7 Ways to Rock a Road Trip with Kids

Life is slowly creeping back to normal with states lifting restrictions and many people gaining comfort with the idea of traveling to see long missed family members or a fun family vacation. Maybe you’re ready to travel, and either due to cost or comfort, prefer to drive to your destination. You don’t need to look forward with the dread of being stuck in your car with your kids! I’m coming at you with tips on how to make this your best road trip ever.

We recently completed a three-leg road trip, with our drive times being 12 hours, 3 hours, and 15 hours. I’ll be honest, I was a little nervous that it would be miserable. I worried that the youngest would whine and scream, the toddler would have to use the restroom every hour, kids would fight over which movies to watch, food and drink would be tossed throughout the minivan, and that my husband or I would go stir crazy being trapped with the noise and smells of five kids and two adults. This may have been our best trip yet!

1. Do not set an arrival time to your destination.

This allowed us to take time during potty stops, food stops, and refueling to stretch our legs and allowed the kids to burn off some energy. 

2. Eat one meal inside a restaurant.

This was a great break for our family! It made the kids happy because they rarely get to eat inside a restaurant, and the adults were able to relax from the stress of road travel. (Hint – Cracker Barrel usually has a great green space for your kids to bounce around or play a game of tag!)

3. Snack cups for everyone! 

If someone wants to eat some pretzels or trail mix, we served it in a plastic cup. They could easily place this in a cup holder and prevent spills. We also purchased some individually wrapped snacks so I wasn’t constantly making cups. (If you fail to pack cups, many establishments will give you cups for free. Just ask!)

4. Easy to eat foods.

On one of our drives, the kids asked if they could have donuts for breakfast. Donuts are terribly messy, but we realized donut holes aren’t as bad… and they can be served in the cups I mentioned above! We used the same idea for a lunch stop and purchased chicken nuggets and fries for everyone. (Another tip – make sure you pack some healthy snacks… no one wants to be stuck in a car with an upset stomach.)

5. Lap desks!

We usually use our lap desks if someone isn’t feeling well at home, or if they want to do their schoolwork on the couch. These also worked wonderfully as a table on the road. The cubbies on the desks worked great to hold a water bottle and the trash until everyone was finished. The desks were also utilized in keeping kids from slouching over while playing video games.

I will never road trip without our lap desks again.

6. Free reign on electronics (almost).

The kids all took turns picking out a movie to watch. They took turns playing on the handheld video game system. We had a phone with some other games to play. And we downloaded some episodes of a show that we know our two-year-old loves. (Did you know that you can download shows and movies from many streaming services?) We also took breaks where all electronics were turned off, we would listen to music together, and we would embarrass the kids with our car dancing skills.

7. Break up the drive…especially on the return trip. 

At the end of the trip, everyone is tired and routines are gone. While getting home as soon as possible sounds ideal, take a break and stay at a hotel if you can. Your body will appreciate the rest. You can make the last leg even better if you stay somewhere with an open swimming pool and free breakfast! (The kids will be ecstatic to swim, and you’ll appreciate not paying for breakfast somewhere.

I completely believe that all of these smaller, intentional things helped make this trip a success. We may not be ready for another long haul for a while, but we know we can do it and enjoy it (which is great, because one of my kids has been begging for a beach trip…).

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Jaime is a mid-forties mom to five kids ranging from 2-14 years in age and has been married to her husband for 20+ years. Her family has been in the OKC metro for two years. Jaime is an over-thinker, a day-dreamer, an introvert, and claims to be an enneagram 9 (but could be a 4,5,6, or 8). You’ll commonly see her with a cup of coffee or Diet Dr. Pepper in hand.


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