20 best ideas, activities, and resources for road trips with kids


links to the best activities, snacks, and tips for road trips with kids!

March means spring break is coming up, and spring break means road trip, right? Honestly, I used to think people who packed up a bunch of kids and drove for fifteen hours and called that fun were completely, certifiably insane. There are times when fifteen minutes in the car with kids who won’t stop bugging each other is almost more than I can handle. However, I’ve realized that with the right preparation, a road trip with kids can be rather less miserable than expected – maybe even fun. All sorts of smart people have posted their favorite tips for road trips with kids online, and I’ve sorted through to find the best ones (and thrown in a few of my own). From preparing the car and organizing your supplies to packing snacks and prepping activities, this post has you covered. You’ll find links to hundreds of ideas to make your road trip with kids a little less horrible and a lot more fun.

Get Prepared:

1. Start your road trip preparation off right by making sure you have everything you need in case of emergency. You don’t want to be trying to change a tire at night without a flashlight, or stranded in the dessert with no water. This post at Simply Preparing gives great guidelines for collecting items for an emergency road trip kit.

20 best road trip with kids ideas and resources - everything you need to plan a successful trip in the car!

3. Pillows are a must on a long road trip, but full size pillows can take up too much room (and cause arguments when “his pillow keeps touching me!”). I made these travel pillows with carrying cases last year and the kids loved them – they’re just the right size for kids and the case has a velcro pocket perfect for books, crayons, or a kindle. Easy sewing tutorial and free pattern provided.

A-travelpillow4

Get organized:

4. If you know how to sew, this car seat organizer pattern from etsy looks fantastic – it allows kids to keep coloring books, crayons, DVDs, etc. handy, so you won’t have to keep turning around to get things for them.

1-road-trip-organizer-car

5. Or just buy an over the door shoe organizer like this one (from the dollar store!) and keep the things you or your child will be using the most in easy reach. Idea from Decor-ganize Crafts.

1-organizer-car-car-road-trip

6. Here’s an absolutely genius idea – build a simple bucket and pulley system using rope through the handles above the car windows – you’ll be able to get things back and forth to your kids without relying on their throwing and catching ability. Find more info at Kids Activities Blog.

1-road-trip-ideas

7. Organizing Junkie has great tips for corralling art supplies, DVD player, wipes, and snacks all in one handy place. She also has some great printable picture packing lists the kids can use to get ready for the trip.

20 best road trip with kids ideas and resources - everything you need to plan a successful trip in the car!

Pack some snacks:

8. This post by Toni Spilsbury is actually about organizing snacks at home, but her “fridge snacks” example would be perfect for putting in the cooler for healthy road trip snacks. She also includes a price breakdown showing how much you can save by packing your own snacks instead of buying at the gas station or drive through.

snackorg10-650x975

9. Babble has rounded up 25 great ideas for road trip snacks for kids, including easy ways to transport veggies and dips, homemade versions of classics like fruit leather, fruits snacks and cheez-its, and this munchable necklace that will keep little ones busy for a while (originally from And this is how the story goes):

road-trip-ideas

10. Kids are sure to love these tackle boxes turned mega snack packs, from Inner Child Crochet. I like the idea of giving one to each child and letting them control when and what they snack on, so I don’t have to rummage through the snack container every fifteen minutes to find someone more food. I’d be a little nervous about one getting tipped over, however, so I might look for a divided container that has separated lids so you can open just one compartment at a time (maybe in the jewelry making section).

trip-divided-snack-container-road-trip-kids

11. Use straws for yogurt and applesauce – genius! I love this idea. This isn’t my photo, it’s one floating around Pinterest without a good link, but we’ve done this plenty of times in the car, and even as a healthy snack at Disneyland. Cut straws in half so they’re not so long and tape on to the side of each snack in advance.

use-straw-for-applesauce-road-trip

Beat the boredom:

12. This fantastic road trip post from Burlap and Denim has plenty of tips, including a printable packing list, but my favorite part is her take on the cookie sheet tray. Buy cheap cookie sheets at the dollar store to use as a lunch tray, magnet board, hard surface for coloring, or even a place to make friendship bracelets. The best part of this post is how she secured a cookie sheet to the booster seat arm rests so youngsters aren’t constantly dropping it during the ride.

1-Cookie-Sheet-Activity-Tray-514x717-custom

13. For more magnetic game ideas to use with a cookie sheet, check out this huge post from 123 Homeschool 4 Me. I especially love the idea of using family photos to make magnetic popsicle stick “puzzles”.

puzzle-road-trip-ideas-kids

14. For younger kids, it’s always fun to have new toys to play with during the ride. Play Eat Grow has a fantastic list of toys that work well in the car, including links to where you can order the items mentioned.

15. The Crafty Working Mom has links to a nice variety of car trip printables (bingo, word search, etc.). Print them out, then slide them inside plastic page protectors to create a re-usable travel binder (use dry erase markers).

1-travelgames1

16. This great post from Kids Activities Blog has 40 car trip ideas geared toward toddlers, some you may have seen before and some that are pretty unique. My favorites from this list include collecting toy magazines or catalogues for kids to look through and building statues with aluminum foil and pipe cleaners.

Road-trip-road-with-kids-tips-road

17. Books on CD. I was surprised when I was researching this post that I didn’t see more recommendations for books the whole family can listen to during long car trips – it’s one of our favorite ways to pass the time. You can find books on CD at the library to borrow for free, or purchase audio files from Amazon or Audible.com. The key for us has been finding books that are interesting enough for the parents to enjoy as well. Some of our favorites have been The BFG by Roald Dahl (great for younger kids), Harry Potter, the Redwall series by Brian Jacques, Peter and the Starcatchers (and sequels) by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, and the Stoneheart Trilogy by Charlie Fletcher (the last one is better for slightly older kids, maybe 9+).

18. Creekside Learning has a really great idea for forestalling the constant “are we there yet?” questions – laminate a map of your route and use dry erase markers to keep track of where you’re going and where you’ve been. You can keep kids updated on your location and they can cross off locations as you drive through.

1-road-trip-IMG_7093-768x1024

19. I found this photo floating around Pinterest but couldn’t locate the original source. It’s a great twist on the “surprise gift every half hour” idea. Kids can open up a sack when you drive through the city listed on the front, and each sack contains small items to play or create with.

travel-bag-surprise-road-trip

If you love this idea but don’t have the time before your trip to put everything together, consider purchasing this Adventure in a Box kit- if it keeps the kids happy for a long drive it’s probably worth every penny!

surprise-packages-road-trip-kids-open

20. For 50 more great road trip activity ideas, be sure to check out this monster post from Six Sister’s Stuff:

20 best road trip with kids ideas and resources - everything you need to plan a successful trip in the car!

Are you a road trip expert? Leave your best tips in the comments for the rest of us!

linked at: Make it and Love it, I Heart Naptime, Whipperberry, Tidy Mom

great road trip with kids post! 20 ideas for activities, food, organization, and more!


Comments

  1. 2

    Lara says

    We drove from Michigan to Florida last year with my then 7 yr old and 3 yr old. We borrowed the book traveling I-75 from the library, it gives you places to look that you normally wouldn’t see on the freeway. It also gave us adults go arounds and tips for where the police hide to where you might find backups. It was wonderful. We left at 3am so the kids slept at least until Kentucky, they got dressed we ate breakfast in the car. I had packed sandwiches for lunch and we ate them in Georgia at a roadside park, so the kids could get out and run.

    As kid my parents to long week to two week long road trips in the summer, so I had ideas to keep my kids busy that didn’t involve movies the entire trip. My kids were wonderful, leading us to want to do it again.

  2. 5

    says

    These ideas are all so cool!! I sure wish this info had been around when my kids were little. But now I can share them with my grandchildren for when they travel to come see us!! Great Ideas shared – Thank you so much!!

  3. 6

    Jessica says

    I’m driving fifteen hrs with my 4 kiddos (9,8,6&3) for spring break, while my hubby stays behind to work. I already raided dollar tree for flashcards, coloring books & crayons, snack containers, school work sheets (the fun ones), drink containers,puzzle/activity books, mechanical pencils (no sharpening needed) and so on and so forth! :) I’m glad I found this post! Gives me a ton more ideas to keep them happy and me sane!

  4. 8

    Leanne says

    We drive 1000 miles (one way) every summer to see my family. These are great ideas! We have used books on tapes, my kids (and my husband) like Hank the Cowdog, The Great Brain (a really good one for boys!), and Little House on the Prairie.

    • 9

      autumn says

      We LOVE the Great Brain! I read them all as a kid and my older boys have been through the whole series. Little House is great too – I can’t believe kids don’t read it much anymore. Our city library only has one copy of the actual series – they have a whole bunch of shorter books based on the series instead. So lame! I’ve never seen Hank the Cowdog – I’ll have to check it out!

  5. 10

    Joy rikli says

    Fantastic post! We are driving from St. Louis to Orlando this summer with an extended family that includes 4 boys under age 5. I especially love the idea of the cookie sheet/lap desk! Thanks for the ideas!

  6. 11

    says

    This is such a fun article! Thanks for all the tips! We will definitely try some of these out on our next road trip! Some sound so fun, I might even want sit in the back and try them myself!!

  7. 12

    says

    Love, love, love this post! Thank you for obviously putting so much effort and time into posting! I will definitely utilize so much of these ideas! Thank you!!
    grace

  8. 14

    says

    My girls love to watch DVDs on the laptop during road trips, so I get entire seasons of shows, like “Saved by the Bell”, “Brady Bunch” etc. shows they may not watch at home, but will happily watch on the road.

    I also bring along an individual binder ring/key ring and a hole punch for maps, brochures, souvenirs, paper menus from fun restaurants to collect during the trip. Once we get home, they’ll add trip pictures to their binder ring. Instant scrapbook!

  9. 15

    says

    Thanks for including us in your roundup. This is a great post. I love that pulley system idea…. we’re doing a ton of traveling again this summer…I think I need to work on making this happen :).

  10. 16

    Lisa says

    Thanks for all the great ideas! Another game that is fun for kids old enough to recognize letters is one we play every road trip at least once. You look at signs to find a word that starts with the letter of the alphabet. We do the alphabet in order A,B,C,D, ect. It’s fun to see what the kids pick up on! Q & Z can be the hardest to find, until they learn about zone signs! ;) My kids range from teen to baby so we have ages of all stages. It works well for all ages that can recognize letters. The little ones are a bit slower at seeing letters but they pick up quickly on a long trip.

  11. 17

    Barbara Mattson says

    We drove from Minnesota to Florida (and home again) last November with four adults and two children (6 and 8) in a minivan. We were crowded, but the best thing we had with us was something our daughter made to track miles. She had beads strung from one side of the car to the other. Beads marked every 25 miles. Larger beads marked 100 miles. The destination for the day was shown by yet a different kind of bead. Once the boys got the hang of how to track the miles, we never heard any “Are we almost there?”

  12. 18

    Kamiko says

    I had the misfortune of having to take my daughter on a bus ride from Florida to Pennsylvania, it was interesting to say the least. i had to carry on a laundry basket, to keep some clothes and other items she would need for the trip.
    - i brought crayons and a color book, which was great.
    - then i read the color book to her, along with a story book she loved.
    - i got lucky there was also another mother with a boy the same age. they took turns sitting with each other, and the color book got more use with sharing.
    - both of us had finger snacks, and we shared with each other. the meal was great between the two of us.
    - we sang songs
    - we took naps together
    - when we came to terminals in between, i let her run around like a crazy kid, to run out all pent up energy in the grass.

    The article had many other items i wished i had back then when my girlie was little. i will share this list!

    • 19

      autumn says

      Great ideas! You lucked out finding another mom and kid – it’s always more fun for kids when there’s someone else to play with. Singing songs is a great way to pass the time – thanks for sharing your ideas.

  13. 22

    Sarah says

    Love this Pin. There are a ton of great ideas. The first road trip I planned to WDW last year with my girls I had my box of things for them to go. One thing that was enjoyed by all was a DVD of family photos from past trips. I’m going to make another one for this trip too. Enjoy your travels.

  14. 23

    says

    We go up north with the 9 youngest kids every year(family of twelve countin myself and honey ages 25 23 21 18 17 15 13 11 7 and 5) these are great ideas for them all

  15. 24

    Katlynn Lane says

    I LOVE THE IDEA OF THE CHEAP COOKIE SHEETS, BUT THE ONLY THING IS, IF YOU WERE IN AN ACCIDENT, THOSE ARE NOT SOFT OR PLIABLE AT ALL AND COULD SEVERELY INJURE A CHILD IF HE/SHE HAD ONE IN THEIR LAP DURING IMPACT AT A HIGH SPEED ON THE HIGHWAY. JUST SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT. A PIECE STURDY PIECE OF CARDBOARD OR FOAMBOARD MIGHT BE SAFER.

  16. 26

    KB says

    Buyer beware for anyone reading this post – I tried to order the Heaving Helper after seeing it here. They took my money, but it’s been 20 days and no product, so I think I’ve been scammed :-( Trying to see if I can get my money back from PayPal. The company has not responded to my emails and the phone number on their website is invalid.

    • 27

      autumn says

      KB – that’s terrible! Thanks for posting this – please come back and let us know if it gets resolved. I’ll put a note in the post so others see your comment.

      • 29

        KB says

        Finally got resolution from PayPal and got my money back. I suppose I need to figure out some other car sickness solution for my kids! There were a ton of great ideas in this post, thank you for collecting them all :-)

  17. 30

    says

    I’m not certain the place you’re getting your info, however good topic.
    I must spend a while learning much more or understanding more.

    Thanks for fantastic information I was searching for this
    info for my mission.

  18. 31

    says

    Im going on a road trip on saturday at 5 am with my 9 yr old and 16 yr old the 16 yr old will probaly be listening to music but she gets bored of that sometimes so this was really helpful!

  19. 32

    Stephanie W says

    Just a heads up, the Heaving Helper, while it looks like an awesome product, the seller no longer is doing business the right way. I paid for my product and never heard a work back. The number listed on the website is no longer in a valid number.

  20. 35

    says

    Really informative read, appreciate you taking the time to put it together, I’m also pleased to be able to share my own thoughts and am looking forward to returning to read what other readers have to say.

  21. 36

    pixiedust says

    your kiddos are all good looking ! your husband’s genes and yours really match :)
    i just found out now that u only have a daughter… now it answers my question why she’s the only one modeling your clothes :) she’s so adorable … messy hair +pretty smile :)

    • 37

      autumn says

      why, thanks! My husband and I always say that the combination of the two of us turned out way better than either one of us alone :)

  22. 38

    Elizabeth in Pipe Creek says

    I recently took a roadtrip that involved driving 13 hours, each way, with my 4 and 5 year old son and daughter. The best trick I used was pinning clothespins on the visor number 13, 12 ,11 down to 1. As each hour passed, I took down a clothespin (so after the first hour I took down the “13″ clothespin, etc etc) so the kids could see the numbers getting smaller and smaller. No one was allowed to ask “how much longer?” … and it really worked!

Trackbacks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>