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Road Trip! 10 Ideas to Keep Your Family Happy on the Highway

Photo by Raymond Forbes LLC / Stocksy United / 549702
Photo by Raymond Forbes LLC/Stocksy United

Planning a road trip? Piling into the car to go over the river and through the woods (or interstate) to your vacay destination probably means your little ones will be buckled up in the back seat for an hour—or even five. 

Car trips with young children can be full of fun...or best remembered most for the strawberry milkshake that somehow leaped out of the cup and onto your car floor. These tips and tricks will help guarantee your road trip will be smooth sailing, whether you’re going 50 miles or 250.

1. Bring a lot of healthy snacks.

It may sound obvious, but it’s especially important for long trips: Delays and traffic can push off regular meal times. Opt for non-messy foods such as string cheese or granola bars (alright, there might be a few crumbs to contend with). You can also turn snack time into get-out-and-stretch-your-legs time to break up the trip into reasonable chunks. Check out our recent post on car snack survival tips.

2. Turn your car into the cozy-mobile. 

Even kids who don’t nap may find themselves getting very sleepy in the car. Encourage naps (and the 50 miles of road-trip calm that naps offer) by bringing their favorite stuffed animal in the car or playing some relaxing music.

3. Stop by the library before you leave. 

Having a stack of books is a good idea, but even better?  Head to the library and check out a stack of kid-friendly sing-along CDs and audio books, such as those by Dr. Seuss. (Around age three, kids can start listening to whole stories.)

4. Pack up the fun. 

Have each child help you put together a backpack full of their favorite toys and goodies.

5. Make a portable art caddie. 

To make an art supply cache car-travel friendly, pack washable markers and other supplies  in a lidded coffee mug that fits a car seat’s cup holders.

6. Don’t forget the hard surface. 

A small baking sheet works wonders as a car-ready activity surface (and the edges can even keep crayons from rolling onto the floor under the seat.)

7. Opt for toys that stick. 

Blindly fishing for toys that repeatedly fall under the seat is, well, no fun. Opt for toys with magnets or sticker books to ensure the kids’ entertainment stays in their laps.

8. Clothes for a change. 

Keep an easy change of clothes and a towel within reach for each kid in case of car sickness, spills, or accidents between rest stops.

9. Get a checkup…for your car. 

Pop into your local auto shop to check your tires (including your spare), get an oil change, and examine your windshield wipers.

10. Leave early…or late! 

Consider setting out very early in the morning or at bedtime to let kids sleep through a few hours of the trip. Keep them in their pajamas and bring along a blanket and pillow to make travel extra cozy.


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