Road trip season is upon us! Are you planning a family road trip this summer and worrying about the potential stress that comes with it? Well, you’re not alone! Family road trips can be an exciting adventure, but they are also sometimes challenging, especially when traveling with kids.
From ensuring everyone’s comfort to keeping all the kids entertained, there are several factors to consider. But with a little bit of prep and planning, you can ensure a stress-free, enjoyable trip for the whole family.
In this article, we’ll share some essential road trip tips for families that will help you prepare for your next adventure. Whether you’re a seasoned road-tripper or a first-timer, these road-tripping with kids ideas are sure to make your journey smoother and more enjoyable. So, buckle up and get ready to hit the road!
Plan your route and stop frequently
The first step in ensuring a stress-free road trip is to plan your route and stops. This will help you avoid getting lost, missing important landmarks, and wasting time. Before heading out, research the route you plan to take and check for any road closures, toll fees, or traffic updates.
In our experience, stopping every 2-3 hours is ideal, even if it’s just to get out and stretch our legs at a rest stop.
It’s a good idea to plan for some fun and exciting stops along the way too. This could be a visit to a park, a museum, or any other attraction that your family might enjoy. It really helps break up a long drive and keep the kids from losing their minds!
We really love to use Google Maps to see what fun things there might be along our path, or just barely out of the way. We are big on seeing the U.S. National Parks, so we will make it a pit stop anytime we are within an hour or so of one. Check out this guide to what we consider the best national parks for families!
Remember to factor in the time it takes to get to your destination and plan for some extra time for any unexpected stops. On several of our trips, we have just followed a sign to a place that looked like it might be a fun stop! Having time for spontaneity makes trips more memorable and exciting!
By doing some planning for your route, you’ll be able to enjoy a more stress-free trip.
Smart and efficient packing
Packing for a road trip can be overwhelming, but with a little bit of planning, you can pack smart and efficiently.
I start by making a list on my phone of everything we need to bring. There are even apps available that you can categorize your lists, and check things off as you pack them.
When packing for a road trip, pack light and bring only what you need. This will help you save space in your vehicle and avoid clutter. Really consider whether you will use something before you decide to bring it – especially bigger items! Do you need the stroller where you’re going? Or will the baby carrier work just as well? Remember that some attractions (zoos, especially) have strollers available to rent (usually for very cheap, and some free!)
Consider if it’s really necessary to bring something, or can you get it where you’re going, or even get by without it?
If you have a baby or toddler, make sure to pack all the necessary baby gear, including a stroller, baby carrier, and a car potty if necessary. Here is the travel potty that I absolutely cannot live without, not just for road trips, but for everyday running around town. Get the potty liners for it, and you can just toss the bags into a trash can – no cleaning out the potty necessary!
Another important aspect of smart packing is to keep your essentials easily accessible. Diaper bag, snacks, kids entertainment. We like to pack a cooler with drinks and snacks and keep it within easy reach. I also make sure the kids’ blankets are within their reach because it seems like they always want them!
A good tip for long road trips with an overnight stop at a hotel along the way is to pack a change of clothes plus essential toiletries for everyone into ONE separate bag. That way, when you stop just for the night and plan to get up and go again in the morning, you just have one bag to deal with, instead of dragging everyone’s suitcases out.
Make sure the kids stay entertained
One of the biggest challenges of a family road trip is keeping the kids entertained. Consider bringing a variety of entertainment options, such as books, games, and movies. Make sure to download movies and TV shows onto your devices before your trip if you don’t have an in-car DVD player.
Even if you’re a family that is big on limiting screen time, a long road trip might be a good time to let all screen time rules fly out the window! Oh, and don’t forget the headphones! Nobody wants to listen to Blippy or Cocomelon for hours on end!
Another great way to keep the kids entertained is to bring some fun and interactive games. This could include a scavenger hunt, a game of “I Spy”, or a travel bingo game. Consider packing some coloring books and crayons for younger kids. Usually, the Dollar Tree will have some fun little travel games, as well as Amazon.
I like to let each kid bring a backpack filled with anything they want – as long as it fits! They can keep that backpack with them in the car, so they can reach their own toys whenever they want them.
Keep snacks and drinks handy
As I briefly mentioned earlier, one of the most important road trip tips for families is snacks!!! Consider packing a cooler with drinks and snacks. We keep ours in the floorboard between the kids in the back seat.
Some of our favorite things to pack are Goldfish crackers, applesauce squeeze tubes, Cheerios, string cheese, cookies, beef jerky, and peanut butter crackers. We also usually let the kids pick some candy at a gas station.
If you’re looking for some lunch ideas, here are 41+ easy road trip lunch ideas for you to consider!
Also, don’t forget to keep a bag for trash, or get a little hanging car trash can! You can empty it out at your next gas stop.
Also, by keeping snacks and drinks handy, you will spend less along the way.
Prepare your vehicle
Before embarking on your road trip, it’s important to prepare your vehicle for the journey ahead. Check the oil and tire pressure before leaving, as well as make sure the windshield wipers work well and the lights are all working. If it’s a really long road trip, consider getting your vehicle serviced beforehand.
It’s also a good idea to have a spare tire and an emergency roadside kit with jumper cables.
Another important aspect of preparing your vehicle is to pack it efficiently. This means packing your luggage in a way that maximizes space and ensures everyone’s comfort. Consider investing in a roof rack or cargo carrier if you have a smaller car, to free up space inside the vehicle.
When packing the car, remember to put the things you are going to need along the way within easy reach. If we are on a trip where there will be an overnight stop at a hotel with a pool, we keep the swim bag where we can get to it easily.
Be flexible and willing to adjust your plans
One of the biggest frustrations of a road trip is dealing with unexpected delays and detours.
As we were driving out of Yellowstone National Park, we realized when we got to the exit we planned to use, that it was completely closed. We had to turn around and drive miles and miles in the other direction and find a place to stay in the middle of the night.
Be open to adjusting your plans and taking unexpected stops. On our Yellowstone trip delay, it meant that we got to drive through Lamar Valley again, but at night. We experienced a traffic jam from the bison standing in the middle of the road refusing to budge. It was a memorable moment!
Sometimes, we make our own spontaneous delays! If we see a sign for something fun along the way, occasionally we decide to stop! We found Bearizona on the way to the Grand Canyon from a billboard we passed by. It was one of the best stops!
Safety tips for road trips
When embarking on a road trip, it’s important to prioritize safety. Make sure to pack a first aid kit, a flashlight, and some extra blankets, water, and food in case of an emergency.
Also, always be aware of your surroundings. This includes being aware of other drivers on the road and avoiding dangerous areas. Make sure to keep your vehicle locked at all times, and avoid leaving valuables in plain sight.
A family road trip can be an exciting adventure, but it can also be challenging. From ensuring everyone’s comfort to keeping everyone entertained, there are many factors to consider.
By following these essential road trip tips for families, you’ll be able to hit the road with confidence and enjoy a memorable journey with your loved ones. So, pack your bags, buckle up, and get ready for an unforgettable adventure!
Next, read these related articles:
- The Ultimate Guide to National Parks for Families
- Complete List of Essential Road Trip Items for Families: Get them on Amazon
- 13 Things You Need in Your RV (That You Didn’t Think Of!)
- Plan Your Family-Friendly Gulf Coast Beach Vacation
Make sure you pin these essential road trip tips for families so you can find it later!