7 Best Tips For A Successful Road Trip With Kids
It’s road trip season!!
A family road trip can be so much fun, but they can also be a disaster.
A little preparation can go a long ways for a successful road trip with kids.
I remember us travelling well as kids.
Mom and dad kept us supplied with snacks, new Archie comic books, novels, books and Gameboys. Mom would also read to us along the way.
Oh and those giant gob stoppers. We would lick those until our tongues bled. Gross. But hey, it kept us occupied!!
We had a lot of fun and some great memories from doing road trips as a family.
My Childhood Travels:
Growing up, my parents did a lot of travelling with the 6 of us kids. We travelled from northern BC in Canada, to Anaheim California by car 15 passenger van, multiple times.
That is a 35 hour trip, each way! But we had fun!
We also travelled to my aunts farm in Saskatchewan multiple times, which was 19 1/2 hours one way.
Montana & the Philippines
When I was 12, the 8 of us, packed up and moved to Montana for a few months while my mom and dad did a program with YWAM (Youth With A Mission). After completing the first half of their program, we flew to the Philippines for a couple months, to finish the rest of it.
California, Saskatchewan and Montana were some of the bigger trips that we did growing up. We also did smaller road trips here and there that were around 13-16 hours.
So yes, you could say we did quite a few road trips when I was growing up.
I figure when I had kids, what could possibly go wrong?
Family Road Trip
Fast forward to road trips with my husband and children.
To be honest, our first mini road trip was a disaster and it took us awhile to recover and decide to ever do it again.
Our first road trip with our children was to a family reunion when our kids were 3 (almost 4), 2 and 8 weeks old.
The two oldest were still napping in the afternoon at the time and we thought travelling during nap time would be perfect.
We were wrong…
On the way home, our 2 year old was so exhausted, we thought he would sleep most of the way home.
His seat wouldn’t recline…at all (thank you pick-up truck bench seats), so instead of sleeping, he SCREAMED the entire way home. Full on blood curdling, I’m tired, mad, losing it scream…for over 3 hours.
And then we got stuck in traffic...
Have you ever seen a grown man bite the steering wheel to keep from losing his sanity;)? Yep, it was that fun.
By the end of the trip most of us were crying. And it took us a long time before we would attempt that again.
But eventually we did.
Over the last 7 years, we have done 3 big road trips with our children, but nothing as brave as 35hrs each way like my parents did!!
Before our youngest was born, my mom and I headed 14 hours north to our hometown with the kiddos.
The kids were 2, 3 (almost 4), and 4 (almost 5) at the time.
We made sure all the kids seats could recline a bit to allow for easier napping positions, and we planned it well. More on that in a bit.
Over the last two years, the 6 of us (hubby included this time) have driven to Denver, CO, twice. Each way it’s close to 21 hours of driving.
I would say each trip has been a success, with no crying or screaming and a lot of great memory making time.
Should you do it?
While some may say “don’t do it!!” when it comes to a long road trip with the kids, I say “go for it!”
It can be a fun experience for the whole family.
With some planning ahead, you can have a successful trip and be a travel pro in no time!
After our failed attempt, I was determined that any other trips would be a success with some preparation.
How To Plan A Road Trip:
1. Plan Strategically
Create the seating plan in a way that you have older kids sitting close to younger ones, so they can help. Keep those that will need your help the most, sitting closest to you.
Make a list of planned pit stops along the way.
2. Don’t Be In A Hurry!
Give yourself lots of time each day your family travels. Make sure you plan stops for your road trip. Plan to stop along the way every couple hours.
I know there are those travellers that love to just plow thru and get to the destination as quickly as possible, but that can be really hard on little people who have to sit in their carseats or booster seats all day.
Stopping often is super important as nobody likes sitting for hours on end. It’s important to get out and stretch, get some blood flowing and take a pee break.
When we travel, I google parks or attractions along the way, to stop every 2-3 hours or so.
We play, have a picnic and enjoy each others company.
No park? No problem!
Find a large parking lot, get out and do some fun exercises.
Or a quick game of tag
Anything that gets everyone moving…mom and dad too ;)
3. Have A Back Up Plan
Stopping at a park doesn’t always work out because there have been times where we’re needing to stop, but the weather is terrible. Stopping at a park or parking lot is out of the question.
I always plan for an alternate place to stop if the weather is terrible.
Our favourite places have been Walmart or Target as there is plenty of space to walk around, pick up fresh snacks and the bathrooms are usually clean.
4. Keep Things Organized
I can’t help myself. Even when we travel I organize, and then tidy, and reorganize as needed at the end of the day.
Keeping the vehicle organized and having a place for everything, helps you find what you need when you need it. No more digging around in no-mans-land trying to find something.
I designate different totes/bags/bins or containers for each thing.
Each of these have their own storage…even if it’s just a ziplock bag.
Activities (I organize these by child and each child has their own bag)
First Aid/Sick Bag
Documentation (passports, travel insurance, etc.)
5. Road Trip Essentials-Snacks
This can be tricky if you are crossing the border between the US and Canada…I learned that the hard way.
Check ahead of time what you can and can’t bring across.
It’s pretty disappointing to have to throw out all the fresh produce you just purchased to snack on for the trip :(
We love having fresh fruits and vegetables for our road trips, but we take just enough to last us until the border and make sure it’s all eaten before we get there.
Once we cross the border, we find a stop to stock up on fresh produce.
Pack snacks that are easy to open, healthy (with an occasional treat) and nothing that has potential to be a disaster.
These are some of our favourite road trip snacks:
Fresh veggie sticks
Wraps or sandwiches
Chocolate…always chocolate (this ones for mom)
Hard boiled eggs (pre-peeled to avoid messes and don’t forget the salt)
6. Beat Boredom
I love planning, packing and setting everything up for road trips!
Packing supplies to keep the kids entertained is important for keeping them occupied while traveling.
Every child is different and what they enjoy when they are younger, will differ when they are older. So far the things we have done for entertainment for the kids has worked for ages 2-12.
Weeks before we leave on our road trip, I love to hit the dollar store and Amazon to find new colouring or activity books that I gift wrap in simple tissue paper.
I print travel games for the ride and download a few new movies and audiobooks. A few days before we leave I go to the library and get out a ton of books.
As we travel, I hand out new items/activities to each kid every 3 hours (or so)…usually after a stop.
Favourite road trip games and activities:
Activity books (cross word, sudoku, word search)
Books, books and more books…they all love to read
Printable road trip games (bingo, I-spy, travel scavenger hunt)
Sticker books (Usborne “create your own”)
Card games and travel games
Blank notebook for their drawing creations or story writing
More road trip supplies:
Clipboards for a hard writing surface
Fun treats (we do Pocky sticks, Annies’ gummies)
Small Lego kits (see my DIY version here)
Notebook, scissors, glue, markers and pamphlets from each stop to create a memory book of your trip.
DVD player or iPad
Crayons, pencil crayons and non-mess markers
iPods loaded with kids audio books
We have two, one for each row and a jack for each iPod that allows two sets of headphones. Each child has a set of headphones, that way the kids in each row can easily share and listen to the iPod at the same time).
Headphones with double connector
Travel game printables
Something to keep all.the.things. organized
We try not to rely on our DVD player too much and save movies for the end of each day when everyone is starting to get tired of traveling.
Other items to have available on a road trip
Shower caddies for food (this is a genius hack I saw on Pinterest and it works!!)
First aid kit
Sick kit (bucket with extra disposable bags and cleaning supplies)
Motion sickness meds or arm bands
Water bottles for everyone
Small blanket and small pillows for everyone
Extra plastic bags for garbage
Garbage for each row
Socks or slippers for cold feet
Ball and skipping rope for stops
Easy slip on/off shoes for stops. It makes getting in and out of the vehicle much quicker
Suction soap holder (this works great to keep things accessible for little ones and for holding crayons or multiple smaller items)
7. Save Time And Effort At Overnight Stops
Traveling with 6 people for any amount of time tends to result in a lot of luggage.
And I like to be prepared, which usually means a lot of stuff!
The amount of suitcases we need for the 6 of us is a little ridiculous. Sure, we have everything we might need, but nobody likes hauling it all into the hotels each night we stop, along the way to our destination.
The solutions is to pack ONE overnight bag or suitcase for all of us, with everyones items needed for overnight. This one bag/suitcase is for taking into our overnight stops.
This is also handy to have available in case of spills or sickness. It saves having to dig through all the big luggage to find what you need.
It’s been such a game changer just having one or two bags to bring in rather than all the luggage.
In the overnight suitcase I include a couple changes of clothes for traveling, for each of us. This includes bottoms, tops, sweater, socks and underwear, pj’s and bathing suits. We also have a bag for toiletries and bring in any electronic devices we have with us.
It makes things more simple and the big heavy suitcases can stay in the vehicle or overhead carrier the whole time.
That’s it! Those are my best travel tips for a successful road trip with kids.
How about you, have you done many family road trips? What are your favourite tips to make it a success?