Family Road Trip With Kids: Tips & Hacks For Your Adventure

When my husband and I were young, road trips consisted of nothing other than a starting point and a destination. We’d grab a few drinks, throw a change of clothes in the back seat, and hit the open road. A road trip with kids requires more work than our kid-free days, but with careful planning and preparation, these adventures can be just as fun.

Are you planning a road trip with kids? If so, check out the family road trip ideas, hacks, and tips below.

How to Prepare For a Road Trip With Kids?

The days of hopping into our car at a moment’s notice and heading out for a long road trip are over. Like it or not, if you want to plan a road trip with kids, you need to prepare for your adventure. That includes thinking about ways to keep kids occupied, fed, and happy.

Before you hit the road, consider what you can eat while traveling, what will keep your kids entertained, and how to provide a comfortable environment when they get tired.

How to Survive Long Car Rides: Plan When to Leave

Over the years, we’ve altered our travel agenda to decrease travel time. One tip for long road trips with kids is to leave very early in the morning. If your kids are small, they may stay asleep as you carry them from their cribs or beds and place them into the car. Leaving early helps you avoid traffic that tends to build later in the day.

If you aren’t a morning person and don’t fear falling asleep at the wheel, you can also leave late at night. When my boys were little, we would put them into the car after 10:00 pm and drive the longest portion of our trip long after the evening traffic ended and long before the morning traffic started. Sometimes our kids would sleep for the entire drive!

How Do You Make a Road Trip Fun with Kids?

Are you worried about your kids asking, “Are we there yet?” five million times before you arrive at your destination? I understand that fear. To keep your kids peaceful and happy, you’ll need to find ways to keep them entertained.

How do you keep your kids entertained on a road trip? Your kids may sleep for a portion of the car trip, but how can you entertain them while they’re awake? Toys and games go a long way in those early years. 

Best Road Trip Games for Long Car Rides

Here are a few road trip activities and travel games we love:

  • License Plate Game: Search for license plates from every state.
  • Alphabet Car Game: Look out the window and find a road sign that starts with the letter A. As soon as someone finds a sign beginning with that letter, they call out what they see. Then you move on to the following letter. Searching road signs for B, C, D, etc., until you reach Z, and the game ends.
  • Guess the Animal: One person will think of an animal, and the rest of the family will ask questions to determine what animal they chose. You can ask questions like: “Does it live on a farm?” “Does it eat meat?” “Can it fly?”
  • Hangman
  • Tic-Tac-Toe
  • Road Trip Bingo: Print travel-related bingo cards before leaving the house. The driver or front-seat passenger will call out items they spot along the way—for example, a barn, cow, boat, and bridge. Find the object on your card and mark it with an “X,” just like in regular bingo. The first one to cross out five in a row wins.

Playing road games is an easy way to have fun and bond as a family.

What to Pack for Long Car Rides?

The internet is full of things you can purchase for long car trips with kids. Beyond food and snacks, our road trip essentials include napkins, tissues, light blankets, small pillows, toys, wipes, water bottles, art supplies, and plastic bags to collect wrappers, sandwich bags, and other forms of trash.

Young kids often enjoy keeping their hands and minds busy simultaneously. Between the toddler and elementary school ages, we packed an assortment of road trip games for long trips. Here are a few of my favorite games for kids to play in the car:

We let the kids choose which car games to bring along but limit the amount to one small backpack per child.

How Do You Pass Time On a Road Trip with Kids?

It might sound a little ridiculous, but one of the easiest ways to pass the time on a road trip with kids is to talk to them. We all lead busy lives, but sitting in the car for hours allows us to reconnect with our loved ones. We can ask questions about everything from school and friends to worries and concerns.

Years ago, my husband began telling our kids stories about defunct corporations. We drove past a Pepsi-Cola sign, and he started telling the kids about the Coca-Cola Company and the failure of New Coke. Since then, he’s added Quiznos, Best, and many other companies he learned about in his college marketing classes. Oddly enough, our kids love these stories and request them on long car rides.

They also like to hear stories about when they were little or events from before they were born. My husband and I talked about what it was like growing up, how we chose our professions, or how we saved money for our first house. We keep the kids entertained with everyday stories.

Electronics During Long Road Trips

My kids can bring iPads on long road trips, but we use them as a last resort. Before leaving the house, we load audiobooks and kids’ story podcasts onto our phones and play them through the Bluetooth speaker in our car. That way, we all listen to the stories together. My kids enjoy Stories Podcast and Story Nory

If the kids begin to feel itchy and bored, or we get tired of listening to these, we will let them use iPads for a limited time. But only after we’ve asked them to try other means of entertainment first. 

Riding in a car with kids can be challenging. If we tire of those stories or feel the kids getting edgy, we let them pull on their headphones so they can play on tech for a short while.

I am okay with the kids playing on iPads for part of the trip, but we limit their overall time and don’t let them stare at it for the entire ride.

Long Road Trip: Planning for Snacks and Meals

When planning a road trip, pack as much food as possible for a day’s worth of travel. We pack multiple lunch-sized coolers for the kids and a larger one for the whole family. The first cooler includes water bottles and fruit. Before heading out, we cut up strawberries, wash blueberries, and throw in cuties or small mandarin oranges.

In another small cooler bag, we add peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cheese sandwiches, cheese sticks, pepperoni, yogurt pouches, and applesauce. We always bring twice as much food as we think we’ll need. If the kids don’t eat it all in the car, they’ll eat it in the following days.

In another bag, we pack crackers, pretzels, and granola bars. Some parents feed their children healthy organic food 365 days a year. We like the kids to eat healthy foods, but a long road trip with kids is an exception to this rule. If providing your kids with treats will keep them happy, add a few. On road trips, I add fun foods like chewy fruit snacks, pop-tarts, Hershey chocolate bars, M&Ms, cookies, and muffins. I ask the kids to eat from healthy bags before digging into unhealthy ones.

Road Trip Snacks to Avoid Stopping

Our goal is to have food on hand, so we can continue driving. Bringing food doesn’t mean we never eat out. It simply means we can continue if the kids have fallen asleep.

Our youngest is a light sleeper, and our trips are disastrous if he falls asleep before we stop for food. Unlike our oldest, who can sleep through the stops or fall asleep soon after getting back in the car, our youngest will be wide awake and cranky for the rest of the ride.

By packing lots of food, he can remain asleep, and we can continue peacefully, snacking on the goodies we packed for a portion of the ride.

How Often Should You Stop on a Road Trip with Kids?

Some families like to sightsee while driving, and others want to put the peddle to the medal and reach their destination as quickly as possible. Deciding how often to stop on a road trip with kids can feel like a challenge. 

When our boys were little, I stopped to breastfeed them. Back then, it was easy to plan our stops based on how often they nursed. We’d decide on places to stop, get gas, buy food, and then drive on.

With toddlers, we had to stop for potty training. We carried a small portable potty training toilet in the car and pulled off onto side streets if we couldn’t find a bathroom when my kids needed one.

We stop much less frequently with younger kids out of the toddler stages. We gauge the need to stop by asking the kids every so often if they need to use the restroom, feel hungry, or need a break from riding in the car. That way, we can look for nearby restaurants or check out maps to figure out how long we can hold out until we can stop again.

If you want your kids to stretch their legs without stopping for fast food, check out Playground Buddy. It’ll help you locate playgrounds and plan stops along the way. Stretching every so often allows kids of all ages to break up the monotony of driving and makes a long drive feel less long.

Another road trip tip. Every time we stop, we ask everyone in the car to try to go to the bathroom. That way, you won’t get back on the road only to have your child say, “Mom, I need to go to the bathroom,” five minutes after leaving your last rest stop.

Road Trip Hack: Ask Your Kids to Wear Shoes That Slide on and Off

We tend to bring shoes that slide on and off to keep our kids happy and comfortable in the car. That means flip-flops in the summer months, water shoes that require little more than a velcro strap, or slip-on shoes that don’t require lacing.

That way, our kids can take their shoes off in the car but quickly get them back on when we reach a rest stop for bathroom breaks, stretching, or food.

We also tell the kids to search for their shoes about ten to fifteen minutes before we reach the next rest stop, giving them enough time to look for them and get them back on before we arrive.

This road trip hack will save you from searching for shoes or struggling with laces once you reach your destination.

Road Trip Tip: Pack an Extra Bag of Clothes for Each Child

My last tip for road trips is to pack a change of clothes for each child. Include a shirt, pants, underwear, and socks. Keep this clothing separate from the rest of your luggage and put it in the trunk after packing everything else.

Traveling with kids is unpredictable, but small kids are known for making messes. Whether it’s a diaper blowout, spilled juice, or another accident, you can quickly change your kids’ clothing if they get wet, dirty, or uncomfortable.

This extra bag can also come in handy for older kids and adults. If you decide to stop somewhere overnight, you can grab this bag rather than dragging all of your luggage into a hotel or motel room with you.

Planning a Fun Road Trip With Your Kids?

We are seasoned road trippers ready for adventures, but every time we hop in the car, we learn new tricks and techniques to make our journey easier.

Are you traveling on a cross-country road trip, visiting family, or heading out on a long car ride with kids? If so, I hope these family travel ideas will keep kids busy and happy while traveling on your next road trip. 

Do you have any favorite road trip hacks, tips, or fun ideas I should include?

1 thought on “Family Road Trip With Kids: Tips & Hacks For Your Adventure”

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