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Road Trip Hacks for Families: The 5 Best Tips to Go from Surviving to Thriving

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Intentionally Well: Thriving in this Neurodivergent Homeschooling Life

Going on a vacation with kids doesn’t always conjure feelings of rainbows and sunshine. I get it. Just packing the car makes you sweaty and cranking. And having the whole family crammed in the car for an extended time feels overwhelming. But trust me, these amazing tried and true road trip hacks for families make the journey as exciting as the destination. Number five is my favorite!

We embark on long family road trips several times a year to visit family. And because we are used to them, we typically travel far on family vacations.

Therefore, we are relentless in our search for anything to make the car enjoyable on these trips. I’ve honed in on several hacks that make all the difference!

Taking a selfie in her van with kids as they take a road trip to Michigan. Making sure to use all the road trip hacks for families.
That time I drove all three kids to Michigan by myself!

Hack #1: Prep Family Expectations in Advance

If you are familiar with Intentionally Well, you’re not going to be surprised to see preparation at the top of my list. Ha! I like to plan.

First, I talk to my kids about the upcoming vacation. I mark the dates on my children’s monthly calendar which is always posted on our refrigerator. They love counting down the days until we leave.

Additionally, I remind them the travel days will be spent in the car. I tell them over and over again that we will be driving all day. This helps manage their expectations. I also tell them they cannot ask me, “Howwww much longerrrr?”. That keeps my own sanity. I give them an estimate of what time we expect to arrive. So, all I have to say is, “Look at the clock.”

It takes about eight hours from our house to my parents’ house without stopping. But, stopping is a given when traveling with kids. Last time, it took eleven hours to make that drive. Eleven.

Hack #2: Pack Everyone’s Most Favorite Snacks

We usually keep pretty basic snacks in our house—fruit, Larabars, raisins, etc. But one of the more fun road trip hacks for families going all out with snacks. Gummies…you got it. Chips…you got it. Whatever the kids want, I will pack it. I have quieted many a toddler with a KitKat Bar.

Having everyone’s favorite snacks on the trip is worth it. And don’t forget the adults! Enjoy your favorites too. I love strawberry Sour Straws, a Milky Way, and a Coke on a road trip. Those are my must-haves! Treat yourself and your kids, mama.

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Hack #3: Bring New Activities for the Car

Obviously, you’re going to want activities for kids. But let’s talk it out. I did an Instagram poll, and it was about 60/40 regarding families preferring activity books to screens for road trips. We utilize both.

My kids enjoy fun sticker books. So, I always refresh our stash before the road trip. I love these travel craft kits. I am also a fan of listening to audiobooks during long car trips.

Our van does have a DVD player, but I know not everyone has this option. We typically play a movie after eating lunch or toward the end of the trip when we all need some quiet.

But here is the secret…Whatever you gather to bring with you in the car, make it something new to the kids. This can mean purchasing a few new toys, games, or books. But, a couple of weeks before your vacation, put a few toys away in a closet. Then when you whip them out as you pack up the car, the kids will shout, “Hey! I forgot about that!”. Boom. New toy feels for free.

I let my children choose how they want to occupy themselves when we travel. I don’t limit screens, toys, or books. They can do whatever they like as long as they are being respectful of others (using headphones, sharing, etc.).

Happy family out on a boat in the Gulf of Mexico. They got there by using awesome road trip hacks for families.
Here we are, enjoying our trip to the Gulf of Mexico, about 13 hours away from home.

Hack #4: Make the Most Out of Stops & Potty Breaks

This is the road trip hack for families that change everything for us. Strategically plan your stops and potty breaks. Here’s what I mean.

First, stop at big truck stops (Love’s, Pilot…). The bathrooms are bigger and more hygienic than most of the regular gas stations. Plus, they offer a lot more snack choices, and they are typically right by the highway exits along with several food options.

Next, take advantage of rest stops along the highway. They can be few and far between (most often at state lines) but are worth it when you find one, These are fantastic if you don’t need food. Rest stops almost always have some green space, so kids can go around and get those wiggles out.

Hack #5: Embrace the Magic of Cracker Barrel

This is super specific, but hear me out. If you don’t already know, Cracker Barrel is a southern-style restaurant with a store in the front. The bathrooms are clean, kids love exploring the store, they’re typically located right off the highway.

It’s just something a little different and unexpected. You can order food to go, grab a bag of vintage candy, or sit out front on their famous rocking chairs for a bit.

I hope these five road trip hacks for families help you thrive the next time you travel with your kids. Do you have any other tips to share with others? Post them in the comments below. As always, please share this post with your friends if you enjoyed it!


  1. Heavenly Imperfections

    These are some really great tips! For snacks, we have craft grid containers that we fill with different snacks for picky eaters!

  2. momsdailydiary

    This is so helpful! We’re about to have our first long trip with the baby and a toddler and it kind of freaks me out.

  3. Shanna

    Prepping everyone for the trip is key! I really like you thought about the larger chain gas stations as I have found that as well especially in the past year. I also purchased a portable potty for my toddler when I don’t feel like it is the best place to take her in to use the restroom. Life saver! AND I totally agree about snacking on what you love as well as screen time as you like. I mean it is the car and most of us are ready to get there as soon as we start. Thank you for the post!

  4. Evie

    Preparation for trips is key! And snacks, yes, you can never have enough.
    We have found that limiting the kids to water while driving helps with keeping potty breaks to a minimum and keeps those sticky spills from occurring too.

  5. Flossie

    Planning out your rest stops is crucial, esp if it is a trip you make often. I know every low-priced gas stop and the cleanest restrooms on all our regular routes BY HEART!

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