Road Trip with Kids: The 4 Best Tips to Go from Surviving to Thriving

Road Trip with Kids: The 4 Best Tips to Go from Surviving to Thriving

Intentionally Well: Striving for present intentionality every day.

Going on a road trip with kids isn’t something that conjures feelings of rainbows and sunshine. I get it. Having your whole family crammed in the car for an extended amount of time feels overwhelming.

As you may know (or maybe not), we live in Indianapolis. Our entire family lives in Alabama. So, over the last three years, we have become accustomed to long road trips with our kids.

I am here to share with you all the things we do to make these trips not only bearable but also fun. Because we have gotten used to long road trips with our kids, this has opened up many other travel opportunities that we may have been overwhelmed by otherwise.

Author, Emily, taking a selfie in her van with 3 young kids in the background as they take a road trip to Michigan.
That time I drove all 3 kids to Michigan by myself!

Tip #1: Prep Expectations in Advance

If you are familiar with Intentionally Well, it shouldn’t surprise you to see preparation at the top of the list. Ha! I like to plan. Here is what I do. First, I talk often about the trip with my kids. I mark the dates of the vacation on my children’s monthly calendar which is always posted on our refrigerator. They really 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 are not allowed to ask me how much longer. That is to keep my own sanity. Instead, I give them an estimate of what time we expect to arrive.

It takes about eight hours to our house to my parents house according to Maps without stopping. However, we know that stopping often is a given when traveling with kids. Last time, it took us about eleven hours to make that drive. Eleven.

Tip #2: Pack Everyone’s Most Favorite Snacks

We usually keep pretty basic snacks in our house. Fruit, Larabars, raisins, etc.. But when we go on a road trip with kids, we go all out with the snacks. Gummies…you got it. Chips…you got it. Literally, whatever the kids want, I will pack it.

I promise having everyone’s favorite snacks on a long car ride 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. Treat yourself and your kids, mama.

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Tip #3: Bring Activities for the Car

I did a pole in Instagram, and it was about 60/40 as to families preferring activity books to screens for road trips. We utilize both. My kids really enjoy fun sticker books, My three year old also plays with his favorite toys really well in the car, which is currently dinosaurs. Additionally, I really 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 every one has this option. We typically play a movie after eating lunch or towards the end of the trip when we all just need some quiet.

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

Here we are enjoying our trip to the Gulf of Mexico, which is about 13 hours away from home.

Tip #4: Make the Most Out of Potty Breaks

First, stop at the big truck stops if you can (Love’s, Pilot…). I find the bathrooms at these establishments are bigger and cleaner than most of the regular gas stations. They offer more snack choices, and they are usually situated at exits with several food options.

Next, take advantage of rest stops along the highway. These are great if you don’t need food. Rest stops almost always have some sort of green space, so kids can around and really get those wiggles out.

Lastly, and this is super specific, but hear me out – Cracker Barrel. Cracker Barrel is a southern style restaurant, but also has a store in the front. The bathrooms are clean, kids love exploring the store, they’re typically located right off the highway, and it’s just something a little different and unexpected.

I hope these tips and tricks help you thrive on your next road trip 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!