The Best Tips for Road Trips with Kids!

June 15, 2021

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(Above, the girls bags are from Walker Family Goods.  I also got them each a matching backpack to use as their carry on. They’re cute and I’m feeling very color-coded and organized! We got this cargo box.)

Last Casual Friday I mentioned that we are preparing for our 5 day road trip across the country and asked for readers to leave comments on the blog with their road trip tips. You! Delivered! With over 300 clever tips (seriously, make sure you scroll through the comment section next time you’re planning a road trip), I had plenty of solid ideas and creative ideas to boost my confidence and honestly–I’m getting a little excited about it. I want this trip to be fun and memorable for the girls, while keeping in mind that it’s going to be a little hard on everyone, so today I thought it would be fun to share some things that we are planning, plus a round-up of ALL the essentials for a family-fun r0ad trip.

  • We are using to plan all of fun stops along the way. This will give all of us something to look forward to, and a way for the girls to get their energy out. I also read it’s fun to have a visual of the road trip for kids made with tape where they can see it! (Thanks Kelle!)
  • For emergency bathroom stops, somebody wrote in that they use this OXO Go Potty seat/chair. It comes with bags and you can even line it with a diaper or pull-up to absorb the mess, then simply pull the draw-string (don’t forget the wipes) and you’re on the road again! Genius. That being said, everybody has to go potty when we stop, even if you don’t feel like you have to.
  • Our girls really struggle with motion sickness, especially if they’re reading a book or staring at an iPad for too long. To help with this we got some kids travel sickness lollipops and acupressure wristbands.
  • Somebody suggested having the stash of snacks in the back of the car and when you make a stop, you let the kids “shop” the snacks that they want to tide them over until the next stop. I love that this gives them ownership over their choices and something to look forward to. Plus then we’re not having to deal with “can I have more fruit snacks” every 5 minutes.
  • Similar to the snack idea, we plan to stick to one activity at a time (probably in 60-90 minute blocks). So maybe for one leg of the drive we will play the “What-If” game together as a family, and then when we make a stop they can swap out for a quieter activity like reading, coloring, or the maze game.
  • Don’t forget headphones for the portable DVD player and the iPad for a moment of silence. We got these over the chair organizers that hold iPads so the girls eyes can stay forward. It also organizes a lot of other great things. This iPad holder is perfect for the center seat!
  • Our hotel stays include pools. Just a nice refreshing way to end the day, plus nothing tires kids out more than swimming.
  • Start EARY in the morning to get a couple hours in before the kids are fully awake and even before breakfast!
  • Give each kid a few dollars every day to purchase souvenirs or treats at a rest stop. They will inevitably ask to buy something every time you stop, and this gives them ownership of that!
  • plastic bins for trays
  • We got SO many audiobook and podcast recommendations that kids AND families can enjoy so you can either listen all together, or you can plug in those headphones and the kids can listen while they look out the window or draw. Listing those below!

Audiobook Suggestions:

  • A to Z Mysteries by Ron Roy
  • The series of A Boy Called B.A.T. by Elena Arnold
  • The Wizard of Oz
  • Rachel McAdams narrates a great “Anne of Green Gables.”
  • Harry Potter
  • Rick Riordan books
  • The Adventurers’ Guide series
  • BFG
  • Narnia
  • Hank the Cow Dog
  • The Penderwicks series
  • Land of Stories
  • Mr. Limencello’s Library
  • Anne of Green Gables
  • The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson
  • Little House
  • The Railway Children
  • 39 Clues series
  • Kate Winslet narrates Matilda
  • Henry Huggins is narrated by Neil Patrick Harris

Podcast Suggestions:

  • WOW in the world
  • Eleanor Amplified
  • Reading Bug Adventures
  • Purple Rocket
  • Story Pirates
  • The Big Fib
  • Smash Boom

We also put together a round-up of all the road trip essentials you might need if you have an upcoming long-drive. Honestly even having some of these things stocked in your car could be a game changer for even those longer drives.

1. Backseat Organizers $25 Essential for keeping the car clutter-free. They also protect the back of your seat from shoe scuffs!
2. Wipes $4 These are THE best smelling wipes in the world. They will almost make you forget your wiping up sticky messes. A necessity.
3. Rubber Neckers Travel Game $13 A hilarious car game of “I Spy.”
4. Mega Maze $10 Dry erase mazes to keep the kids busy.
5. What If Questions for Kids $10 101 thought-provoking questions for kids! So grateful for games like this that help kids hone their decision-making skills and practice making good choices.
6. License Plate Game $19 I mean, is it even a road trip if you don’t play the license plate game? This one flips open so it’s easy to keep track!
7. Car Bingo $10 Hand out the bingo sheets to the kids and maybe they can have a treat when they get a bingo!
8. Handheld Vacuum $40 The spills are inevitable so you might as well be prepared. I love that this one is TINY and powerful.
9. Crayola Mess Free Coloring $9 Mess free coloring on the go.
10. Motion Sickness Lollipops $13 A necessity for our girls.
11. Headphones $17 For everyone’s sanity
12. Wikki Stix $6 These little moldable crafting sticks would keep my girls occupied for hours
13. Disposable Cameras $25 The kids can take their own photos along the way. Don’t forget to develop the film and put the photos in a little memory book.
14. Rush Hour Traffic Logic Jam $22 Have you played this?? This was my favorite game growing up and it’s still as fun today. You arrange the cars in a little traffic jam and have to slide them forward or backward to get the red car free. So entertaining.
15. Motion Sickness Bracelets $13 My sister Andi swears by these and even uses them on planes.
16. Headrest Pillow Support $24 just some added comfort for your little ones.

What do you think?

  1. shannon says:

    The loaded down Volvo hatchback with the rooftop cargo box and bright canvas duffel bags is the exact vibe I hope for on future family trips!! We just had our first babe, and I can’t wait to pack him and any potential siblings into our Volvo for road trips. Hope you have happy and safe travels <3

  2. Debra says:

    Yay! Nashville is on the list. Downtown will be crazy if you are stopping on the weekend. Come on down to Franklin/Leipers Fork/Arrington for less crowds and beautiful scenery. Soundwaves at the Opryland Hotel is super fun! Safe travels.

  3. Steph says:

    While Narnia is on your audiobook list, there is a version of it from Radio Theatre. It is basically like a movie in audiobook format. Has different actors and sound effects. We listened to it on a road trip. They have other books (Oliver Twist, Little Women, Secret Garden, etc) as well.

  4. Jacqui says:

    The nurse in me has to suggest that you make sure you stay hydrated and be sure to do exercises to minimise the risk of a DVT from all that sitting. The kind you might do on the plane for long haul flights. Not trying to worry you as you most likely don’t have the other risk factors but the exercises will make you feel better anyway.

  5. Angela says:

    So many great tips! Thanks for compiling it all. My kids love when I post a sticky note on the window to mark every 100 miles we’ve driven. We counted there and back and went up to 1600 miles that summer.

  6. RhoniJo says:

    I’ve recently driven 4000 miles roundtrip to see my son. As a woman driving by myself, I wasn’t always comfortable stopping at roadside rest stops (I had a man follow me into one of the restrooms one time- yikes!). So, I made a list of all the Lowe’s stores on my route and would make my pitstops there. :) They are usually located in better neighborhoods, not too crowded and have clean bathrooms! Plus, I would browse the garden department for a nice walk around before heading back into the car for a few more hours of driving!

  7. Allison says:

    While seat back organizers can be helpful, they can interfere with air bag sensors. I would check your car manual to see what it says. Even if the manual doesn’t prohibit them, you don’t want it to be too heavy.

    But love a lot of these tips – especially the ones related to snacks!

  8. Cindy says:

    I know North Carolina is excited to get you… but Idaho will miss you!

  9. Michele says:

    These are all great ideas. The bracelets really help for motion sickness. I have also heard that you can use a Costco app that tells you where they are located along your route because they usually are located right off the freeway and are a safe and clean option for potty breaks also.

  10. Pearl says:

    We looooved listening to audiobooks on road trips when I was growing up! The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke is incredible. The narrator is fantastic and the story is understandable to younger kids but interesting enough for adults. My son listens to it now!

  11. JJ says:

    Hey Julia and team!

    This is a fantastic list! Thank you for putting it together! I have another suggestion for you.

    The Along for the Ride podcast is a family game show designed fir kids and adults to play together. There are 10 episodes with different games and activities specifically for car time adventures!

    y Julia and team! This is an excellent list! Ive got another suggestion for you!

    Along for the Ride is a family game show podcast! 10 episodes with interactive games for kids and adults specifically designed for car time!

    Hope you have a safe journey!

  12. Gretchen Seibold says:

    Where are the duffles from in the post photo in the back of the car

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