and apply for new ones if necessary.
  • Credit & Debit Cards and Bank Details
    If going abroad, check your bank’s cash withdrawal charges and open a new bank account if that’s going to save you some money. Cash withdrawal charges abroad add up very quickly.

    Also, inform your card providers about your travel dates and destinations to prevent your cards being blocked due to suspicion of fraud.
  • Money
    Always keep some cash on you especially when travelling to remote places where cash points are a scarcity.

    Setting aside some cash for emergencies – such as a car break-down or where cards aren’t accepted – will ensure peace of mind.

    If you are going abroad, convert some currency before you leave.
  • Tickets for Channel Crossing
    Make sure to pack the debit/credit card that you used to pay for your tickets. I also print them out just in case.
  • Travel Insurance Details & Contact Numbers
    Print them out and store in a secure and accessible place. Do not rely on soft copies.
  • Car Insurance Policy Details & Contact Numbers
    Print them out and store in a secure and accessible place. Do not rely on soft copies.
  • Road-Side Assistance Cover Details & Contact Numbers
    Print them out and store in a secure and accessible place. Do not rely on soft copies.
  • Driving License & Car Registration Details
    Store them in a secure and accessible place.
  • Car Log Book (V5C) & Green Card from Insurer

    Now that the UK has left the EU, please note that UK motorists need a car insurance ‘green card’ to drive in Europe in addition to their Certificate of Motor Insurance and the log book (V5C) for the vehicle. More information can be found on the UK government website.
  • Accommodation Bookings: Addresses, Contact Details And Check-In/Check-Out Dates
    Assuming you have booked more than one accommodation, it’s a wise idea to note down your check-in/check-out dates as well as their addresses and contact details. You wouldn’t want to turn up somewhere a day too early or late!


  • Mobile Phone & Selfie Stick
    When travelling solo with kids, pack a selfie stick for obvious reasons. I use this one.
  • Camera
    I highly recommend taking a light camera with you. From experience, I find it taxing on hikes to drag along my DSLR camera.
  • Go-Pro
    Using a Go-Pro is a great and fun way to capture all the actions on your road trip.

    I purchased a Go-Pro HERO7 Black for our last road trip which I highly recommend. GoPro has released new models in the meantime if you want to check those out. 

    And don’t forget the accessories so that you can actually use it for all your actions! I have a skimmed down set from Rollei.
  • Laptop
    The only reason you will need a laptop is to store the thousands of pictures and videos you take. If your mobile phone camera is sufficient for you – and you upload the photos onto the Cloud regularly – then leave your laptop at home.
  • Electronic Tablets
    If you decide to entertain your kids with tablets, take them along. My children have a Kindle Fire that I purchased for our first road. We also use them for audiobooks and eBooks. Check out our favourite audiobooks in this article.

Read More: For ingenious ways to entertain kids on a road trip, check out our article Top 11 Road Trip Activities for Kids.

  • Head Phones
    Chances are that your kids will be watching different films or listening to different audiobooks, so head phones will be vital.

Safety Advice: We have found that overhead headphones prevented the kids’ heads from fitting into their high-back booster seats and thus becoming unsafe. Therefore, I strongly recommend earphones instead – check out the earphones we have.

  • All Relevant Chargers
    Don’t forget to take all the relevant chargers with you.
  • GPS Device
    If you have one or think you will need one, then take it along. I have never used one before but can certainly see that it could come in handy on our remote hikes.

    The Garmin inReach Mini looks very tempting at first (and second) glance…but I don’t have any experience with it (yet).
Bumble bee sitting on Echinacea flower
Echinacea flower at Weleda’s medicinal garden in Schwäbisch Gmünd, Germany

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or a healthcare professional. The recommendations below are purely based on my knowledge and experience. As with all medicines, it’s vital to always read the leaflet/label. Always seek medical advice.

  • Arnica Bumps and Bruises Skin Salve
    A traditional herbal medicinal product used for the symptomatic relief of sprains and bruises.
    This salve is our most-used medicine in our kit. Kids are kids and accidents will happen (as they will also to adults) – and that’s OK – but having something to soothe a bump or a bruise is very helpful.
  • Arnica Bumps and Bruises Spray
    A first aid essential for bumps and bruises, stiff muscles and minor sports injuries. Safe for everyone to use. This spray comes in very handy for bumps to the head where it is difficult to apply the salve mentioned above.
  • HyperCal Wound Salve
    A traditional herbal medicinal product used for the relief of painful cuts and minor wounds. 

    If you want to get only one salve for cuts & wounds, I recommend the HyperCal Wound Salve as it’s also great for painful wounds.
  • Combudoron Ointment
    Traditionally used to relieve minor burns and scalds. We also use this for nettle stings or similar.
  • Insect Bites Spray
    Traditionally used to reduce irritation and swelling after insect bites. Although it’s hard to prevent insect bites, once you have been bitten, this spray comes in very handy. It was our saviour during our road trip to the Scottish Highlands during midges season.
  • Ruta Ointment
    An Anthroposophic medicine for the symptomatic relief of sprains.
  • Copper Ointment
    An Anthroposophic medicine for the symptomatic relief of muscular pain and cramps.
  • Insect Repellents
    We only use 100% natural insect repellents. During our road trip through the Scottish Highlands, I have used 3 different insect repellents – amongst them were A. Vogel and Incognito – that worked to some effect. However, midges are a whole other thing when it comes to insect repellents, and while none of them worked perfectly against midges, some worked somewhat. As a tick repellent, we have found Mosiguard effective.
  • Small scissors to cut plasters or clothing if necessary.
  • Alcohol-free wipes to clean cuts and grazes. (Alcohol-free is important so they won’t sting.)
  • Colloidal Silver Spray has many great uses. Amongst others, we use it as a hand sanitiser as it has anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties.
  • Homeopathy Kit for emergencies. Always seek advice from a healthcare practitioner. I have a couple of kits from Helios.


Likewise, all the products I recommend in this section are 100% certified-natural (unless stated otherwise) to the best of my knowledge.

If you are unsure about natural skin and body care products, simply look out for the NaTrue certification on the packaging – you can find a list of 100% certified-natural products on NaTrue’s website.

CLOTHES (per person)

The season, location and activities you plan to undertake, will dictate what clothing to pack.

Our summer packing list consists of:

  • Short-sleeve tops
  • Long-sleeve tops
  • Hoodies
  • Shorts
  • Trousers
  • Dresses
  • Underwear
  • Pyjamas
  • Vests
  • Socks
  • Sun hat
  • Rain Coat
  • Trainers, Sandals, Crocs (or Flip Flops for some)
One of our ingenious packing cubes that we use for our travels


Likewise, this part of the packing list will depend on what activities you plan to undertake.

As my kids get older and more adventurous, our Outdoor Gear list is ever-growing. Currently, it encompasses gear for hiking, swimming, cycling and rock-climbing.

Our green & healthy values, also stretch to clothing as well as gear and gadgets.

For health and environmental reasons, the most important factor for me is that water-proof clothing and gear is PFC (perfluorinated and polyfluorinated compounds)-free.

I have found a few brands whose philosophy and practices align with our values, and I’m keen to share those with you in our Ultimate Outdoor Gear Shopping Guide very soon.

Hiking Gear

  • Hiking Boots
  • Hiking Socks
  • Rain Trousers
  • Fleece Jacket
  • Head Torch
  • Trekking Poles
  • Back-pack

Swimming Gear

  • Swimming Costume/Trunks
  • Goggles
  • Snorkel
  • Water Shoes
  • Life Jacket
  • Wet Suit
  • Beach towel
  • Travel towel
My daughter SUP’ing on Lake Bohinj, Slovenia

Cycling Gear

  • Bike
  • Helmet
  • Bike Lock
  • Bike Pump
  • Allen key set

Rock Climbing Gear

  • Harness
  • Helmet
  • Climbing Shoes
  • Chalk bag
  • Carabiner & Belay Device
  • Rope
Child rock-climbing in the Alps
My daughter rock-climbig at Lake Bohinj, Slovenia


  • Books
  • Magazines
  • Road Trip Games
  • Paper & Colouring Pencils

Read More: Check out our article Top 11 Road Trip Activities for Kids to ensure a smooth and happy experience for everyone involved.


  • Travel Diary
    I didn’t keep a travel diary during our first road trip and greatly regret it. Luckily, I’ve been using one diligently ever since. I love simple, classic notebooks, so Moleskine is my go-to notebook for anything and everything. 


Again, using non-toxic food and drink containers is important to us; both for health and environmental reasons.

  • Cool bags
    They come in very handy during the summer. However, do check whether you have the facilities to freeze freezer blocks at your accommodation. Even electric cool boxes only work when provided with a freezer block at the start of each day.
  • Freezer blocks
  • Water Bottles
  • Food containers (non-insulated)
    We also love this insulated food container to keep food warm or cool. Featuring a wide mouth, it provides easy access to food and makes it easy to refill.
  • Kitchen roll
  • Paper Sandwich Bags
  • Tea Towels
  • Washing-Up Liquid
  • Sponge
  • Cutlery


Pack any foods that are great for road trip snacks. We love nuts, dried fruits, nut bars, oat cakes, biscuits, chocolate (oh, don’t forget to pack chocolate!), etc.

If staying at a self-catering accommodation, pack food for the first couple of days so you won’t have to deal with sourcing food on day one. A couple of jars of your favourite pasta sauce will make quick dinners easy after a long day adventuring outdoors.

I also pack our favourite granola and oats (because we are picky) for quick and easy breakfasts on some days.

Lastly, I also pack our basic essentials such as salt and pepper, coconut oil, vinegar and olive oil. I know that we could buy these onsite, but again, it’s easier to just take them along than trying to hunt them down in a supermarket… and yes, also because I’m picky.


I hope this article can serve as a road trip checklist for your upcoming trip. Take what you need and leave the rest behind. Chances are you will be able to pick-up things along the way should you forget to pack any essential items. Most importantly, enjoy the journey!

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