Family Travel & Holidays

6 Must-Haves for Your Next Family Road Trip

Vacation packing lists are boring, but awfully helpful for keeping ADHD families outfitted with all the fidgets, snacks, meds, and entertainment needed to keep the peace on any trip.

Happy family on car ride
Happy family on a road trip in car, front passenger POV
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Packing Lists for ADHD Family Travel

Family travel is a sure-fire way for kids to strengthen relationships, practice social skills, and explore new interests — not to mention make memories to last a lifetime. Vacations also provide a break from the obligations and time constraints that can lead to meltdowns and stress. Still, it’s essential to pack items that will hold your child’s attention, maintain their energy levels, and provide comfort between destinations.

We asked ADDitude readers: What’s your non-negotiable item to bring when traveling as the parent of a child with ADHD, and why? These are the 6 most common must-haves on their packing lists. Tell us yours in the Comments section, above.

Young boy wearing headphones and smiling as he plays on a tablet
Shot of a cute little boy using a digital tablet with headphones on the sofa at home
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Item #1: Electronic Devices & Headphones

“Anything that can hold their attention for an extended period comes with us. A tablet and/or Kindle device normally does the trick. (#CommissionsEarned) There has been some research indicating that, for the ADD child, a positive activity that is supported using a device can actually give that child therapeutic symptom relief.” — Ian, Oregon 

“A device is our non-negotiable item. And I wanted to avoid this. But, camping excluded, when we travel, there aren't always kids or exciting kid things, and I need adult time. Giving him time that he enjoys is only fair.” — Denielle, New Mexico

“We always carry an iPad. Our daughter bores easily. On an iPad she can play Roblox, watch YouTube, etc. We just hook her up to the hotspot on our phone.” — An ADDitude reader

“Unfortunately, our non-negotiable is a screen and his headphones. It doesn't matter where we are or whether the situation is tense or relaxed. Having this constant is definitely a way for him to escape to some normalcy.” — AJ, Ohio

Full packed lunch including sandwich, milk, fruits, and veggies
School lunch box with books and pencils in front of black board, copy space
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Item #2: Snacks & Water Bottles

“Things go sideways very easily when blood sugars plummet. Sometimes the medications for ADHD act as appetite suppressants, but with lots of activity, food is a necessity for brain function and body function.” — An ADDitude reader in Canada

“Snacks are a must; ‘hangry’ ADHD kids are like dragons!” — Leslie, Pennsylvania

“The kids must pack their own bag with things to do, snacks, and water bottles. I check to make sure. I hate hearing ‘I'm hungry’ or ‘thirsty’ or ‘bored.’ When I hear it, I remind them of their bag. If they are still any of the three, I ask them to think of anything they wish they packed and to write it down for next time. That way they still have something to do that doesn't involve me.” — Tamara, Idaho

Open medication bottle sits atop Rx instructions
Presciption Medication
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Item #3: Medication

“We bring his medication because he needs it to function the way he normally would during school. We don't take away his tools during vacation because life requires tools, too!” — Sue, Michigan

“If we didn’t have our son’s medicine, he would be an absolute mess and none of us would enjoy our time. With it, we can interact in a healthy way and enjoy our time away, even though it’s outside of our normal structure and schedule. It gives him the ability to handle change, flexibility, and new experiences.” — Jill, Pennsylvania

“Without medication, the non-routine days will start and end with fights. This is especially true if the kids don’t like what's on the agenda for the day. It ruins the ‘vacation’ for everyone.” — Jenni, South Carolina

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Young girl drags big blanket as she walks away
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Item #4: Lightweight Blanket & Pillow

“Someone is always cold. Or the sun is too bright. Or the kids are bored and want to play pretend and wrap up like a granny. Or play peekaboo. Or create their own little space in the car to recover emotionally. Or, for me, to sit on while they run wild and free in the park.” — Abigail, Michigan

“We bring a blanket and pillow for comfort as getting out of a routine can cause stress.” — Montica, Arkansas

“Each child gets their own blanket to cut back on the squabbling. I like the blanket to be big enough that they can wad up part of it into a pillow.” — An ADDitude reader in Ohio

Headphones and books
Image by Felix Lichtenfeld from Pixabay
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Item #5: Podcasts & Audiobooks

“They love podcasts and audiobooks. With no screens, they can still see what is going on around them. They have to pay attention to the sounds, but the intimacy of stories in their ear is effective, and I am squabble-free for part of the day.” — Ann, Canada

Young boy plays with fidget spinner
Close-up shot of an elementary age boy holding up a fidget spinner. The spinner and his hand are in focus and the rest of him is blurry in the background.
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Item #6: Fidgets

“I bring a bag of fidget items. I usually buy completely new ones and do not allow the kids to see them until they start to get antsy. The novelty makes a big difference and gets us through waiting in lines, plane rides, etc.” — An ADDitude reader

ADHD Family Travel: Next Steps

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