Fun Family Trips

Road Trip Planner Tips Every Parent Needs on Family Vacation

Planning a Road Trip with the kids? Get prepared with these tips and tricks to have a stress free fun filled family vacation.

So, you’re going on a road trip for your next family vacation. Are you getting a little nervous about how the trip will go with the kids? We all want to enjoy our family time together on vacation but sometimes the road trip part can be pretty stressful with kids. Trying to keep everyone happy and make it an enjoyable experience for all is the goal we are all reaching for.  

What all parents need is a little road trip planning to help make the family vacation go smoothly. Let me try and help you out with these tips I have learned along the way traveling with our two sons. Get ready for your upcoming family vacations by following these road trip tips.

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Road Trip Planner Hacks for Families


Packing Snacks

We all know that kids being hungry equals super crabby kids. Avoid this by bringing some snacks they will enjoy eating while you drive. I try to mix it up with something healthy and then some fun snacks cause hey, you’re on vacation, let them eat a few too many fruit snacks. I usually pack a box of snacks I keep in the trunk but found a fun way for the kids to keep a few in the car seat next to them.  

You know those plastic containers for wipe boxes you get with all those packages of wipes you buy? They are a perfect size container for car snacks. Let the kids decorate them before you leave with stickers to get excited about the trip or give them stickers to decorate the box in the car.  Then you choose which snack to add into the boxes and have them ready before you go. This helps you regulate how much they are eating while allowing them to have the choice to pick their own snack out of the box.  Look below to see my sons creations.

Travel Snack Containers for your Kids.
Travel Snack Containers for your Kids.

Fast Food Stops 

Most likely on a driving trip at some point, you will stop at a fast food drive through. So how do you feed the kids without it all spilling all over the car.

First tip: How to not spill the drinks without tops like the milk at McDonalds. I bring with Sippy cups or water bottles with tops and pour the milk in to prevent spilling. No one needs the smell of spilled milk on long car trip.  

Second Tip: Now how do the kids balance all their food without spilling? I have found two ways to prevent this. One, buy a shower caddy from the dollar store to hold their food on their laps. Or two, what we personally like the best are these travel trays we bought off of Amazon a couple years ago. I even use them on short car trips if we head to a drive through fast food restaurant.  I like these trays because they also work for the kids travel activities such as drawing, playing games or even watching the iPad.  

Tavel Tray for Kids
This is our Travel Tray that we love.


Keep your car clean 

So, now the kids have eaten and want to hand you all of their garbage. It drives me crazy to constantly be taking trash from them the whole trip.  How to fix this, give the kids their own garbage can in the backseat. Take a plastic cereal container that has a flip top opening and put a grocery store bag in it. This is small enough to fit in the seat and has a top so the garbage doesn’t spill all over. When you stop to get gas, throw out the bag add a new one. Easy Pease!

Don’t want to make your own garbage can? Try this cool garbage container I found on Amazon. It has a clip strap to attach it to a front car seat or center console in your car. It would be great strapped around the middle seat of a minivan too.

Cereal Container Trash Can for Road Trips

Cup Holders 

Ever notice how dirty the cup holders in your car gets? Crumbs and water from condensation on your drink just make a mess. This area can be so hard to clean. Try putting plastic silicone cupcake liners in your cup holders. These are easy to remove and wipe down clean keeping your car a little more crumb free. 


First thing not to forget is the chargers for all your phones and devices. I would also purchase a car charger that would work for the individual devices you are bringing on the trip. No parent wants to hear the crying and drama when the iPad, games, or DVD player dies. 

Second, if you have any device that needs batteries, don’t forget to bring extra batteries. One year we forgot and the kids wireless head phones stopped working. We had to listen to their crazy cartoons for miles. Keep your sanity and pack extra batteries and chargers. 

Subscribe to Happy Mom Hacks Newsletter and have access to the Ultimate Family Travel Checklist. Plus great Mom tips and Tricks and family travel  ideas.

Dropping their toys 

Another frustration on car trips are all the dropped toys on the car floor. Instead of having to bend and stretch your arm around the back seat to pick them up, bring a toy claw. The kids will have fun using it and it saves your arm from bending the wrong way. I bought this one at the dollar store.  

Pick up those loose toys in the car with this handy toy claw.
Pick up those loose toys in the car with this handy toy claw.

First Aid Kit 

Buy or make a small first aid kit to throw in your car for those random cuts or scratches they somehow get while sitting strapped in a car. I really never understand how that happens but extra band aids help. Also if you have a child who gets car sick don’t forget some extra bags to give them when their nauseous. This might also be a great use of a second cereal container with a bag,

Don’t have time to make a first aid kit. Check out this small one for your glove compartment.


Keeping it exciting 

Busy Bags are a great way to keep the car trip exciting. I know this takes a little extra planning and work but it is worth it for a smooth car trip. I buy some brown paper bags and put one fun little item in each. These could be a small little toy, new car game, or new box of crayons and coloring book. I scour the dollar store to find a bunch of fun cheap items to fill their bags.

Deciding how often to give out these bags depends on how many bags you make and the length of your trip. You can also use them as motivation for good behavior on the trip. No whining in an hour, you get to open another bag. It is amazing what a little motivation / bribery can do to make a great trip. Need more details check out my post on What You Need to Buy at the Dollar Store for your Next Trip (here) where I list out Busy Bag ideas.

Busy Bag Ideas for Kids on a Road Trip
Busy Bag Ideas for Kids on a Road Trip

Activity Box 

Activity box for Kids on a Road Trip
This is our Activity Box we take on every driving trip.
Travel Tray, Activity Box and Garbage Ideas for Road Trips.
Here is how we use the container as a table too.










Do you need somewhere to keep all the games, coloring books, and toys your kids are bringing? I bought a medium size bin that would fit in the middle seat between my kids. Whatever they want to bring on the trip needs to fit in that bin or the one backpack they each get to bring. The bin will help keep things organized and from flying all over the place while we drive. It also works as a table space for them to play games together. When you get to the hotel just bring the box in and the kids have toys for the hotel room too. Here are two of examples of the type of container I use in different sizes depending on how much you are packing.

Foot Rest

Want to keep your kids feet from dangling and just all around more comfortable on the ride? Put one of the bags you packed below their feet so they can use it as a foot rest.


You have been in the car for hours and the kids just need to get out and run. Take advantage of all the rest stops you see along the highways. Pack a soccer ball, bubbles to run after, or even a jump rope, anything to get them moving for a little bit. It’s a great, free way to stretch the kid’s legs and give all of you a break from driving.  

Can’t find a rest stop where you’re driving? Look for a fast food restaurant with a playland. Stop for a meal or even just an ice cream treat. Let the kids get that energy out climbing in the playland.

A half hour stop might set you back a little, but the kids and you will be much happier. 

Here is an example of some of these active toys. I picked the dodge balls because they can inflate and deflate easily with the included pump. I think that will be great when you have a packed car with no space or if you want to thrown them in a suit case when you fly. I have included an adjustable jump ropes for your child’s height and bubbles. However I have also found these items at the dollar store if you have time to shop.

Saving Money on Food 

A great way to save money on food is to pack a lunch for everyone. Use your break time at the rest stop to also eat your lunch. Most rest stops have picnic table to eat at and rest rooms to use. The kids can eat and run around on the same stop. If you stopped to order food it would take you just as long and this way the kids can get all that energy out  

Movies and Music 

Need some new movies for the trip but you don’t want to buy a bunch of new DVDs? Check out a few movies from your local library. Often times you can even download books and movies to your tablet from your local library for free. Picking out movies to watch can be another fun way for your kids to get excited about the trip ahead of time.  

While at the library check out a few kid’s CD’s to listen too. Depending on where you drive you might not have good radio or cell phone coverage for music. We like to check out Kids Bop CDs because they have fun songs you hear on the radio but a clean version we can all listen to. Who doesn’t love a road trip with the whole family signing?  Here’s what they look like: 

Finding your parking spot 

Last and final tip: Are you headed to a large amusement park like Disney or maybe a big national park? Whenever you park in a large parking lot with lots of cars, take a picture on your phone of your parking area so you remember where you parked.  It’s a quick easy thing to do and huge help when you’re all exhausted on your way home for the day.  

I hope these tips will be a big help on your next family road trip! I would love to hear your great tips for road trips with kids. Please share your ideas in the comments section below.

Don’t forget to pin this for later

Road Trip Planner Tips and Tricks. Find out how to make DIY snack trays, busy bags, games and more for kids. Make this a fun Family Vacation for the whole family.Planning a Road Trip with the kids? Get prepared with these tips and tricks to have a stress free fun filled family vacation.

More Travel Resources from Happy Mom Hacks

Check out these articles on items you can find at the Dollar Store (here) and Amazon (here) to keep your kids busy and happy while you’re on family vacation. Need some vacation ideas here are two fun family trips to Naples Florida (here) and Wisconsin Dells (here). Don’t have time to read it? Pin it for later.

15 Dollar Store tips and tricks to use with your kids on your next family vacation. I tell you what to buy at the Dollar Store to have the best family Vacation Ever! Great for road trip travel or plane travel.11 Amazon Products for your Next Family Vacation

Insider Tips to all the awesome Things to Do in Naples Florida with Kids15 Can't Miss Tips to Wisconsin Dells, Wilderness Resort and Waterpark with the family.










Subscribe to Happy Mom Hacks Newsletter and have access to the Ultimate Family Travel Checklist. Plus great Mom tips and tricks and family travel ideas.

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2 thoughts on “Road Trip Planner Tips Every Parent Needs on Family Vacation

  1. I like how you mentioned that travel trays can help for just eating out on short road trips. My friend has been wanting to go on a road trip this summer, so these tips will help her keep her family happy. I’ll be sure to share them with her as she prepares.

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