In today’s post: 37 hacks for road trips with kids! How to prepare, how to stay organized, and how to keep kids occupied, plus the best snack ideas and ways to encourage good behavior in the car.
Once again, it’s road trip season. 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.
Road trip with kids: How to get prepared
1. Start your road trip preparation off right by making sure you have everything you need in case of emergency. This post at Simply Preparing gives great guidelines for collecting items for an emergency road trip kit.
2. Here’s another car kit idea, this one from Simply Kierste:
3. If you’re traveling with kids, one thing you definitely want to be prepared for is sickness. Cleaning up after someone’s been sick in the car is NOT FUN. Line a mini pop-up trash can like this one with a few grocery bags and stash it somewhere handy in the car. Hopefully you won’t need to use it, but if you do you’ll be so glad you have it!
Road trip with kids: How to stay organized
4. It’s hard enough fitting all your luggage in the car for a road trip, so when you add in things for kids to do (coloring books, iPads, toys, etc.) the stuff can get overwhelming. This is where seat back car organizer can really come in handy!
Here’s a seat back organizer that holds an iPad plus a water bottle, wipes, toys, books, crayons, and more:
And here’s one that folds out like a tray table giving kids a surface to draw on as well as keeping their things organized:
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.
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.
7. 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 using in the car and the case has a velcro pocket perfect for books, crayons, or a kindle. Easy sewing tutorial and free pattern provided.
8. I love this road trip idea: use shower caddies on the window to keep cups and toys handy! This idea plus 10 more road trip hacks at The Krazy Coupon Lady:
9. Organizing Junkie has great tips for corralling art supplies, DVD player, wipes, and snacks all in one place to cut clutter on a road trip. She also has some great printable picture packing lists the kids can use to get ready for the trip.
Road trip with kids: How to keep kids occupied
This is the most important part, right? I’m totally ok with kids using electronics on road trips, but mine do tend to turn into monsters if they stay plugged in for 20 hours straight, so I try to make sure they take breaks and do other things as well. Here are some great non-electronic activities for road trips with kids:
10. Download some audiobooks! We love listening to audiobooks with kids on road trips: it helps everyone relax and quiet down. Check out my favorite audiobooks for kids, teens, and adults here.
Or play some fun games! This is a list of the best road trip games that don’t require any special supplies (plus they’re actually fun!).
11. Help kids keep track of where you are on the trip and countdown how much further you have to go with this road trip countdown from The Dating Divas:
12. Another way to count down the hours is by prepping road trip goodie bags. Fill bags with small toys or fun things to do in the car, then let kids open one every hour or every hundred miles. Click through for 25 ideas for road trip goodie bags.
13. Make a portable lego kit, like this one from Mama Papa Bubba, so kids can bring their favorite toys along in the car without making a mess:
14. Road trip bingo makes it much more fun to sit and look out the window for a while. Get the printables from That’s What Che Said:
15. Keep kids from getting bored coloring with these alphabet pictionary printables from Laly Mom:
16. Play road trip games! Here are 10 games you can play together in the car, most of which don’t take any supplies (like the alphabet game).
17. 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.
18. 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”.
19. Or make a chalkboard activity tray, like this one from I Heart Arts N Crafts:
20. Make your road trip time a bit more educational with this mini word building travel kit from I Heart Crafty Things:
21. I just discovered the existence of this next item: washable window markers. Kids can color directly on the windows of the car! The markers wipe off easily with a wet paper towel or window wipe.
22. Creekside Learning has a really great idea for forestalling the constant “are we there yet?” questions during a road trip – 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.
23. Download this road trip license plate map at Happiness is Homemade. Kids can color in the states when they see a car with that license plate!
24. Here’s another variation of the license plate game, from Comic Con Family:
25. And I love this take along tic tac toe from Mama Papa Bubba:
26. Have fun talking to each other with these road trip story starters from Somewhat Simple:
27. Keep younger kids busy in the car with this DIY I-Spy bottle from Mommy Suite:
28. Here’s an idea for older kids – a road trip scavenger hunt for teen and tweens from Meander and Coast:
29. For even more car trip printables, visit The Crafty Working Mom. Print out your favorite activity pages, then slide them inside plastic page protectors to create a re-usable road trip activity binder (use dry erase markers).
30. Even more printable road trip games at The Joys of Boys:
Road trip with kids: Snack ideas
31. 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.
32. Make a fun, munchable snack necklace like this one from And this is how the story goes:
33. 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).
34. Use straws for yogurt and applesauce – genius! I love this idea. 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 one to the side of each snack in advance. (photo credit unknown)
35. For lots of healthy road trip snack ideas, visit this post from Wholefully.
Road trip with kids: How to promote good behavior
If there’s anything out there that will convince my kids not to poke each other while we’re on a road trip, I’m willing to give it a try!
36. Use these road trip clips to promote good behavior. If your clip is up, you know you’re doing well, but if it gets taken down…let’s just say you might not be getting a treat at the next rest stop. See how to make them at Just a Little Creativity:
37. Or try rewarding good behavior in the car with printable car bucks from The Dating Divas. Click through and scroll to bottom of post to get the free download:
Good luck on your next road trip!