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8 Tips for a Fun Road Trip with Kids

tips for a road trip with kids

Spring break and summer are just around the corner, and it’s time for many families to think about hitting the road. If you’re a parent of a baby, toddler, or preschooler (or all of the above), you may approach a road trip with kids with more fear than excitement! But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Our family regularly takes road trips, both there-and-back day trips and longer two day driving trips, and we’ve done so for years with kids ranging from just a few months old to preschool. We all have our moments, but with experience, we’ve learned a thing or two about hitting the road with little ones. If you’re preparing for a road trip with kids, whether it’s halfway across the state or across the country, keep these tips in mind to keep the peace and sanity in your vehicle:

  1. Add two hours: Traveling with children, it will always take longer than you think. For a full day of driving, we usually end up adding an hour or two to what Google Maps thinks we’ll need to take.
  2. Maximize your stops: If the car stops, everyone gets out! We get gas, food, and all go to the bathroom. This is also a good time to breastfeed if necessary, or just get some snuggle time out of the car seat. That way we aren’t having to stop again in 30 minutes for a bathroom or snack break after we’ve just gotten gas! I also like to fill up on gas just before we stop for the night so we can just hit the road when we get out of the hotel.
  3. Make it fun: There’s a dinosaur roadside attraction on one of our regular routes. It’s just about 45 minutes past a regular stop for gas/food/bathroom, but we make that stop if our kids aren’t napping. They get excited about it and it keeps them entertained and energized for the trip ahead! It’s worth the time to stop if they’ll enjoy it, and when else are we going to see dinosaurs on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere, Texas? We also love to stop at Cadillac Ranch, even though it’s a little bit out of our way. This is the beauty of road trips!
  4. Stop for the night while they’re still awake: We try to stop at a hotel early in the day (by 6:00 or 7:00) so that our kids are awake when we get there. They get very excited about the luggage carts and elevators, so it is something they look forward to. We also don’t have to worry about carrying sleepy boys along with our bags!
  5. Bring a kids’ CD: We usually listen to regular music (our boys enjoy it), but sometimes you just need the nuclear option. When the going gets tough, we’ll break out the kid CDs and sing along.
  6. Stop at fast food restaurants: Yes, fast food isn’t the best choice nutritionally and it can add up when you’re feeding an entire family. But it’s sometimes worth it to have hot food, a place to get out and stretch your legs, and best of all: exciting new toys for the kids to play with. At least in my family, food and toys from the drive thru are always much more exciting than anything I could have brought along (even if it’s brand new!).
  7. Get free breakfast: We exclusively stay at hotels with a free breakfast. It saves us a stop in the morning, and you can usually grab a fresh healthy snack or two for later in the day. I like to grab an apple and some individually packed cereal for the kids. We also stay at Drury hotels when we can: they have an evening kickback, so you can get a free dinner (and mixed drinks for road weary parents), too!
  8. Bring favorite snacks: We bring along the things our kids like to eat the most. For us, it’s shelf stable chocolate milk and trail mix. That chocolate milk has stopped many road trip whine fests!

Do you have any road trip plans coming up? Have any tried and true tips to share for a road trip with kids?