Wondering how do you make a road trip easier with kids? I’ve got you covered. Keep reading to find out 23 awesome tips to make your road trip with kids a success.
Summertime comes with travelling to visit family, friends, or new and old places. While the excitement of traveling may abound among the kids as they look forward to the trip, some of us parents may have a few concerns as to how we can actually make the trip a success. Whether you are planning to travel by car, plane, ship, bus, etc. there’s always these concerns that parents have. We have taken many road trips from the time our kids were as young as babies. While we don’t consider ourselves pros, I hope that these few tips will help you make a road trip fun with kids. Some affiliate links are used in this post for your convenience.
23 Helpful Tips for Road Tripping with Kids
1. Packing – You want to have less luggage to travel with as much as possible. Ever been in a van or car where the luggage took up all the space? Not to mention, you get to a hotel and have to unload a bunch of luggage, only to load them back up to go to the next hotel?
- If your kids are between ages 1-5, you can get all of their little clothes in one small suitcase. But of course, it depends on how many kids you have. You could use a larger suitcase depending, or use two if you have between 4-6 kids. If you have more kids, you might want to try to squeeze as many of their clothing in just a few suitcases, depending on their ages.
- If your kids are a little bit older, they can pack a separate bag. Also, moms, you can fit both you and your youngest clothing in one bag or suitcase.
- It may also be helpful to have their daily clothing separated into Gallon-Sized Ziplock bags.
- Pack bathing suits – kids always love a swim.
- Pack a few extra outfits for the kids especially. For example, for a 5 day trip, I usually have the kids pack 10 undies and about 3 full extra outfits. That’s not overpacking, that’s sensible packing with kids. Kids usually need a change of clothes for one reason or the other – something get’s wet, unplanned dirty or someone gets sick and have an accident on their clothing.
- You can very much do laundry on your trip, especially if you are staying at a family’s house. Hotels and B&Bs have laundry equipment, too. But having the extra clothing will help you not to have to focus on getting laundry done while trip to be somewhere or trying to enjoy your trip.
Pro tip: Always pack a separate little bag with a change of clothing for everyone. Consider adding toothbrushes and travel-sized body care too. If you are on a 14hr drive through the night and the driver(s) get tired and decides to pull over to a hotel, you’ll have a bag with a change for each family member. That way, you don’t have to take everyone’s luggage up to the hotel just for one night. Especially, in the middle of the night when everyone’s already sleepy. Just grab that one bag and go.
2. Free-Up Car Space – Don’t over pack your car that there is zero space to turn around. We experienced this on one of our Spring road trips to SC, 2021. My husband was all excited he had rented a vehicle for the trip. Much to my disappointment when he got home, said vehicle was smaller than our already small SUV. Like really? Oh, it was the only size left and the company who was paying for the job interview was also paying for the rental and gas. So it was free to us. At that point, I didn’t care about free. I just wanted space. Needless to say, over 10 hours of uncomfortable sitting each way on the trip. Sigh. So space is a big issue. You want a little wiggle room to be able to move about.
3. Figure out Time to Leave Depending on Kids Ages – It’s hard for a baby or young child to sit through a long car ride. When our kids were babies and toddlers, I preferred traveling at nights. That way they can sleep through. I remember this one trip we took from Chicago to Ohio. It was about 5 hours but felt way longer with a baby who was constantly waking up and screaming to be out of her car seat. I’d take the baby out, nurse her, comfort her a bit, put her back in her seat, she’d be quiet or doze off for a little while, then the process would start all over again.
Pro Tip: Moms of babies or very small children, sit in the back with your kids so you can help them find food, activities, nurse your baby, etc.
4. Have Snacks for Car & Hotel – Before you leave for your trip be sure to pack a bag with your child or children’s favorite snacks.
- If you can afford it, get individual sized snacks instead of large bags. Individual packs of snacks tend to cost more in bulk but they will be easier to handle while on a road trip. Large bags of snacks tend to spill over in cars and also, it’s harder for the kids to try to eat from while travelling. Think, having to pass that bag of chips around from kid to kid – that’s leaving room for spilling.
- Consider getting one of these travel trays for your car to avoid as much spilling.
- A few individual drinks is nice to have too. You will save money from having to buy drinks at places like gas stations. A 6-pack of punch will cost around $4.00 – $5.00 where as a single drink from a convenient store will most-likely cost over $2.50 each one (6 will cost $15).
Pro Tip 1: So many times I bring a bag of snacks and take the entire bag up to our room and have to grab a few on the way out to somewhere. Why not have two separate bags for snacks, one for the hotel room and the other for the car? That will save the hassle of having to remember to grab snacks when you’re headed out.
- If you are staying at a Hotel, Bread & Breakfast, Cabin, etc. you’ll also want to bring separate snacks for there. These snacks are for downtimes when both you and the kids need a snack in between meals or at night when you want to munch on something.
- If you plan to stay with family, all of these may not be necessary but can definitely help. YOU know what snacks your children can eat or like. Don’t expect them to eat all things extend family provides. Bringing along some of their favorites can be beneficial.
Pro Tip 2: You can prep a few snacks at home too. Tiny muffins in a container, Rice Crispy Treats, or some of your favorite baked goods. I have made Gluten-Free banana bread for one of our kids when we took a short road trip. She really enjoyed that banana bread:)
I like having a some fruits on-hand too for healthier snacking. Here’s another idea I have not though of before: Fruit or veggie trays are not doubt pricey but they may be a fun way to snack your way through.
- Fun Treats – Pack some fun, surprise treats for the children. Children loves surprises and they love treats. Combining both will make them happy little travelers.
5. Bring a Water Bottle for Each Child – Water is essential for road trips. Kid-sized water bottles are cool too for kids who may be a little older. Just buy a whole case. Do discourage too much drinking though, or that can cause more potty stops.
6. Have Each Child Bring a Favorite Stuffie or Toy – Have the kids carry a favorite stuffed animal or toy. And be sure you set limits for where and when they could carry it. You don’t want them leaving it someplace and now you have to spend time looking for it or go back to a place to see if you could find it. “Yes, you may bring your special toy but you may not take it to the amusement park”.
7. Organize Car & Hotel Activities – Your kids will need activities to keep them occupied while travelling and for your destination. If you are travelling long hours, they will most-likely eventually fall asleep at some point. But in the hours when they are awake, they will need some activities to do. Here are some ideas for you:
- ipad or phone (imagine it – this one is first choice on the travel list these days)
- Travel I Spy Games (kids could play among themselves by asking questions but you may also consider having something on paper
- Story telling
- Coloring books/Sticker books
For the Hotel
8. Create A Playlist – Create a playlist or two on Spotify. Our kids enjoyed sing-alongs as we travelled. Us parents enjoyed Christian music when the kids were occupied otherwise.
9. Bring Something for You to Enjoy – A few favorite reads, magazines, laptop are things I enjoy doing while travelling on road trips. I also love Gospel listening to music and singing along with my husband.
10. Bring Pillows (& Blankets) – For the car ride if they fall asleep. It will help you keep your child comfortable and your kids will appreciate the comfort as they travel, especially if they are in upright booster seats. Having a pillow to lean back on and maybe a blanket in cooler weather will help them sleep somewhat comfortable in the car.
11. Prepare a First Aid Kit – Hey moms, bandages are an ABSOLUTE must! Don’t forget that. Your little ones always NEED bandages. Always. Also include in your kit things like:
- Essential oils (if you use)
- Cold rubs
- Flu meds
- Bug Sprays
- Sunscreen, etc.
12. Bring Vitamins & Meds – Don’t forget to bring their daily vitamins and special medicines. If your child has allergies or certain illnesses, you’ll want to remember to pack their medicines.
13. Bring a Portable Potty – Your kids will need it. Rest stops can be a while away when little ones need to go NOW! Bring that potty – you’ll be happy you did. Don’t forget the trash bags that they’ll need along with the potty. As you pass a trash can say on the outside of a gas station or grocery store, you can dump out the used bags.
14. Dress in Comfortable Clothing & Shoes – Try to avoid long jeans and clothing that take a little longer to come off. Slacks, leggings, a simple t-shirt are all light travel clothing ideas for kids and adults alike. Also, flip flops may be your kids best friend on a road trip. Easy to go on and off. On long road trips, kids may just want to kick off their shoes and enjoy the ride. Also, if your kids have taken off their shoes and need to put them back on to get out of the car, it will be way easier than having to tie sneakers. Just saying. Personally, I tend to take off my shoes and put up my feet when on road trips.
15. Braid Little Girls’ Hair – Braid your girls hair if you can. It will save you time and the hassle of having to comb hair while on your trip. Even if that braid lasts for two days, that’s two days you don’t have to worry about hair. However, you are plan to be in water such as the pool for a few days that may just outdo the whole braid idea:)
16. Plan Your Meals – Please plan your meals. Seriously. PLAN YOUR MEALS. Don’t say, ok we’ll grab some lunch on the way out. Where is the way out? I have been there several times when my husband would make that statement. 2 hours later, hungry kids and mom still waiting on said lunch.
My husband’s reply, I haven’t found a place to stop yet. Me: Well I said we needed to get lunch as we were leaving or before we left why didn’t we stop at said (insert food place here) down the street? Hey Mamas, tell me I’m not alone:)
My husband – Well, it was not in the direction we’re heading. So I was hoping to find something down here. My thoughts? How hard it was just to go 5 minutes down the road to get the food, and swing back around to start the trip?
Or I’m still looking. Or, oh I just past that … over there but I was not in the right lane. Maybe there will be something up here at this next intersection. . . . . . It makes me laugh now thinking about it.
Let’s not operate on the “maybes”. What to do instead, think of your favorite food stops right around you (aka the ones you regularly eat at when you are out and about in your own town). Then say, we’ll go grab some lunch to go at (insert food place here) before we begin the drive. AND go get that lunch. Trust me, your wife and kids would be much happier. You won’t have to hear, I’m hungry and most importantly, your family will be fed and much more ready to begin the trip. And the lunch wait wouldn’t have to turn into an early dinner by the time everyone eats. Less frustration.
- Don’t Buy All Fast Foods – If your kids. One of our kids had the worse tummy ache from eating many food while on a road trip. We didn’t plan meal time properly and every time we stopped for something to eat, it was either something involving fries, fried chicken, or pizza. I was so disappointed because I too am not a fan of sandwich eating and fast food junk all the time.
- Plan Your Restaurant Time – This is one of those I find take up so much time from the travel. I find that traveling during the day works best for stopping to eat at restaurants. If you leave early enough (tip above), then you’ll feel more relaxed to stop to eat. Let’s say you hope to be at your travel destination at 7pm and the trip takes 6 hours. Why not leave your house around 10:00 am? That will allow you “free” time to stop.
17. On the Go Breakfast Foods – I cannot tell you how many times I appreciated having something for breakfast at a hotel, not just for the kids but for me as a parent too. There are days when you may just desire to not rush to breakfast due to a late night or maybe you feel like your vacation isn’t much of a vacation with all this getting up early for breakfast. Here are some ideas for days when eating breakfast on your own time seems right:
- Sliced loaf of bread
- Fruit (Berries, bananas,
- Smoothies – Readymade
- Yogurt – Single Serve
- Orange Juice/Apple Juice
18. Have Some Quick Dinners – You may not have a hotel or space with a kitchen, such foods like cup noodles can be a saver to little hungry kids. Just heat up some water in a cup and pour over noodles. Even if your place of vacation abode has a kitchen, I’m guessing you don’t want to spend too much time cooking either. Here’s a list of quick, easy dinner ideas to throw together if you desire to save money and cook a few nights:
- Grab boxes of pasta & jars of pasta sauce (& maybe a bag of frozen meatballs)
- Minute Rice, a cooked whole chicken from the deli, lol, & a bag of frozen corn or mixed veggies
- A couple of frozen pizzas and a bag of salad mix or fruit
19. Buy a Stack of Paper Plates, Spoons, and Forks – These will come in handy for said on-the-go meals (Tips 17-18) or snacks so.
20. Budget for Souvenirs & Spending Money – Here is one we tend to forget – having a “kid” spending budget. Our kids love to pick up a souvenir or a cute toy when they are away. But some of the things can be super expensive for the item. A small toy will sometimes cost over $14 dollars with the bigger ones ranging between $30 and $70. Yep you heard that right. As parents we cringe, especially if we have more than one kid. The “convenient” snacks can also cost a fortune. Dipping Dots, anyone? Why are those little tubs of things $5? Or the 50cent lollipop now costing $3?
- If you plan a separate budget for this reason, you will feel better to buy something than having to randomly come up with a crazy amount of money a souvenir.
- You can also have the kids bring some of their chore or allowance money for purchasing. My kids love it when we remember to take along some of their personal money. They feel in control and can use it to buy anything they want within the amount. Also, when they bring some of their own money, they will try to purchase items within that range. You can a few extra dollars depending on the cost.
- We took a trip to Carowinds NC. One of our daughters (9 years old) brought along $20. At a souvenir store, she tried to stay within range. She picked one toy that costed a little over $8. She had already won another larger toy at a game. She was a happy camper.
21. Stop for Breaks – Every now and again, stop for a little break. Get out of the car to stretch your legs. Let the children play at a park. Grab some ice-cream or a different snack/treat than what you have packed. Everyone will feel refreshed and read to “hit” the road again.
22. Be Realistic with Time – I mean, there’s always the inevitable traffic on a road trip. You planned the trip, why not plan a couple extra hours for things like this?
23. Leave Room for Imperfections – Your kids are people too – they have emotions. Tiredness, sleepiness, being in a new place can all contribute to different emotions. Some of these emotions may not be exactly what we want to see as parents but think about it from your standpoint too. As adults, we show different emotions depending on our circumstances.
She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness (Proverbs 31:27).