23 Tips for Surviving a Road Trip with a Kid Ideas
After giving tips on how to road trip with a toddler and a road trip with a baby, now we have tips for a road trip with a child. I’ve asked fellow travel bloggers for their road trip with a kid ideas.
Road Trip Kid Ideas
Whether on a USA road trip with child or crossing Europe, you need road trip kid activities to keep them entertained. So here are our 23 tips for a road trip with a kid.
1. Picnic lunches
Contributed by Cosette from KarsTravels.
When on our road trip from New York to Orlando we had a lot of picnic lunches. This gave us more flexibility to stop when we wanted and however long or short we wanted. When our son needed to have a lot of space to play for a while, or some one on one time with us, this could be provided during a long break. When we wanted to move on to the next thing, we kept our lunch break short. This way we made excellent memories and kept our days fun.
2. Plan & stay flexible
Contributed by Charlene from Adventures with the Hills.
One of the best ways to prepare for a road trip with a child is to do your research, plan ahead and then stay flexible! Traveling on your own without a plan is one thing, but as soon as you have kids with you it’s important to know that you’re going to be able to find a place to sleep at night! Before you go, plan out the main stops you want to make along the way, how far you want to travel each day, what you’ll be doing for food along the way and where you plan on sleeping.
It’s also important to find out what you need to book ahead of time, such as a popular campground, and what you can figure out along the way, like a late night hotel stop. Once you have your plans in place, the next thing to remember is to be flexible! You can make great plans, but things always change. Weather changes, kids are unpredictable and you find new things to do as you go. Be willing to cut out some activities if everyone is feeling tired or add in a new adventure you hear about along the way! Regardless of how closely you follow your plan, the most important thing is that you have fun and enjoy your road trip together!
When coming across the zombie bike ride in Key West, you’ll want to add this to your itinerary, even if you hadn’t planned on it.
3. Break rules
Contributed by Adriane from Put on Your Party Pants.
Traveling with kids is a privilege, but it can be challenging. Nothing ruins a trip for which you spent hours planning faster than a child whining about a long car ride.
A road trip is not the time to practice your best parenting. Break some of your normal rules.
Your child is on vacation too. Let them use their screen or have extra treats. If the time in the car feels special or different to them, it will be a better experience for everyone. They will tolerate the time in the car, and you will enjoy a peaceful, positive experience.
When you get home, take the screens back and serve them some extra vegetables. Everyone will be fine, and you will have some great memories.
4. “Yes day”
I’ll bet you’ve never thought of having a “Yes Day” as a road trip activity. A movie released this spring entitled “Yes Day” is based on the book by the same name. The concept is simple, one day is designated a “Yes Day” and the kids get to decide what happens that day, parents MUST say yes. Sounds difficult for a road trip, but not really. The best way for “Yes Day” to work is to set some ground rules. You establish your guidelines and then let the kids plan the day.
Road trips include rest stops. Let the kids pick the place, the length of the stop, and the activity at the stop. My kids loved to spend time at the play area at rest stops. Road trips include stops for scenic areas. Give your kids a map to pick interesting places to stop. Our kids spotted a fire tower. It was great fun and we got some awesome pictures. What unique stops can your kids discover?
Traveling always includes snacking. Let the kids decide what snacks to pack for the day. Let them eat them whenever they like! It is just for a day. It could even be a good lesson for delayed gratification. Other traveling activities we enjoy are read alouds, books on tape, fun music, and movies. Give your kids the responsibility of choosing what and when the family will enjoy these options. With a little guidance, “Yes Day” may end up being your favorite day of the trip.
5. Bring a ball for breaks
Contributed by Cosette from KarsTravels.
Up until our son became a tween, we always brought a ball with us for breaks. Either a small ball or a soft ball, which didn’t take up lots of space in our car, but was always within reach. During a break we would always kick or throw over the ball with our son. This way getting some much needed movement for all of us and making fun memories and getting a break on long driving days. This worked especially well when driving to the South of France or Austria in one go, which is a 12 to 14 hour driving day (rest stops and traffic jams included).
6. Activity stops
Contributed by Helen from Holidays from Hels.
Road trips are a great way of discovering new places with your family. The tricky part can be that children are not known for sitting still! The key for a successful trip is to schedule in regular activity stops that they can look forward to along the way.
When driving through cities in Europe think about food or funfair stops. Why not add a visit to Duinrell woodland funfair and waterpark on a trip to Amsterdam, or a day in Disneyland to your Paris tour? The promise of a Belgian waffle from a café in the medieval Grand Place in Brussels will be popular with the whole family.
On a road trip through the countryside, look for natural swimming holes, such as Slide Rock State Park in Sedona in the US. Why not pre-book a boat trip or kayak hire in Antelope Canyon or Lake Tahoe? Some of the rowing boats even have glass bottoms and glowing lights.
On a tour of the mountains in Canada, do some research on short hikes to break up the journey. Parkers Ridge trail is a perfect Canadian Rockies family hike with the reward of glacier views at the top!
Having activities scheduled will not only break up the journey but keep the whole family excited, anticipating the next road trip adventure stop.
7. Using rest stops
Contributed by David from David N Brace.
Every parent knows that sitting in a car all day long for kids can get stressful. Kids have energy and when we are on long road trips that pent up energy can often come out as trying to annoy siblings, making a mess, or more. But there are places you can use along any road trip that will give your family room to roam. These are the highway rest stops.
They are well maintained and clean areas sporting bathrooms, and ample outdoor space for the kids to get the wiggles out.
Whenever we are driving long distance we try and avoid stops at fast food for meals or bathroom breaks and there are several reasons why. The often times fat filled foods we get from standard fast food restaurants is a gut bomb waiting to happen. Instead we pack for the large meals that we know we will be on the road for and stop to have a picnic style lunch as a family.
But what about saving time on road? Well, think of it like this, by the time you guys wait in line to order, get the food, park and eat, use the bathrooms and try to get the kids back into the vehicle you’ve burned a good half hour. Now at rest stops that same time give the kids a bathroom break, a nice meal and most importantly, time for the kids to run!
Every time we stop at a rest stop we are sure to run the kids around a bit. By running around they are not only burning up some energy but also stretching their muscles which makes for a more comfortable next leg of the trip, and building bonding experiences by just having fun as a family.
Contributed by Cosette from KarsTravels.
On each road trip we tried to find as much break stops with a playground. Not always a possibility, sadly. When it was raining we would stop at a restaurant with an inside playground.
Playgrounds are perfect to let your kids get some movement and action. Next to that our son usually would make a ‘friend’ and have a great play time with another kid. Driving on after 15 to 45 minutes after that was easier, because he had had some distraction.
9. Tablet or other devices
Contributed by Cosette from KarsTravels.
When on a road trip our son loves to play games on the iPad or another device like a Nintendo Switch or Nintendo 3DS. He can have a lot of fun with this. He doesn’t get car sick, so we can give it to him, without having to worry about motion sickness.
We just have to make sure the devices are charged and that we’ve downloaded games while having Wifi. It brings our son lots of fun on long car rides and he keeps telling us what he has achieved. When on a 8 to 12 hour driving day, you need to have several entertainment options for your kid. Devices is one of them for us.
10. Road trip bingo
Contributed by Ingrid from Christmas Time made easy.
When going on road trips with my three children, to relieve their boredom, we play car trip bingo.
Before starting out on the trip I make up bingo cards for all the kids listing 10 – 25 different items to search for along the journey.
I mix up the items on the card with some that I know they will find easily and others that will be harder to find. Examples of items I list include a red car, a yellow car, a camper van, a sign including the word ‘population’ on it, a horse, a cow, a black and white dog, a person riding a bicycle, a bakery and a mum pushing a pram.
When my children were younger I used to use pictures on the bingo cards to help them know what to search for instead of just writing the words on a card.
Car trip bingo is a fun game and I usually offer a prize to the winner of choosing a snack item for all three of them to enjoy at our next stop.
11. Play games
Contributed by Stephanie from Navigating Adventure.
Screen time and reading is a great way to keep kids occupied during a road trip, but it can also cause motion sickness after some time.
It’s best to break up the time your child is looking down to prevent this – encouraging them to look up and out the window as much as possible. It also gets the whole family to interact with each other and can create a lot of laughs!
Looking for game ideas? “I spy with my little eye” involves the family taking turns to identify something they can see outside the window, giving others a clue such as the first letter of the word, and making them guess what it is.
Twenty questions is another great option – each person thinks of an object, animal or person and answers twenty questions about it so their family can guess what they’re thinking of.
Search for other great ideas on the internet and watch the fun begin!
12. Travel card games
Contributed by Astrid from The Wandering Daughter.
One fun way we keep kids entertained during long road trips is to bring along travel card games. These games are easy to pack into your bags. And they can provide non-screen entertainment during down times, like when you’re waiting for your food at a restaurant or when taking a driving break at a rest area.
In choosing the right travel card game for your kids, look for games that are age appropriate, but still fun for the whole family. We like card games that have some educational value too. And we especially like games that are small and compact. But even if your card game comes in a big and bulky box, you can always take the cards out of the box and travel with them in a plastic seal top storage bag.
Some of our favorite travel card games for road trips include Exploding Kittens, Sushi Go, and Unstable Unicorns. But our all-time favorite card game is Stack The Scoops. It has all the elements to the perfect travel game: it’s simple to learn, fun to play, educational, and easy to pack!
13. Car sick
Contributed by Cynthia from Sharing the Wander.
When it comes to car sickness, its best to be prepared! Motion sickness is a disturbance of the inner ear, when the brain gets conflicting signals from the body- for example looking down at a book that isn’t moving, while the car is moving a lot. Windy or bumpy roads in particular can trigger nausea and dizziness in some people.
First, start with a few deep breathes and make sure the child is looking straight ahead rather than down our out the side window. Crack the windows to get some fresh air in the car.
Try Sea Bands bracelets- they have a little plastic button that presses gently on a pressure point on the underside of the wrist- these work like a charm for some people. Make sure to get the adult size for anyone 2 years and up, they run small.
Other natural remedies include anything with a ginger flavor- from gum to hard candies. If your kids don’t like the taste of ginger a simple lollipop can help- the sucking motion helps equalize the inner ear.
Sometimes a drink of cold water and a few light snacks like crackers help fend off car sickness. Check out 40+ Easy Road Trip Snacks for Kids & Toddlers.
There are also motion sickness drugs available- children’s Dramamine is the most common, or try nausea relief drops. Make sure to have sick bags handy and available, sometimes there’s no getting around using them! If your child gets sick, pull over for a few minutes to help them reset their system and get some cuddles and fresh air.
14. Snacks and drinks
Contributed by Harmony from Momma To Go.
I love a good, long family road trip with my kids (now 9 and 12) and my best tip for a success road trip is to be prepared with lots of food and drinks.
Snacks and drinks are SO IMPORTANT. Food will keep kids happy and occupied. For the kids we like to pack bagels, bagged snacks like chips/fruit snacks/baked goods, uncrustables are a big hit, as are apples (just be sure to bring a trash bag to throw away the core).
Don’t forget to pack snacks for the grownups as well! We also like chips, protein bars, and cheese sticks. We also always road trip with a cooler of water, juice boxes, seltzers, and iced teas. Packing your own food and drinks will help keep the hangries away and will definitely help keep costs down at road side stops.
15. Car seat
Contributed by Melissa from Travel Car Seat Mom.
After months of road trips with our children, we learned the hard way that choosing a comfortable car seat is extremely important. Our children were always more comfortable and napped better in their rear-facing car seats, and once we turned the forward facing at 4 years old they preferred car seats that were very padded and had the option to recline a little bit for a nap. We always found it important to stop every 2-3 hours to give them a stretch break and to avoid blood clots.
16. Books and comics
Contributed by Cosette from KarsTravels.
Before our son learned to read, he loved it when we read comics or books out loud to him in the car. Now that he can read, he reads his books and comics himself. He luckily doesn’t get car sick, so he can read for hours in the car. We usually bring an e-reader with us, so that we save space and weight. Our e-reader is from Kobo with a monthly subscription on it. We just have to make sure that there are enough books downloaded, when we have Wifi.
When reading out loud, make sure you’re not driving in the mountains on a windy road, you’ll get car sick. Found this out the hard way.
Contributed by Sarah from Tiny Trailblazers.
I’m all for screen time to pass the time on a long trip, but our kids get car sick so the tablet is out. Instead, I download a bunch of fun podcast episodes onto my phone, then play them through the entertainment system.
There are plenty of great kids’ podcasts available, which you can access on Spotify, the Apple Podcast app, Pandora plus several other apps. Here are three of our current favorites.
The Two Princes
Humor, love and happily ever after: this story of adventure kept us all captivated on a long family road trip to Oregon. With a diverse cast and a theme of inclusivity, it is a fun listen for the whole family.
This is the superhero origin story of Tara Tremendous, an ordinary teenager who saves the world and becomes extraordinary in the process. Children will love the superhero story, while adults will appreciate the humor and wonderful voice acting from the cast.
The Alien Adventures of Finn Caspian
Finn Caspian and his friends live with their families on an exploratory spaceship, where upon his eight birthday, he receives his very own robot to take on adventures to new planets. Children’s literature features strongly throughout the series and the wrap up at the end of each episode is as much fun as the story itself.
18. DIY activity packs
Contributed by Holly from Four Around the World.
One of the best ways to keep children entertained while travelling is with a DIY travel activity kit. We use waterproof toiletry bags for ours, which are perfect for kids on the go in case of any spills, plus they have lots of pockets to fill with surprises. They are compact for travel and easy to keep everything together in one place, for easy access for children.
Inside you can put small coloring and activity books, crayons, pencils, and a notepad. Other small toys that work well are mini travel games, figurines, toy cars, surprise eggs, puzzles, LEGO minifigures and anything else you can think of that will fit. We always include a snack or two as well so that they have everything they need to stay entertained during road trips.
Contributed by Kat from Wandering Bird.
One of the best things we did when road tripping with our daughter was get her a road trip journal of her own.
She loved writing in it each day, remembering the places we’d visited and her favourite things which she had done. It was great to see the trip through her eyes and also added to the day to day road schooling we were doing- finding new words for her to use, testing her writing and spelling. It was a fantastic idea and has since made a great keepsake.
We also collected postcards from places we visited and wrote on them, with highlights from the locations, dates and tips for the next visit and she added those into her journal too. All in all, highly recommend that to all parents travelling with kids of any age.
20. Put kids in charge of the map
Contributed by Kate from Miss Tourist.
When I was 8 years old, my parents, two brothers, and I packed up the car and headed off on a three-month road trip around Western Australia. Up to 10 hours driving every other day with a 6, 8, and 10 years old was undoubtedly a challenge, but I barely remember the long, tedious hours in the car thanks to my proactive parents.
Along with the books, games, and other distractions mentioned in this post, my parents also had us take an active role in the trip. Together as a family, we would sit down and plan our route for the next day on a paper map. When we hit the road, the kids would take turns to be in charge of directions. Again, with an old-school paper map!
Although times have changed and nearly everyone uses a GPS or phone navigation system, making the kids an active participant in the trip teaches them several things about responsibility, dependability, leadership, and of course, how to read a map! It will also help to make them feel more involved in the road trip, rather than simply being passengers along for the ride. Plus, every time we said, “are we nearly there yet?” they made us check the map and figure it out ourselves!
I know the map reading and navigational skills I developed on that trip have certainly helped me countless times in my adult life, and possibly even inspired me to lead the traveling life I do today!
21. Educational apps
Contributed by Jill from Lets Travel Family.
I’ve always been on the lookout for creative ideas and tips on how to keep my kids happy on road trips. That’s why I love sharing our go-to devices with any family in search of ideas.
On our recent Miami to Key West road trip, we brought along iPads and Kindle Paperwhites for each of our four kids. I made sure that we had some new educational apps on each iPad before we left for our Spring Break vacation. My oldest son is great about helping the rest of the kids download digital books using our family’s Kindle Unlimited subscriptions before we leave on any road trip. That way, if there’s no wifi they can still read their books.
22. Use a serving tray
Contributed by Nick from Spiritual Travels.
One of the essential items we take on every road trip with our kids is a serving tray. There are so many ways this mini-table comes in handy: eating snacks without spilling crumbs everywhere in the car, supporting papers while drawing, holding toys with many small pieces such as LEGO, and so on.
Since we prefer not to let our kids use screens on the road, these trays are a savior for us. For example, on our recent road trip to the dinosaur capital of the world, Drumheller, with our kids, the kids spent much of the return journey reading dinosaur brochures they got in Drumheller, drawing dinosaurs, and playing with their new dinosaur souvenirs, all of course on their trays.
There are fancier trays out there designed specifically for this purpose. They come with compartments on the sides for your kids to put colors, water bottles, and other things in. But we find these simple ones we picked up at the Dollar Store to be good enough, and because they are flat, they don’t take up much room in the car.
Contributed by Eva from Kids and the Outdoors.
Road trips with a child can be a challenge. To keep my daughter busy, we always take loads of audiobooks and earphones so I don’t have to hear them through the speakers. Earphones are key here because there are only so many children stories I can take on a road trip. My daughter loves to listen to her stories and it keeps her entertained. Sometimes she gets car sick when she keeps looking down on a book or a screen, so this is perfect for her to look out of the window and just listen. Sometimes she even falls asleep while listening to her stories – which is a double win.
These are our road trip with kid ideas
Hopefully you can have a great road trip now. Making lots of family memories along the way. When your at the next age group, here are our tips for road trips with tweens.
Like it? Pin it!
Like it? Pin it!
These are all great ideas for those road tripping with kids. I’ve been seeing a lot of people taking their kids on road trips and it’s such an awesome and educational experience for them. 🙂
Yes, it’s the best to road trip with your kids, it’s also a perfect age for it.
Holidays from Hels
Love the idea of a yes day and breaking the rules. These are all top tips for our USA road trip – whether it happens this year or next! Thanks for the inspiration!
Hope it happens this year, but would love to hear how your yes day and breaking the rules will go on your road trip.
I feel like so many of these are things I love to do on a road trip anyway, especially take plenty of breaks and rest stops to check out new places. That’s the best part about a road trip
Indeed, a lot of these tips are also good for a road trip with just adults.
A must-read post for all the parents out there.
these are all such great ideas for road trips! i’m going to share them with my parent friends… even though we know it, the tip about ‘being flexible’ (tip #2) is always a great reminder.
Yes, the being flexible is one easy to forget, but so important.
I don’t have kids but have been on plenty of road trips with friends & family so understand what a fabulous resource this is! And I also love the idea of “Yes Day” – we could all do with one of those occasionally.
Yes, a Yes Day shouldn’t be just for kids.
Yes, a Yes Day shouldn’t be just for kids.
These are such great ideas for road trips to keep the kids entertained. I like the idea of ‘Yes Day’ and probably will try it on our next trip. We also love playing games and our favorite is Atlas, where kids tell names of places.
Atlas sounds like a great game to play on a road trip with a kid.
Rob + Ann @TravelLatte
Some fun ideas here! Yes Day sounds fun…although potentially dangerous for the grown ups! On the other hand, we see lots of ice cream on that day. 🙂
Yes, probably a lot of ice cream on a Yes Day.
Some great ideas here, and certianly a few that apply to adults (haha I’m particularly thinking about road trip snacks!). I can remember doing loads of these ideas with my parents when I was a kid, I used to love reading, or attempting to read, the map and playing things like eye-spy. Happy memories 🙂
Great it brought back happy memories! And road trip snack remain important, also for adults.
Harmony, Momma To Go
bringing a ball and a tray is such an easy thing to do – but will pay off in spades for sure! these are amazing tips, thanks for having me contribute!
Thanks for contributing. Yes, the ball and tray are really handy things and easy.
Great tips! Thanks!
Rachel H Beland
Great list of ideas for those with kids! Trying to keep a mental note for the future 😉
Hope you can remember them for the future.
Thanks for all of the great tips! I will have to reference this again before I go on my next family road trip.
Have fun on your next family road trip.
These are such great tips! I remember having a blast as a kid on road trips with my parents – if I have kids someday they will definitely be coming with us!
Yes, definitely take them along with your trips as soon as you have kids. It’s fun.
There’s some fantastic ideas here!
Plenty of wonderful ideas! I am sure they will be of help for people travelling with kids!
We used to do so many of these when we traveled with our young girls years ago. I must say, I prefer traveling with them in their teens much more.
My son is a tween now, so will know how it is to travel with a teen in a few years. So far I’ve loved every stage.
These are all such great ideas for surviving a road trip with kids!! We love a good road trip. Snacks and games and plenty of stops always get us through!!
Lots of great ideas here! We are actively on a road trip now and doing a lot of these!
This is absolutely hilarious! Where was this post when I was an au pair?!?!
Oooh you have so many great tips for road trips with little-uns! I love the sound of the road trip bingo, and I would have looooved the idea of a ‘YES day’ when I was a kid. That is genius. What a great way to make great memories with your kidlets.
Woah! That was so detailed. These are amazing tips for parents who struggle while travelling with their kids. Thank you so much for sharing.