20 Tips for Surviving a Road Trip with Your Kids
Oh, there’s nothing like a road trip.
The windows down, the wind flying through your hair, the soft hum of your radio, and the excessive crying and whining from your kids?
Yup, that’s my life!
I’m the first one to tell you that you don’t have to give up on road trips once you have kids. In fact, we take them now more than ever.
Why? Besides providing optimal family bonding time, road trips are a unique experience for kids. They get to make connections in school when learning about history or geography, because they’ve actually been to the places they’re studying.
So, on to survival! Kids obviously have different needs, different temperaments, and different attention spans.
Road trips may be a breeze for some and a challenge for others. Regardless of you kids’ ages or stages, here are 20 tips that I’ve always found ultra-helpful when motoring cross country!
1) Stock Up On Shower Caddies
Shower caddies are amazing. They can serve so many purposed on road trips. From holding crayons and crafts, to drinks and food, they helped cut down on mess and driving time.
We could literally fly through the fast food restaurants because we could plop fries in one compartment, a burger in another, and also have a place to put drinks.
I highly recommend them for all kids, regardless of their age (heck, I even used one!)
2) Utilize Silicone Cupcake Liners
My husband and I are iced coffee lovers, but we do not love having a wet drink holder as we drive. So, we lined all our cup holders with silicone cupcake liners.
They are easy to clean and my kids also use them in case their drinks or juice boxes start to drip due to condensation.
Cupcake liners also keep your car holders from getting gunky, so they can also house change, lip balm, gum—you name it!
3) Make a Car Sick Bag
I got sick as a kid when driving in the car, so I know first hand that it’s not a very pleasant experience. So, when my son started to follow in my footsteps, I put together a car sick bag.
This made the trip go a lot smoother because we just anticipated it and were ready for it. We have a bucket and inside a plastic bag holds wipes, crackers, water, paper towels, and motion sickness meds.
We are sure to give him his medicine prior to taking off, but it’s always helpful to have something ready just in case!
4) Snag a Cereal Storage Container
Most dollar stores have thin and tall plastic cereal storage containers. They have a snap top and are lightweight and streamlined.
So, be sure to snag two-one for upfront and one for the backseat. Line them with a mini can liner and voila! You have instant garbage cans.
After all, kids can make a pretty big mess! Now, there’s no excuse to make the car a mess with trash (or litter for that matter).
5) Utilize a Seat Organizer
Seat organizers hang on the back of your front seats and offer ample storage. Each little pocket and slot can hold juice boxes, snacks, games, baby items—you name it.
The best part is that they are easy for the kids to access on their own from the back seat, so you don’t have to worry about facilitating them.
I also love that all you have to do is unhook it from the car and you can transport it straight into your hotel room and hang it up. All your items are perfectly in place, in arm’s reach, and are ultra-organized!
6) Make a Travel Book
This is especially appealing to older school aged kids. Put together a binder that has the map of the state.
Encourage your kids to color in a state as you pass through it and even add some landmarks that you saw on your journey.
They can keep a running journal of each day/drive, and answer pre-determined questions you make up for them as prompts (for example—”What was the best part of the trip today?”)
7) Get Crafty
My son likes to use colored pencils but I was so sick of them spilling all over the car (I literally found one wedged in between the seats months later). So, I cleaned up a seltzer bottle and slid his beloved pencils inside.
This way, he could “pour” out the color he wanted, transport them with ease, and remain entertained on our drive.
8) Put Together an Entertainment Binder
Preschoolers love to play with stickers, shapes, play money, and pretty much any other trinket you can think of. But, these little pieces get lost and/or make a mess fast.
So, you can pick up a few mesh pencil cases to hold their belongings and secure them in a binder. This way, the binder can sit on their lap and they can flip through it and unzip the case that’s holding the objects they want.
Binders are also idea to bring into a restaurant as you’re waiting to be seated or for your dinner.
9) Play Would You Rather
Kids love when everyone in the family gets involved in a conversation. So, a game of “Would You Rather” is right up their alley.
You can type up age appropriate questions and print and cut them out into thin strips.
Place each strip inside a mason jar and hide the game from the kids by placing it in the glove compartment.
This way, when they start to get antsy, you can pull it out and strike up a silly (or serious) conversation (Would you rather be an ant or an elephant?)
10) Make a Snack Travel Kit
When I know we’re going to be in the car for two to three hours, I like to put together a healthy snack kit. This way, we don’t have to stop to eat and I also know the snacks I’m serving are healthy.
So, I have picked up a plastic earring container at my local dollar store (although any kind of compartmentalized container will do) and I filled each space with pretzels, marshmallows, fruit nibs, etc.
When my kids were itching for a snack, it was easy for me to just hand the container over and let them pick until we arrived at our destination.
11) Utilize Cookie Sheets
Cookie sheets can serve a bunch of purposes. They can entertain toddlers if you give them some letter magnets.
They can appease older kids who wish for a hard surface to write or color on.
They can keep computers and tech devices off tweens and teens’ laps. I don’t get in the car without having at least four!
12) Lunchbox Legos
Pick up a lunchbox and fill it with Legos. Using a hot glue gun, you can position a mini Lego board on the lid of the container.
This way, kids can construct during your drive, and even bring it with them into restaurants.
You can even make up STEM challenge cards for older children to keep them occupied and engaged when they get bored with just building (Spell your name using Legos, build a new type of car, etc.)
13) Play Travel Bingo
Visit Carla Schauer’s blog to download and/or customize a travel Bingo board that will entice your kids and be attainable for them to do based on their ages.
They’ll love looking for a yellow car, a stop sign, a bridge (or whatever else you decide to put on the page-road kill anyone?).
Make it a point to play a new round every time you enter a new state (and don’t forget to utilize that free space!).
If you place the boards inside a plastic folder, you can cross off each item with a dry erase marker for continuous fun!
14) Use Laundry Baskets
Oh, the days of suitcases on road trips are over for me. After I used a laundry basket to hold our stuff, I'll never go back. Why?
The baskets were easy to carry, they stacked up perfectly in the car, they were easy to access our items when in the hotel room, and I carried them straight to the laundry room when we got home.
They may not have looked the prettiest, but who cares!?
15) Make Games
I love Living Well Mom’s Blog because she boasts several downloadable travel games that will make each member of your family happy.
Be sure to check out the Travel Memory game and her creative coloring kit.
Again, all items can be utilized in the car and brought into stores, shopping complexes, and into restaurants to keep little hands and mind busy while waiting.
16) Gobble Gummy Bears
It may be wise to keep a pack of gummy bears in your glove compartment. I learned that it helps kids with ear popping issues when traveling.
And, when they doze off, you’ll have a sugar snack to much on in close range!
17) Make Countdown Cards
Hang a piece of cut clothes line across the car’s interior, so that it’s in plain sight of the kids.
Using clothespins, space out the amount of time it is going to take to reach your destination.
You may want to use increments of 30 minutes, or even hours.
This way, the kids will have a visual cue of how far away (or how close) they are to your point of interest each time you remove one from the line. You can add a lunch stop or bathroom break into the mix as well.
The days of, “Are we there yet?” will be gone!
18) Set up a Potty Space
I personally disliked traveling far distances while potty training. But, if you can’t avoid it (or simply don’t want to), you should set up a potty space in the back of your trunk, assuming you are driving an SUV (this doesn’t work well with sedans).
Place a pee-pee mat that you’d use for pets underneath your child’s potty. This helps mop up spills or accidents. You should also line the inside of the potty with a plastic bag.
This will be easy to toss and won’t leave you with any kind of unpleasant smells or cleaning chores after your child does their business.
Your toddler will be relieved to know that they have a place to do their business if they suddenly get the urge, and you won’t have to run them into rest stops!
19) Consider Points of Interest
Kids need to stretch their legs frequently. And, one of the whole points of taking a road trip is to let your child see the world and experience new things.
So, in order to make your trip more enjoyable and survivable, plan out your driving route carefully.
Or, listen to your kids. If there’s some place they’d like to stop at, stop! Take it in and make memories as a family. Your destination isn’t going anywhere.
And, you’ll notice that when you hop back in the car to do more driving, morale will be high and positive energy will be restored.
20) Put Together an Are We There Yet Bag
I consider these bags my last resort after making pit stops and playing road BINGO.
These bags are meant for the last stretch of the drive, so fill up a bag with new movies to watch in the portable DVD player, a game like Scategories or Yahtzee, or even mysterious clues that will make kids think about some of the activities you have lined up for them once you arrive at your destination.
I try to make these activities long lasting, fun, and as meaningful as possible!
Kids are a gift, but they can also make everyone pretty miserable when you’re embarking on a long drive in the car.
However, I have to say, once they make it on their first long car trip, things do get much easier for everyone involved.
These 20 activities have always been a big hit with my kids and have made our drives to the shore not just doable, but fun!