Activities,  Summer

Road Trip Tips

My family and I love going on camping trips in the summer, and this usually means several hours in the car to reach our destination. Also, we live 1,000 miles from one set of grandparents and about 1,400 miles from the other set.  Over the years, we have learned a few things that can help make the road trips go well! Currently, my kids are 11, 9, 5, and 3, and they have come a long way in their ability to go on long road trips! I feel like we are in that middle range of parenting–they still need help from the front seat passenger, but they are gaining independence! We are a fairly low tech family so many of these ideas stem from the fact that we don’t give our kids lots of electronic options while at home or on the road! (No judgement here if you do have lots of electronics!  You get to decide what’s best for your kiddos!) Here are some ideas to try:

1. If you let your kids eat in the car, use a container that easily fits somewhere in their seating area and fill it up with a variety of fun snacks. We try to get snacks that we don’t typically get at home, so it’s special. I give them several grocery bags to use as trash bags, so the back doesn’t become filled with wrappers!

2. Listen to audiobooks and music! I create new playlists for road trips with different songs I want to introduce to our kids–like songs I listened to in high school and college–and they are still impressed that I can sing along. We also find audiobooks from our local library or Audible to download and listen to during the trip.  Hank the Cowdog is a family favorite!  We have more audiobook recommendations here.

3. Several years ago we bought these car back organizers, and as the kids have gotten older, I enlist their help to pick out books, games, coloring books, toys, etc., that they want for the trip. When my kids were younger, I would keep a bag full of toys in the front with me and pass back toys and give them a time frame for when they would get a new toy. We found this worked because otherwise they would play with the toy for 5 minutes and be ready for the next toy, so we had to stretch it out longer; otherwise, we would blow through all the toys in the first couple of hours! 

4. Speaking of toys, we have road trip toys and books. We have a tub full of toys, books, and car games that they only get to have on a road trip. It’s almost like getting something new for the trip.

6. Hit up the dollar store or Target dollar spot for some fun extras. If you don’t have designated road trip toys, these are a couple of great spots to find budget friendly items to keep kids entertained. I have also gotten a few items and decorated the inside of the car on some of our trips.  It’s by no means necessary, but it was fun to see the kids’ reaction when they saw I had hung up watermelon and ant garland one time. Another time I decorated their windows with Christmas related window clings.  

7. Grab a bunch of glowsticks! (As long as it doesn’t distract the driver!) Our road trips to see family take us late into the night. Glowsticks are fun to bring out once it starts getting dark.

8. Keep breaks for movement!  We were given the advice several years ago to forgo eating at sit down restaurants while on long trips–since it just adds time onto the trip and since you are sitting down in the car–eat meals in the car instead, and when you take breaks to get gas and go to the bathroom, use that time to move, not sit and eat.

9. I saved the best for last. My kids know that a couple hours before we reach our destination we will bring out the movies. By this time we are all getting tired and have used up all the books, toys, and car games that we brought, so watching a movie is a fun way to end the trip! 

We tried driving through the night once, thinking it would be easier because our kids would sleep the whole time–and they did. We parents felt so drained afterwards that we decided it wasn’t our jam. Nevertheless, I hope these are helpful tips you can try on your next road trip. We’d love to hear about your road trip tips!

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