6 Tips for Road-Tripping with Kids

As a mama of three kiddos and no family nearby, I have embarked on my fair share of road trips. Gone are the days of romanticized road trips when all I needed was a good bag of snacks and my CD case. Adding first one, then two, then three kids into the mix means that road-tripping now requires exorbitant planning and preparations. If you are planning a summer road trip with kids this year and don’t know where to begin, here are my top 6 must-do tips for road-tripping with kids!


Dad Buckling In Toddler In The Car


1. Plan your schedule strategically. This means different things for different families, and you know your children best. Do your kids sleep well in the car? Many families we know choose to leave at 9 pm and drive through the night to allow children to sleep through most of the drive. Another family we know regularly leaves around 2 am for the same purpose. The driver goes to bed around 8 pm, sleeps for a few hours, and gets up and drives. This does NOT work for our family – both drivers in our household get drowsy when driving at night, so neither of us is good for keeping the other awake. Our family typically leaves for a road trip around 5 am. Our kids are still drowsy enough at that hour to go back to sleep for a couple of hours, and the adults are awake enough to make it through a long day of driving.

Consider your family. When are you and any other drivers most alert? When are your children most drowsy? Do they sleep well in the car? How old are they? Would a long lunch break serve your family well? Does it make sense to spend a night halfway through your drive? Whatever you do, plan ahead to make the trip easier on everyone!


Family Outside of Car By The Lake


2. Use your local library’s resources to keep your kids busy! Our library system not only has books, DVDs, and CDs, but also Playaway books (MP3 books that headphones can be plugged into), and Wonderbooks (hard copies of books that read to your kids). Keep them all in one tote bag to keep track of them and reduce the risk of losing something!

3. Break up your kids’ activities! No, you are not your kids’ cruise director, so don’t make yourself crazy. BUT...planning different activities to break up the drive into bite-sized chunks truly does diminish the complaining and boredom. For example, plan for a movie the first hour and a half, then listen to an audiobook. This might be a good time for a fun car game, like Car Bingo, the Alphabet Game, 20 Questions, I Spy, or the License Plate game. When that novelty wears off, consider listening to a favorite soundtrack or initiating a quiet/rest time, especially for younger kids. When rest time is over, it might be time for another movie! Again, you don’t have to have every minute of the drive planned, but there is wisdom in mixing things up to make the day go faster.


Kids Playing In The Back Of The Van


4. Speaking of activities...pack surprise activity bags! Pack each child a tote bag with a mix of items you already have, plus a few new surprises. Before you travel, make a run to a dollar store or a store like Five Below and pick up some cheap goodies for your road trip. Activity bags are another great boredom-buster! A few ideas of things to pack/purchase for your activity bag: small stuffies, whiteboards, card games, ColorWonder markers, etc.


Kids Playing with Toy in Back Seat


5. Pack boatloads of snacks. No, seriously: boatloads. Not only is packing snacks a money-saver (variety packs at Sam’s Club are waaaaayyyy cheaper than individual packs at a gas station), but it’s also a great distraction in the car. Kids fighting? Have some cheez-its. Asking how much longer for the eleventy bazillionth time? Eat a fruit pouch. I’m not normally a person who encourages my kids to eat when they’re bored, but road trips are the exception to that rule. Snacks are a sanity-saver, but don’t forget to pack wet wipes and a trash bag!


Mom Feeding Kids Snacks In The Back Seat


6. Manage your expectations – and those of your kids! Talk with your kids ahead of time about what will happen on your road trip – especially if this is your first one as a family. Discuss your expectations of them, as well as your tentative route, stops, and activities. Just like adults, kids can manage difficult situations better if they know what to expect! For yourself, know that the best laid plans sometimes fall apart. And that’s okay. Be flexible, make extra stops if you need to, and dole out grace like confetti. Every moment of the journey doesn’t have to be magical to make precious memories with your kids!


Family In Back On Pick-Up Truck

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