Road Tripping with Kids

Eight tips for a great ride!

By Sara Kendall


Time for vacation? Pack up and go! The family car is the most popular mode of travel for family vacations and when you hit the road, who knows what adventures await? And yet, no one denies preparing the family for a road trip can be a daunting task.

The best defense is a carefully crafted plan, which will help your family’s drive be an enjoyable one. Here are eight tips to turn you and your family into road warriors!

  1. Make a List and Check It Twice: Planning ahead is critical. Start by making a list of all the things you will need to pack. It’s not likely your first list will be your final one. Ideas will pop in your head in the weeks and days leading up to departure, which means the list will be ongoing and serve as the framework for your planning.
  2. For the Little Ones:If your children are of that age, pack disposable diapers, wipes, formula supplies and jars of food in a bag you can easily access in the car. If you travel with babies who still need a warm bottle, consider purchasing a bottle warmer that plugs into the car’s electrical port (same place you plug in the phone charger). Portable food warmers are useful as well. Outfit the car with removable window shades to block direct sunlight and glare spots, which can interfere with a baby’s nap and general happiness. Attach a toy organizer to the back of the front seats within easy reach to keep little ones entertained.
  3. A portable potty could be a useful solution for children in the midst of potty training. It will be right there every time you hear the words I got to go and is the perfect answer for slightly older children caught in stalled in traffic with no end in sight.

  4. For School-Aged Kids: Organize a travel bag for each child. Encourage them to fill it with their own choices of games, toys, books, crayons, and scribble pads. Before the bags get stowed in the back seat, look through them to make sure the kids have not packed items with too many pieces, which easily get lost, or games that need electrical outlets. Also, make sure they have pencils or pens if they have chosen games that require them. A shoebox could be a good choice to stow chosen items, as it also doubles as a lap desk.
  5. Go for the Gadgets: Electronic devices such as laptops, iPads, DVD players and hand-held games will entertain your children and help the miles fly by. Bring more than one to reduce arguments about whose turn it is. In addition to having plenty of gadgets, make sure you have ear buds for everyone. This will help eliminate hearing too many competing sounds in a confined space. P.S. Don’t forget extra batteries and enough chargers if you plan to be away overnight.
  6. Surprise Them:: Pack a few new games or toys and pull them out when frustration is apparent and the kids begin the “are we there yet?” refrain.Something new to play with will hold your child’s attention far longer than something that has been played with a dozens of times already. Consider wrapping the new toys up for some added excitement.
  7. Plenty of Healthy Snacks:: Snacks are a great way to quickly fill grumbling tummies and avoid unnecessary stops at unhealthy fast food joints.Take along plenty of pre-bagged snacks and drinks. Avoid items loaded with sugar, which will raise energy levels, but not in a good way. An occasional sweet snack is fine but too many sugary treats will increase chances that someone will get carsick.

    Put the snack bag and cooler somewhere up front so that you have some control over it and can get to it without stopping.Keep hand sanitizer and wet wipes in the car for clean-ups. Don’t forget a plastic bag to collect the garbage.

  8. Traveling Medical Bag: A first-aid kit is convenient for booboos and other minor problems. Frequently used over-the-counter medications and all prescriptions used by the family should be stowed in a common bag. Think about adding sunscreen and insect repellant. This way, all medical needs can be found in the same place.
  9. Sleepy Time: The hum of the motor and the movement of the car tend to put kids to sleep. Have their favorite pillow and blanket ready for naptime so they are comfortable and warm. A good nap can help pass the time and give your children some much needed down time. For you, it will provide some moments of peace and quiet.


Sara Kendall is a freelance writer and mother of two daughters.