Top Tips for Road Tripping with Kids

In just 13 short days, I’m going to be doing what is surely to be the most stressful and crazy thing I’ve ever done as a mommy: I’m driving half way across the country with my kids.

After Pipsqueak’s 2nd birthday, we’re setting off on a journey from our South Florida home to my childhood home in Colorado. A journey of over 2,000 miles and by far the longest we’ve ever tried to put our kids in the car at one time.

I’m sure you’re wondering one simple thing: why?! Why would we drive that far when we could (and usually do) fly? Why take on the torture of many days in the car with kids when we could hop on a plane and be there in a few hours?

I’ll get to the bigger “why” another day, but the logistical “why” is simple: cost.

Finding roundtrip domestic airfare for less than $200 a person is nearly impossible and we were looking at 6 of us going to Colorado at least once and me and some of the kids going a second time. That would have put us in the $2000 range just for airfare for the two trips.

So we decided that, with the flexibility of homeschooling, maybe we should only go one time and just stay and enjoy a long visit in between. But with that, there’s the fact that we’re a lot and have to rent a car.  And renting a six passenger SUV or van for 6 weeks runs about $3000.

So we were already up to $5000 just to be there. Driving sounds a lot better now, right? And so, a road tripping with kids we will go!

We’re in a bit of a time crunch getting out there (since I’ve insisted on being home for Pipsqueak’s birthday and need to be in Colorado 5 days later) so we’re splitting up the journey. I’m going to drive 2/3(ish) of the way with two of the kids which will amount to 2 full days of driving, 10-12 hours each day depending on our need to stop. Then hubby will fly in to a mid-way point with the other two kids and we’ll switch. I’ll fly on to Colorado with my crew and he’ll drive the last (longer–almost 15 hours) with his crew.

It’s certainly not ideal. I’d rather take more time and see more stuff along the way but life is what it is and we’re hoping to plan a fun and extended journey home while we’re out there.

So, here I am facing my biggest mommy challenge to date: 2 full days in the car with two kids and I’m terrified. I’ve got all the tips in the world for flying with kids but we barely made it to Atlanta driving last summer and I’ve got 4 more states to get through this time!

Which means I’ve been doing a lot of research and tip hunting. This is some of the best advice I’ve found for road tripping with kids:

Tips for Road Tripping with Kids

From Hunting with Rubies:

“When is the Best Time of Day to Leave on a Road Trip with Kids?”


I know, driving through the wee hours of the night sounds like a great idea because your kids are well, asleep! But really, on top of the fact that driving related deaths are three times more likely to happen at night according to the National Safety Council, here are the many more reasons for why driving at night can really become a nightmare for parents.

My Tried and True Strategy for Hitting the Road with Kids:

When taking a road trip with kids, my advice, get up early after a good night’s sleep, and then hit the road. You will gain a few extra hours this way, and everyone will be able to enjoy the changing landscapes as you get closer to your destination.

From Learning Table:

Make sure the car is already outfitted with some essentials: phone charger, gum, tissues, hand sanitizer, umbrella, zipper seal bags (in case of car sickness), small first aid kit, flashlight, and a map of your state. I know phones are now equipped with map and direction technology, but we found out that the rural route we travel doesn’t always have a reliable signal, and the map feature on my phone doesn’t consistently route us the best way, so having a paper map is vital (don’t be afraid–they are possible to refold).

(And check out this awesome list of Boredom Busting Road Trip Books.)

From Mommy My Way (and definitely applies to all ages, not just babies!)

Know where the next rest stop is

Even though you’re doing your best to minimize stop-time, you may have no choice but to pull over if baby needs you to. After all, baby is running the show these days. Because of this, always know where the next rest stop is along the highway. If your little starts stirring and there’s a rest area in 2 miles, pull off and try to calm the melt-down before it happens. Don’t wait until you’ve got a screaming baby who just wants to be consoled before you start looking for a safe place to get out and hold him. This is complicated for two reasons: 1. because you will be distracted by your crying child to drive safely and/or to thoroughly look for a safe place to pull over and 2. because you may not have a rest area for many more miles.

From Well Rounded Mama:

Let the Kids Run Around… In an Appropriate Place

Give the kids a chance to move.  When you stop, make the most of the fact that you’re stopped.  Stop at a restaurant with a play land.  Have the kid run wind sprints between the gas station building and the sidewalk.  Or if you’re me, stop at IKEA and let your kid go nuts in the Småland.  It’s so win-win.  I get an hour of beautiful browsing and she gets to tear through a supervised play land for an hour.

From I Love Family Travel:

Pack Light, Not Tight

Those of us travelers who fly, know what it means to pack light. But, when it comes to road trips, we are so tempted to pack everything we possibly can. Unless you plan to sleep in your car, or go camping, there is no need to bring everything. If you pack too much, you might find yourself and your kids squished in between bags just to fit it all. Imagine you are taking a flight, and keep the packing to a minimum. Duffle bags seem to pack better and hold more in your car, so each person could get a duffle for their stuff. We usually pack everything in the back, except a small cooler bag of snacks, a small bag for garbage, and some toys/books/etc. in the front. If it were up to our kids, they would bring 7 stuffed animals and a blanket. We usually allow one stuffed animal per kid for the road. Unless its cold outside or your a/c is super strong, they really don’t need a blanket.

From Jennifer Traynor on Parent Life Network:

Many of the toys my kids love just aren’t car-friendly (looking at you, Play-Dough and Lego), and while my husband and I agreed that we would bring our tablets to let them watch a show or movie, I really didn’t want them staring at screens for hours and hours. After chatting with some other moms and browsing online for ideas, I decided to put together a little car kit for the kids.

I went to the dollar store and found some small containers with lids and filled them with a variety of items. I got some grab-and-go play packs with mini colouring books and crayons for both kids. For my daughter I got some small, simple puzzles, and for my son a couple of little activity books that had connect-the-dots, word searches, and mazes. For both kids I also got some storybooks and search-and-find picture books they could share.

One important tip: don’t give them everything all at once. Ration it out to make sure they don’t just zoom through everything and get bored again.

From Perfectly Imperfect Mom:

A fun idea for long rides is wrapping toys up (can be toys they already have) then letting them unwrap them every hour or so. My kids love this and gives them something to look forward too.

From Life of a Homeschool Mom:

We also play games in the car! We have three games that we enjoy. These games are also educational ~ why not get some learning done while traveling. (Get the free printables here.)

From Autism Homeschool Mama (but a great tip for all kids!)

Use larger containers of a few favorite snacks.  Hand back just a bit at a time in a smaller container so your ASDer doesn’t get overwhelmed.

And if your kids struggle with car sickness, check out this tip from The Pearl Curriculum.

What tips do you have for surviving long drives and road tripping with kids? Share them in the comments!

Pin it!Top Tips for Road Tripping with Kids: tips and advice for long drives and road trips with kids of all ages from parents who have done it and survived!

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