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Family road trips with kids can be long and tiring. The kids become cranky and restless, and you become overwhelmed and ready to just be OUT. OF. THE. CAR! With it being family vacation season, you’ll find many useful tips from this list of 20 practical things you can do on a road trip with kids.
By doing proper preparation before the car ride on your family road trip, you can be on your way to a happy and pleasantly joyful experience on your next road trip. Whether you have small children or older children, you will definitely want to plan ahead!
20 Awesome Road Trip with Kids Tips (their all screen-free, too!)
Don’t go on a road trip unprepared! Try these 20 practical road trip tips and tricks for road tripping with younger and older kids, and you’ll be a road trip master!
1. Get ” Hands-On ” Entertainment
I spent about $45 on fun, hands-on entertainment at the Dollar Tree for the kids. In all seriousness, as frugal as I am, $45 was worth it for our sanity during our family road trip.
Some ideas of what to buy from the Dollar Tree (or any similar store) for your next road trip are:
- Coloring books and crayons/ colored pencils
- Stickers to stick onto plain construction paper (great for the toddlers on a road trip)
- Sticker Books
- Word Searches
- Crossword Puzzles
- Bible Activity Books
- Books for reading (chapter and picture books)
- even more… a tray to hold all the things
2. Road Trip Activity Packs
The Dollar Tree also had these little road trip activity packs that were awesome!
They included: The ever-so traditional license plate game, a road trip scavenger hunt, and a road trip-themed Bingo game.
These awesome road trip games for the kids were perfect because it gets the kids looking around and exploring the scenery while driving, and the kiddos always love a little competition between their siblings.
3. Rent a car… better yet, rent a van!
On our Palm Springs road trip, we rented a van through Costco, who got us a deal through Alamo to rent our van.
We paid $21 a day for our rental van and could not be happier with it.
Our van was stuffed with…well, stuff.
Most people like to drive their own cars for road trips. We aren’t one of those, simply because we don’t want to put the miles on our vehicles, and just in case of the ” what- ifs “.
- What if we got into an accident
- What if the car broke down
- What if, what if, what if.
We like to get new cars every couple of years, so it’s essential for us to not have a lot of miles on our vehicles when we go to sell them.
So bottom line- if you have the funds, for your peace of mind, rent a car for road tripping. And on top of that, even if you only have a few kids, rent a van. Renting a van makes the long road trip, more enjoyable because you can stretch out. Plus, it can hold all your luggage without feeling crammed.
4. Pack each child their own road trip snacks
For our family road trip to Palm Springs, I gave each child a lunch box of healthy and some not-so-healthy treats for them to have their own road trip snack.
There was just something about them having their own healthy snack bags to grab food from when they were bored, or hungry.
I used the small snack Ziploc baggies to fill their treats. But you could use containers also.
Examples of what to pack in their lunch boxes:
- Granola bars
- Beef Jerky
- …and don’t forget a sugary snack!
My kids thoroughly enjoyed having their lunch boxes full of snacks. It gave them a sense of ownership and made them feel in control of their own snack times. Plus I didn’t have to hear, “Mom, I’m hungry!” every five minutes. WIN, WIN!
5. Wear comfy clothes
This is a pretty simple travel tip and thought, but seriously guys, wear some comfy clothes for traveling. Especially when dealing with a long car ride. Jeans are probably not going to be the comfiest.
And I should note that this does not mean ” PAJAMAS”. Please, for the love of all things good and wonderful, do not be one of those people who go out into public in your pj’s. Come on! It’s like being at Walmart on a Saturday morning!
Comfy clothes are things like, stretchy pants, stretchy skirts, loose shirts, nice running pants, you name it!
Whatever fits into your category of “comfy zone”, but not to include those Coca- Cola pajamas.
Just remember that you’re going to be stopping in public for bathroom breaks, so keep yourself, the older kids, and the little ones presentable looking.
“That’s a great tip, Cherelle!”
Thank you, and you’re welcome!
6. Leave around 3:00 am when taking a double-digit hour road trip.
This is one cool road trip idea…
The idea is simple- By leaving around 3:00 am, the kids naturally should still want to sleep for at least a good 4-6 hours after you put them in the car.
This gives you a head start on getting to your destination with them sleep for a good chunk of it.
Our little toddler, miss Viktoria slept real good for that first good chunk of hours, and the boys dozed in and out, partially because they were excited, and had a hard time falling back asleep at first.
Another good reason to leave around 3:00 am is because, in just a few short hours, it will be daylight out, which will help you feel more awake for driving.
I’m not one for those, “drive through the entire night” sort of situations. That sounds like a car accident waiting to happen, if you ask me!
But you didn’t!
7. Eat breakfast out
This one tip right here, I feel is one of the road trip essentials.
Since you got a headstart on your family road trip with the kids asleep (see Tip #6), by the time they wake up they should be pretty hungry. You’ve already driven a decent chunk of hours and now it’s time to stop and get breakfast.
You NEED to get a break from the car and from driving.
Stopping for a hot meal, fresh coffee, and just an overall break is wonderful.
On our road trip to Palm Springs, we stopped at the edge of Oregon to eat breakfast at Black Bear Diner.
Their breakfast portions were huge, which kept us very full! We made sure everyone took a bathroom break before we left the restaurant too.
After eating a huge breakfast, some of us (ok, me) were ready for a good nappy poo.
Sorry, Mr. Hubs, you’re on driving duty, but what else is new?!
8. Rest stops are your best friend!
Stopping at a rest stop is a great place to stretch, let your kids run around and play and everyone can use the bathroom.
Hey, someone knew what they were doing when they invented rest stops!
Plan to stop at rest stops every couple of hours!
Even if the kids say they don’t have to go to the bathroom, everyone should get out of the car, use the bathroom, stretch and even run around for a bit in the grass.
The rest stops we stopped at were all kept pretty clean, which was nice for those of us who hate using public restrooms.
Sometimes the rest stops would be out of soap, however, so make sure you pack hand sanitizer!
Rest stops also have picnic tables, which can be perfect if you packed lunches for your road trip. Eat at the picnic tables before getting back into the car for the long drive.
This brings me to my next tip!
9. Pack a lunch
I don’t think it’s necessary to stop and eat out for every meal while traveling, and you’d probably get tired of it. Lunch is one of those meals that are easy to pack for eating on the go.
And if you followed my (TIP# 7), you should have eaten a big breakfast out, (hopefully a good restaurant, at that), so you should be kept full until lunchtime.
Between snacking and napping, your lunch could be something as simple as sandwiches, fruit, and chips.
We packed sandwiches made on Dave’s Killer Bread and packed them in a small lunchbox cooler with ice.
When the family gets hungry for lunch, it’s super easy to whip out sandwiches and eat them while still driving on the road.
I cut the kids’ sandwiches into fourths so they could eat a few pieces at a time.
If you want to make homemade bread for your sandwiches, try my Easy No-Knead Bread recipe.
10. Get occasional treats
Say hello to Starbucks and ice cream cones my friends!
Kids get bored easily, and when the kids get bored while on a family road trip, the whole family is going to suffer from the beloved:
” Are we there yet? “
” How much longer? “
…and then two minutes later,
” How much longer now? “
To make your road trip with kids a bit more exciting, stop and get a treat. My kiddos love Starbucks “frap-UH-cheen-EE-oh’s” (as they call them), or cheap ice cream cones from the golden arches.
Who am I kidding? We big people love that stuff too!
And when I say (big), I’m talking about our age, here.
11. Utilize gas stops to their full potential
On long road trips, it’s inevitable that you’ll need some gas, and multiple times at that.
While getting gas, take a 10-minute stretcher in the parking lot, and make sure everyone uses the bathroom.
12. Encourage naps
Naps are needed to make sure everyone is in chipper moods. Children and adults both need naps while traveling on your road trip.
But also, this is pretty much my nice way of telling the kids to please be quiet. Nuff said!
13. Listen to audiobooks or dramatized audio stories
This could go into the same category as watching movies for those of you who watch tv/movies, but since we do not, we listen to audiobooks and audio stories.
Letting each kid have a chance to pick something to listen to (or watch) is a great idea, this way, there isn’t fighting over who picks.
Some of our favorite audio series’ to listen to are:
- Down Gilead Lane (like these)
- Adventures in Odyssey (like these)
- Red Rock Mysteries
- Kids Corner (from their website)
- All Lamplight Theatre Audios (loveeee these!!!!)
- Focus on the Family Radio Theatre Audios (these are amazing also!)
14. Sleep at a hotel
Even though you can switch between drivers so that the other driver can nap, there comes a time when being in the car is just too much and everyone needs a good break.
We stopped at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Sacramento on our family road trip to Palm Springs.
Check-in was after 3:00 pm, so we planned our road trip out to get us to the hotel around 4. Once you get to the hotel, the kids and adults are just ready for a good plop onto the bed! Or maybe it’s just me!
If you do swimming, you can let the kids swim in the hotel pool and wear themselves out so that they can get a good night’s sleep.
15. Eat dinner out!
Dinner is one of those meals that’s hard to pack on the go. However, there are quicker “dinner options” like fast food, or you can order a pizza and take it back to the hotel.
16. Inspect the bugs…
… on the front of the car, that is!
Next time you stop at the gas station, give the kids something exciting to check out by inspecting the front of the car for all the cool, smooshed bugs.
That’s considered science, right?!
17. Play music
Dance party anyone? Crank up your family’s favorite tunes and jam out in the car.
Fake microphones and funky dance moves are greatly encouraged for some lively entertainment!
18. Bring blankets and pillows
For the comfort of the kiddos, it really helps to have one pillow and a nice throw blanket, per child during the road trip, even for the ones in a car seat.
This is especially beneficial, because one person in the car might be cold, and the other people warm, meaning the heaters aren’t going to be turned on for the sake of everyone else being warm.
Having your own personal blanket means you can keep yourself warm when you need to, without disturbing everyone else’s body temperatures.
A stuffed animal is great for toddlers also!
19. Stay hydrated
Sometimes it’s hard to drink water when you’re not being very active, but we encourage everyone to drink water.
We would have our kids take sips every so often to ensure everyone stayed hydrated on our road trip.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that there will be more bathroom breaks because you are simply encouraging small drinks.
Staying hydrated can also help avoid car sickness! But just in case one of the passengers gets car sick…
20. Be prepared for car sickness
Carrying a heavy-duty plastic bag in the backseat is probably just a good idea.
We didn’t have any car sicknesses on our road trip to Palm Springs, but we have had car sickness when we were in Hawaii on the Road To Hana. And we were not prepared for it at that time, which got pretty messy.
And just in case you weren’t aware, peppermint (Altoids work great!), peppermint essential oil, and ginger candies all work well for nausea.
There you have it! My 20 practical tips and tricks for surviving a family road trip with kids.
P.S- … and if everything else fails, get a husband who will drive so you can pop in some earbuds, sleep or take goofy pictures of yourself?.