So, you’re getting ready for a road trip with the kids. Are you getting a little nervous about how the family vacation will go? It’s can be a breeze with these simple road trip tips. Don’t just survive your family trip enjoy it!
Check out my road trip planner to prepare for travel with kids. My priorities are finding games to play in the car, travel snacks to keep them happy, the best travel accessories, most useful travel apps and road trip hacks to just make life easier.
Let me try and help you out with these road trip tips I have learned along the way traveling with our two sons. Get ready for your upcoming family vacations by following these easy road trip travel tips. It’s gonna be a great trip!
This post contains affiliate links. If you choose to buy something using my link, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. For more information, see my disclaimer here.
15 Road Trip Tips to Survive Family Vacation
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.
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 McDonald’s. 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 a 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 of 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 kid’s travel activities such as drawing, playing games, or even watching the iPad.
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.
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.
The 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 headphones stopped working. We had to listen to their crazy cartoons for miles. Keep your sanity and pack extra batteries and chargers.
I love adding road trip apps to my phone while traveling. There are so many great apps to help you find hotels along your route, restaurants to stop at, and the best route to take when driving. There are tons of different apps you can use but the question is which are the most helpful.
I have put together a list of my 5 favorite apps to use on a road trip and you can find it here – 5 Best Travel Apps for Road Trips
Dropping Their Toys
Another frustration on car trips is 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.
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 they’re 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.
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, a new car game, or a new box of crayons and coloring books. 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.
Related article – 15 Best Road Trip Games for Kids at the Dollar Store
Activity Box Filled with Games to Play in the Car
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 tablespace 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 examples of the type of container I use in different sizes depending on how much you are packing.
Looking for more Travel Accessories and Games to Play in the Car?
Save some money by shopping at the Dollar Store for these family-friendly travel accessories and road trip games.
Don’t have time to shop for travel accessories before your big trip? Check out my Amazon Travel Guide to find great road trip games and travel gadgets.
More Road Trip Tips
Want to keep your kid’s 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 footrest.
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. It’s great when you have a packed car with no space or if you want to throw them in a suitcase when you fly.
I have included 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 tables to eat at and restrooms to use. The kids can eat and run around at 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 CDs 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 a huge help when you’re all exhausted on your way home for the day.
I hope these road trip tips and games to play in the car will help make traveling with the kids easier on your next family vacation!
I would love to hear any great tips you have found for road trips or any questions you may have. Please share your ideas in the comments section below.
Want more to get more great family travel tip and travel destination ideas? Become part of the Happy Mom Hacks Community and get our weekly news. Bonus you’ll get our Ultimate Family Travel Packing List.