Whether you’re about to embark upon your first car trip or your hundredth, you may stand to benefit from some road trip tips for families. While road trips are basically a rite of passage for family members of all ages, each trip can differ greatly depending on how you approach them. Putting some road trip hacks into practice can normalize every trip within reason, which can make excursions more enjoyable and predictable for everyone involved.
Pack Adventures from Scratch for Extra Family Fun
Are you headed on a vacation with your family? It’s always good to have some extra tricks up your sleeve when traveling with the whole gang. Adventures From Scratch: Family Edition includes over 50 challenges, as well as tear-out surprises and other interactive elements. Try a task while in a new city or use it on a rainy day during a trip to the beach. Grab your copy today!
Pre-Pack Road Trip Snacks
If you’re going to take a family vacation on the road with your kids, it’s wise to pre-pack some road trip snacks. Before your next road trip, get two 16-quart plastic tubs and label one “Heading Out” and the other “Heading Home.” Fill each tub with snacks that are pre-packed, such as mini bags of chips and granola bars, and homemade snacks stowed in individually portioned resealable sandwich bags.
What are some of the homemade snacks you might want to prepare on your own? Here are a few ideas:
- Pre-sliced fruits such as apples
- Baby carrots
- Toasted nuts
- Boiled eggs
- Snack or trail mix
- Beef or turkey jerky
- Seasoned pumpkin seeds
- Cereal bars
The key to preparing snacks for a road trip is to ensure they’re appropriately portioned, appealing, and unlikely to make a mess. It’s a wise idea to pack mostly satisfying, healthy snacks, but you should mix things up a bit by including some indulgent snacks in both your heading out and heading home bins so your kids can enjoy the occasional treat during your trip.
When you pack your snacks, make sure all the drinks you include in each bin will make for a mess-free experience when your kids imbibe. That means you should ensure each drink has its own straw or a cap that your kids have the dexterity to secure after each sip. With that in mind, you should avoid packing mini cartons of milk that have an opening that can’t be resealed between gulps.
Create Spaces for Your Kids to Eat and Create
One of the best family road trip tips you’ll ever get is to create individual spaces for your kids to eat their meals and snacks and do things like use their crayons and coloring books. Doing this is simple. Visit a local dollar store and pick up some shoe organizers. Sling one over each headrest your children will sit behind during your upcoming family road trip.
You can store items like crafting supplies and/or an iPad in each shoe organizer. When your kids unzip their individual shoe organizers, they can use the flat side as a convenient dining or crafting table. The edges of those “tables” will serve as boundaries marking each child’s space in your vehicle. If you want to avoid “I’m not touching you” battles, it’s imperative that you do your best to define individual spaces for each of your tiny travelers, and affordable shoe organizers can help tremendously.
Add Paper Towels, Wipes, and Hand Sanitizer to Your Packing List
No matter how well you prepare for family travel, accidents will happen. Drinks will spill, fast food will spatter, and crayons will leave their mark during your car ride. To undo the damage before stains set in, you’ll need to pack some paper towels and the requisite cleaning solution.
You should also pack some hand wipes. Eating on the road often equates to sticky or condiment-covered hands that need to be cleaned ASAP. Will you take your kids to the potty at a gas station or two during your upcoming excursion? If so, you need to remember that there is no guarantee that the pit stops you’ll visit will have antibacterial soap. For this reason, and the fact that the world is still grappling with a pandemic, it’s vital that you travel with hand wipes and hand sanitizer.
Be Prepared for Car Sickness
It’s not unusual for passengers to feel ill during long road trips. Motion sickness can strike at any time, so it’s best to be prepared beforehand. Get a mini pop-up trash can. Line the trash can with several overlapping plastic bags you got from the grocery store. Stow the trash can in an easily accessible spot in your vehicle.
If someone gets sick during your trip, the person can grab the mini trash can when they need it. By pre-lining the bin with multiple bags, cleaning up after each incident, and being ready for the next will be a cinch.
Plan Your Route Around Bathroom Breaks, Rest Stops, and Roadside Attractions
When you travel with your whole family, planning your route around certain things is a good idea. Those things include bathroom breaks, driver resting areas, and attractions that will interest you and your family.
Whether you’re traveling with older kids or younger passengers, you don’t want to leave potty breaks to chance. Plan the path to your ultimate destination so that it’s convenient to make a stop to use the bathroom whenever someone has to do so.
Here are some travel apps that can help you plan your trip so that a restroom is never too far away:
Places for Your Driver to Take a Breather
Even if you’re planning to split the driving with your significant other, the odds are good that the person in the driver’s seat will need to take a break from time to time, especially if your road trip is on the longer side. You might not even need a breather due to exhaustion. Sometimes answering repeat questions like, “Are we there yet?” over and over again is enough to literally drive someone out of their position behind the wheel.
Just like you should keep available bathrooms in mind as you plan your trip, you should do the same with potential driver rest stops. The deeper you get into planning your route, the quicker you’ll realize that the places you can stop to use the restroom and allow your driver to get some rest are often one and the same.
In many cases, a family road trip is more about the journey than it is about the final destination. You can increase the odds that will be the case for your upcoming family vacation by planning to stop at some roadside attractions that will interest your family. Some of the attractions you may want to visit include:
- Historic sites
- National parks
- Theme parks
- Local shops that are unique to a given area
- Art Galleries
Take Advance Steps to Keep Devices Charged and Passengers Connected
Several days before you plan to leave for a family road trip, you need to take steps to ensure your devices and your kids’ gadgets will remain charged throughout your upcoming adventure. Start collecting chargers and, if need be, order a few portable power banks from Amazon. Make sure you order any necessary power banks far enough in advance so you can fully charge them before your departure.
Are you bringing a device like a portable DVD player that runs on batteries on your trip? If so, determine the battery size the device needs and pack some extra batteries just in case.
You also need to ensure your traveling companions can stay connected during your outing. If your vehicle doesn’t have a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot and you can’t use your mobile phone as a hotspot, consider buying one from Amazon. As you probably guessed, Amazon has a variety of high-speed Wi-Fi hotspots available at reasonable prices.
Make a Family- and Kid-Friendly Playlist
Even if your automobile has satellite radio, it’s advisable to make a playlist before you hit the road. Ask your partner and your kids to choose some songs they want you to include. Doing so can shed some light on your family’s musical preferences and interests. By getting your whole family involved with making a curated list, you’ll ensure everyone has something to look forward to hearing when you hit play.
Download Some Audiobooks and Movies
Depending on the route you choose, you may experience “dead spots” during your family road trip. You can prepare to fill those voids in advance by downloading some age-appropriate audiobooks and movies on each of your children’s devices as well as your own. By downloading ahead of time, you’ll ensure your kids can enjoy some screen time even as you travel through an area where you don’t have an internet connection.
Learn Some Road Trip Games
Hitting the road with your family gives everyone the chance to play some road trip games that don’t require any electronic devices. If you do a quick search for “car games for kids,” your SERPs will likely include lists of games that have printable directions. Car games run the gambit from somewhat brainless endeavors to more challenging competitions, so you’ll have plenty of age-appropriate options to choose from.
The License Plate Game
This is one of the simplest games you can play with your children. To play this game, instruct participants to look for license plates from different states, including the one you’re currently in. Every time someone spots a plate from a new state, that player gets a point. If a passenger spots a license plate from another country, the player gets bonus points. The person who accumulates the most points by the end of your drive wins the game.
Like the license plate game, twenty questions is a breeze to play. Each player will take a turn at thinking of a person, place, or thing. Other participants will then ask yes or no questions as they try to identify what the chosen player thought of. After your group has asked 20 questions, each player will guess what’s on the mind of the player tasked with thinking of something. Whoever guesses what it is first wins that round. The family member who wins the most rounds also wins the game.
The Alphabet Game
To play the alphabet game, have one child look out the right side of your car and another look out the left. Tell each player to look for letters of the alphabet on signs or buildings. The goal is for players to find all the letters of the alphabet in order. The player who achieves that first is the winner.
Storytime is a wonderful way to give everyone’s creative muscles a healthy workout as you travel along the highway. You can start things off by saying, “Once upon a time,” with the next person finishing your sentence. From there, participants will each add a subsequent sentence in succession.
There are several ways to end a round of storytime. You can wrap up the game after 15 minutes of play or you can end things after everyone has contributed three sentences. Be sure everyone knows how the game will draw to a close to ensure your family’s tale will have a conclusion.
While no one wins this game, it’s a fun way to make a family story. To preserve the tale, record the story using your smartphone. When you get home, you can transcribe the tale, print it out, and make mini books for all your family members. If one of your kids is artistic, ask your little one to create some illustrations you can include in the book before you bind the pages together.
Store a Stocked First Aid Kit and Emergency Kit in Your Vehicle
A lot can happen during a road trip. Your kids may get nicked by a branch during a hike, they may close the car door on one of their fingers, or they may inadvertently step in some poison ivy with sandals on. You need to be prepared to handle all those possible occurrences and a lot more. With that in mind, it’s advisable to put a fully stocked first aid kit in an accessible place in your automobile.
There are plenty of things that can leave you stranded on the side of the road, too. A tire may go flat, your battery may die, or you might run out of gas. If any of those things happen, it might take hours for help to arrive. During that time, you and your children might get hungry or thirsty. To make sure you can satisfy your children’s hunger and thirst, you should stow some non-perishable snacks and water bottles near your first aid kit.
Your roadside emergency kit should also include the supplies you’ll need to perform minor fixes. Here are some of the things you should put in your kit:
- Collapsible shovel
- Road flares and reflective triangles
- Duct tape
- Jumper cables
- Tire inflator like Fix-a-Flat
- Properly sized lug wrench
- Tire pressure gauge
Finally, your roadside emergency kit should include blankets and a few pieces of outerwear for changeable weather. It’s worth noting that you should always have these emergency supplies in your vehicle because things can go awry close to home just as readily as they can spiral out of control during a road trip.
Book a Scavenger Hunt
If you want to guarantee you’ll have even more fun at your final destination, we suggest you book a scavenger hunt with Let’s Roam before you pull out of your driveway. Let’s Roam has put together hunts in more than 400 cities across the globe, so finding one in your destination city or a nearby area is usually an easy task.
During your hunt, your family will work together to solve puzzles and find clues. With a given hunt taking your family to different attractions, a hunt is a fantastic way to get to know a new city. It’s also a great way for your kids to burn off some pent-up energy. Depending on your children’s ages, an action-packed hunt may be just the thing you need to increase the odds your kids will take naps and give you and your significant other some much-needed downtime.
Don’t Leave Home Without a Toy Claw
What can cause some tense moments during a road trip other than being asked are we there yet again and again? Being asked to contort your body to retrieve the toys your kids drop in the back seat, that’s what. When a child is buckled into a car seat, it’s often impossible for the child to retrieve dropped toys without assistance, which can lead to frustration and unhappy tears.
Of course, the same happening can cause you to have a similar reaction because twisting your arm the wrong way to grab a plaything can be painful. To keep everyone pain-free and in good spirits, arm your kids with a toy claw. Using the gripper is fun and the device will empower your children to pick up their things without having to ask for help.
If you only heed one of our actionable travel tips, we encourage you to make it this one. When you travel with multiple kids, make sure they each have their own toy claw. The few extra dollars you’ll spend on separate grippers is like making an investment in your peace of mind. With everyone having their own claw, your kids won’t have reason to fight over who gets to use them as they likely would if they only had access to one gripper.
Decide When You’ll Leave
Deciding when you’ll embark on your road trip involves several key factors, such as the ages of your kids. If your children are younger, you may want to leave during the night. By traveling at night, you’ll increase the odds that your young children will sleep through your journey or at least take a few lengthy naps, which can prevent them from getting bored and whiny.
Are your kids older? If so, you may want to leave early in the morning instead. That’s particularly true if your kids are old enough to drive, you intend to split driving duty with them, and your kids just got their permits or driver’s licenses.
Make Sure the Driver Is Well Rested
Drowsy driving is one of the leading causes of auto accidents and road-related deaths. To avoid trouble, you need to make sure whoever is in the driver’s seat is well-rested and alert. If you’re driving and you start to feel your eyelids getting heavy, pull into a rest area or stop at a hotel or motel at the earliest opportunity.
A road trip is no time to take any chances behind the wheel. If you’re tired, find a nearby place where you can get some well-deserved rest even if it’s just a quick 10-minute power nap.
Frequently Asked Questions
Road trip tips for families often recommend keeping kids busy with travel games, songs, and other entertaining activities on the road. It’s also important to pack delicious and nutritious road trip snacks.