7 Road Trip Essentials When Traveling with Kids

road trip kids
BenedictFrancis, Flickr

When I was growing up the most common mode of transportation for family vacations was taking a road trip. The most popular forms of entertainment in the squished backseat consisted of tormenting each other, sleeping, playing car games, or singing along with the FM radio.

Road trips have evolved dramatically in just one generation. My offspring have numerous forms of technology available at their fingertips, in a car more comfy than the home I grew up in. Road trips can now be easier than ever before. Because of this we’ve taken our kids on several long road trips, from infancy until now, and they’ve become great travelers because of it.

Here are my recommendations to make your next road trip more enjoyable.


music ipod

1. Listening material. Even if you are equipped with satellite radio, the song sets repeat every 2-3 hours, which can get annoying if your drive is longer than that. Creating playlists for your iPod and downloading audio books or podcasts are a great way to pass the time. 


snack box
anotherlunch.com, Flickr

2. Snack box. Probably the second most frequent phrase behind “Are we there yet?” is “I wanna a snack.” To avoid stopping in every town bring a cooler with your own snacks. Not only will you avoid impulse buys at the gas station, you control what your children consume by stocking it with healthy treats. Cut up fruit and veggies ahead of time and put in individual snack baggies for each child.


toilet paper

3. Potty supplies. Being in the middle of nowhere when your child says they have to go to the bathroom can be stressful. Their small bladders can’t always wait for the next rest stop, and many aren’t comfortable going on the side of the road. What’s a parent to do? When I had three kids under 3 yrs. old, I learned the value of carrying a child-size port-a-potty and roll of toilet paper with me on long trips. 


grace_kat, Flickr

4. Creative supplies. DVDs, iPads, and other electronics can be fun diversions, but even kids will fatigue of using them after several hours. However books, art supplies, and other creative toys encourage imagination and play. You child can learn and be entertained during the drive if the car is well stocked with lap activities. 

head phones
Fdr Jones Photography, Flickr

5. Headphones. When you are going to utilize electronics in the car, like children’s movies, CDs, or gaming consoles, then for your own sanity, make sure you have headphones for the kids so you don’t have to listen. I’ve been on trips when everyone in the car had to listen to the Wiggles video over and over again, and trust me – it makes the car ride seem twice as long. 

family fun outside

6. Play time. Make sure your travel schedule allows enough time for breaks where the children can run around and play for a bit. If you stretch their legs every few hours chances are they’ll be in a better mood, and might even take a nap when you get on the road again. 


car dvd
Andresael, Flickr

7. Unveil the “new.” When my children were little, my secret weapon to beginning each journey was to unveil something new on the day we left. Usually it was an inexpensive toy, a new DVD to watch, new art supplies, etc. I made it a special reward for their impending good behavior. They were so grateful for their new thing to play with that they immediately were immersed in playing and that set the tone for our journey to get underway in a positive way.

These seven steps are a great foundation for your next road trip. If you’ve yet to brave the open road with your little ones, I encourage you to get out there and try them out. Some of your fondest moments might just be an exit away!


If you have some great suggestions on how to make road trips with kids more enjoyable, please share them with us in the comments below. I love getting tips from other moms and seasoned travelers. I look forward to hearing from you!

{Related: Learning Activities at the Zoo}


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7 Road Trip Essentials When Traveling with Kids

Shannon is a mother of 3 teens, who hit 40 and decided that instead of a "mid-life crisis", she wanted an adventure of a lifetime. She convinced her wonderfully open-minded husband to pack up their house, sell most of their possessions, and travel the USA in an RV for a year or two. Besides homeschooling her kids, running their online program, Watts in the World, Shannon loves to explore new places. Nothing is more exciting than waking up in a new city everyday, and discovering what's great abou ... More

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  3. what age can you take your baby out for there first road trip

    • Shannon says:

      That depends on you and your baby. What is their temperment and your stress level? Young babies that are mostly sleeping and eating through they day can make great travelers. I took my firstborn baby on a 10 hr. road trip when she was 3 months old. We pulled over to breastfeed and change diapers, and she slept most of the way, so it was easy. I’d suggest with trying your first trip at just a couple of hours and work up from there. Good luck!


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