Any links in this post to a merchant may contain an affiliate link, which means that if you click on that link and then buy something, I may earn a commission from it. However, all opinions in this link are 100% mine and 100% honest. If I didn't believe in a particular product, I wouldn't recommend it to you.
Road trips are a fun and economical way for families to travel. Yet, many times when you throw kids into the mix, they turn into miserable experiences with everyone in the car mad, cranky, and yelling. It is possible to have a good time on the road with your children. You just need to be prepared and plan ahead. Use these easy tips for successful road trips with kids and you are sure to have a blast on your next vacation.
Tip #1: Plan around your family’s personalities.
Road trips are as different as families. So, plan yours in such a way that it fits your family. Play to your strengths instead of fighting your weaknesses. If your three-year-old can’t sit still for longer than an hour, plan to stop every hour while he is awake. Then take advantage of his long naps to make up some time. If your husband can’t see well at night, have him drive during the day and you drive at night. Work with what you have instead of trying to force your family to be something they are not.
Pro Tip: The biggest key to successful road trips with kids is playing to the strengths of your family’s personalities.
Tip #2: Pack for success.
When you start packing for your trip, take some time to think through the actual road trip part of it. What things will you need in the car? Will you be stopping for the night before reaching your final destination? Are you going to stop for meals or eat in the car? How many hours will you be in the car each day? Pack your bags and place them in the car with these things in mind. You want to make sure that when someone needs something, it is within easy reach. Also, think about potential roadblocks, like a kid getting car sick. Pack and plan for these scenarios as well. Strategic packing of the car will eliminate much of the stress and frustration that comes with family road trips.
Pro Tip: Pack your car so you have what you need when you need it without any hassle.
Tip #3: Give everyone their own space.
As a mom, you already know that it is important to give each child their own space in order to keep them from fighting. Being in the car during road trips is no different. To eliminate whining, complaining, and fighting, make sure everyone has their own space within the car. This includes giving them room to have their own blanket, pillow, and entertainment. If you are taking a long road trip, consider renting a larger vehicle than you normally drive to give everyone a little extra space.
Pro Tip: Make sure everyone has plenty of space in the car to prevent fighting.
Tip #4: Keep your kids entertained.
When kids get bored, they become difficult. To prevent this during your vacation, keep them entertained in the car. Pack some of their favorite toys, both electronic and non-electronic, to play with while on the road. Be sure to bring more than you think they will need in case they get bored easily. Also, pack some surprises. This could be some of their toys they don’t know you packed or some new things for the trip. When they begin to lose focus, try playing a game with them. A great and easy way to entertain kids in the car is with a road trip scavenger hunt. (I have a free one you can print out in the Travel Resource Library. See the box at the bottom for details on how to get it.) For more ideas on keeping them entertained, see my screen-free activities for road trips.
Pro Tip: Have plenty of toys and games in the car to keep kids entertained while on the road.
Tip #5: Have plenty of snacks.
Snacks have an almost magical effect on kids. They can transport your little ones from the brink of a meltdown to a happy place in the blink of an eye. And one of the fun things about a long road trip is eating snacks as you roll through the miles. So, be sure to pack snacks for the whole family. Take some favorites and some special treats that you don’t normally let your kids have. Consider letting kids pick out their own snacks for the trip. I would also recommend packing each kid their own snack pack to prevent fighting over them. For some great snack ideas, see my list of the best road trip snacks.
Pro Tip: Pack plenty of your family’s favorite snacks to keep the tummy grumbles away.
Tip #6: Plan for roadblocks.
Lots of unforeseen things can happen during a road trip. If you’re not prepared, these events can negatively impact your vacation. But, to have successful road trips with kids, you can plan ahead and avoid some of these roadblocks. Have your car checked before leaving to make sure the tires are properly inflated, your fluids are topped off, and your belts are good. Check your route for any closures or construction. Think about any high traffic spots you will be traveling through and plan accordingly. Check the weather for your route and final destination.
Pro Tip: Be prepared and plan ahead to avoid frustration and unforeseen roadblocks.
Tip #7: Have some surprises.
I mentioned earlier that you should pack some surprise entertainment for your kids. Believe it or not, surprises are a big key in successful family vacations. Planning even simple ones for your loved ones can elevate the trip and make it special. They just add an extra bit of fun to the trip. You can get each child a new book or toy. Try making gift bags for each family member with their favorite snacks. Or, you could plan to stop and eat at one of your husband’s favorite restaurants. Another idea is to plan a surprise activity that your kids will enjoy. There’s lots of ways to incorporate surprises into your road trip to keep your family excited about what’s next.
Pro Tip: Plan some surprises to keep your family looking forward to what’s coming next.
Tip #8: Timing is everything.
On road trips, as in life, timing is everything! For successful road trips with kids, you must think about timing when planning your trip. If you will be going through a major city, plan it so you miss rush hour traffic. If you have little ones that hate the car seat, leave during the night so they will sleep the first several hours of the drive. Plan to stop for food before your family gets hungry and cranky.
Pro Tip: Time your driving to avoid traffic jams and stomach grumbles.
Tip #9: Have fun!
And the most important tip I have for you is to just have fun! The more relaxed you are, the more relaxed your family will be. The last thing you want on your trip is to be the cranky pants in the car. So, trust your planning, take a deep breath, and let the good times roll. You are creating memories with your family and that’s all that really matters! So, have fun with it, whatever happens, and you will find that your family will have fun too!
Pro Tip: Have fun and your family will too.
It is possible to have successful road trips with kids that you will all remember for many years to come. Plan ahead, be prepared, throw in some surprises, and have fun. You just may find that this is your new favorite way to travel! For more road trip ideas, see how to save time on road trips, and my essential items for road trips. Happy travels!
P.S. Don’t forget to get your FREE printable road trip scavenger hunt before your next trip. See the box below for details on how to get the password to the Travel Resource Library.