21 Road Trip Tips for Traveling with Kids: The Complete List [Printables]

Nearly everyone grows up road tripping with their family or friends. Whether those times are filled with laughter or disaster, road trips are the perfect time to bond. Prepare for your next fun-filled adventure to make the experience even more special.

Most families still love to put the airport idea on the back burner, opting for a more bonding and budget-friendly travel experience. Of course, traveling by car from point A to point B takes longer, but it makes for a great family adventure. Road trips have their challenges—younger children may get a little fussy with the long travel time and teens may get frustrated without access to wifi. No matter what ages you’re traveling with, we’ve created the ultimate go-to guide for making this journey an exciting and memorable experience for your whole family.

Table of Contents

How to Prepare For a Family Road Trip

Pre-Road Trip Checklist

Download Pre-Road Trip Checklist

1. Service Your Car

If you’ve ever been in a sticky vehicle situation that put you behind schedule, you may have learned the importance of this task the hard way. Schedule an appointment a week before your departure time at your local service center to ensure your car is safe for long-distance travel. Clean the inside and outside of your car, check tire pressure, top off any necessary fluids, and run a diagnostic test to clear your mind of any mishaps.

Not only will this settle your fear of car malfunctions, but it could also save you time and money if any problems arise during your trip.

2. Have a First Aid Kit on Hand

This may sound like a no brainer, but it’s one of the most important tasks to conduct in preparation for your family road trip. Make your own first aid kit or double-check your current kit is loaded up on all the necessities. Common first aid kit items include: band-aids of all sizes, sterile gauze, tape, tweezers, towelettes antiseptic, thermometer, Benadryl, and Advil.

3. Make a Packing List and Check It Twice

There’s nothing like the feeling of defeat when you get halfway towards your destination remembering you forgot one of your main necessities. Compile a list of everything you can’t live without—for some this may mean blankets and pillows, while others that may mean different movies or games to be played. Check items off our easy downloadable checklist for everything you may need during your family road trip travels.

4. Bring a Cooler and Lots of Snacks 

Not only will you want to pack a cooler full of your favorite healthy snacks, you may want to fill it with different meal options like sandwiches or salads. This will help the hunger scares just in case your trip takes an unexpectedly longer turn. Prep your cooler with ice packs, already cut up healthy snacks like apples and carrots, and throw an extra snack bag together with trail mix, energy bars, and even cereal for some non-perishable food options.

How to Enjoy Your Time in the Car

Road Trip Itinerary

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5. Avoid Heated Topics

Driving can be stressful. Keep conversations uplifting, positive, and listen when someone in the family may need to stop for any reason. Come to an understanding before starting your road trip to only talk about the positive to avoid unnecessary distractions while driving.

6. Take Breaks Frequently

To make this journey a little more pleasant, make sure your whole family is using the bathroom at every stop. This way your schedules are at the same time, and you aren’t having to stop every countless times for someone to use the bathroom.

7. Stay Connected and Engaged

Cell phones can be distracting, you’re always wanting to check your emails, social media accounts, or look at texts coming through. While traveling this long distance, try to avoid looking at your phone until you’ve reached your destination. Phones are known to add stress, especially when you’re miles away without easy access to wifi or cell service.

Traveling With a Newborn

Baby Packing Checklist

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8. Triple Check Your Car Seat

Installing a car seat isn’t the easiest thing to do—so make sure every seat in your car is safely secured before taking off. Most fire stations have a seat safety technician staffed at all times if you would like to swing by and have a professional make sure your newborn will be safely secured.

Even add a few backseat mirrors to make sure you have visibility to what is happening in the back seat at all times without causing any distractions while driving.

9. Plan Around Your Baby’s Schedule

Before going on your road trip, figure out your baby’s natural rhythms to get a feel for when you should start, take a break, and settle down for the night. Write down when they normally wake up, get hungry or fuzzy, or may need a diaper change. After that, start planning your driving schedule to avoid frequent emergency stops.

10. Stay Hydrated

Drinking water is hard to do when you think about the many bathroom breaks you may need to take along the way, especially for moms who are breastfeeding. New moms that are breastfeeding should be drinking 12 eight-ounce glasses of water a day at a minimum. Along with staying hydrated, plan for extra pit stops, bring extra nursing tops and a car charger for your milk pump on the go.

Traveling With a Toddler

Scavenger Hunt & Toddler Packing Checklist

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11. Never Leave Your Kid Alone 

This may seem like a hassle to get if you’re just running in for “one minute,” yet this is highly dangerous. Over 20 states have laws that forbid anyone to leave kids unattended in a car due to the rising fatalities. Take the extra time and bring your children along with you to avoid any unfortunate circumstances.

12. Bring a Bucket 

Don’t learn the hard way, and bring a bucket in case your toddler gets a case of the stomach flu or motion sickness. Have it arm’s length away for easy access when anyone in the car starts feeling uneasy.  Along with that, bring multiple bibs for those messy snacks you may not be able to assist with.

13. Stockpile Kids Toys at Arms-Length Away

Consider filling a backpack full of dollar store toys and activities to bring out when the waterworks start to happen. Distract them with fun new fidget toys, small blankie, or our entertaining road trip scavenger hunt printable.

Traveling With Kiddos

Are We There Yet? License Plate Game

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14. Leave Bright and Early

As most kids like to sleep in, take that time to load up and hit the road. If your toddler likes early mornings, consider switching up their sleeping schedule the night before to ensure a later sleep-in time. Since the move from the bed to the car can wake them up, the calming feeling of a car ride can put them right back to sleep.

15. Alternate the Wingman

As most toddlers have never-ending bursts of energy, consider having one parent drive while the other stays in the back for playtime, snacking, napping, or for better bonding time. Every stop you make, switch the wingman in the back to make sure everyone is being well-rested and alert.

16. Pass the Time With Games

The inevitable “are we there yet?” question will continue, especially when it gets closer and closer to the end of your expedition. Throughout your journey, show your little kiddo a map or fill out our printable game to keep this question at ease. Along with that, plan accordingly to keep their attention at bay with toys, games, or movies.

17. Pack Extra Clothes in Plastic Baggies

Things can get messy, so plan for it! Fill plastic baggies with every outfit packed for the duration of your travels. Not only will this give you an easy metric as to how many outfits you have packed, but in the case of a mess, these baggies will come in handy. This allows easy access to grab a new bagged outfit out of the back of your car, and a mess-free bag to pack up the soiled outfit.

Tips for Traveling With Teens

Road Trip Bingo

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18. Get Them Behind the Wheel (If They Are Old Enough)

If your teenager is old enough to drive, have them participate in this journey! Switch out drivers between the whole family every pit stop you make to ensure rest and relaxation for everyone. This can give your teenager more road trip experience while letting everyone else kick back and read a book.

19. Keep Charged and Plugged In 

No matter what you do, teenagers will be glued to their phones. Make sure you have a couple of extra portable chargers for the journey in case any of your batteries get low. Encourage family bonding participation off-screen with our bingo printable for family fun car games for all ages.

20. Compile Movies, Audiobooks, Podcast and Music Playlists

Finding music, audiobooks, podcasts, or movies the whole family will want to listen to can be a large task, especially as your children start becoming teenagers. Compile everything you all want to listen to on a playlist to easily set up without sparking an argument on your long road trip journey.

21. Take Pictures at Every Checkpoint 

Not only can this make for a nice Christmas card, or be put in a frame above your fireplace for next year, this encourages your family to get out of the car to stretch your legs and get a nice breath of fresh air. Make memories and document every milestone of your long road trip journey as a family by taking goofy or serious family selfies at every pitstop, town, or state you enter.

Road trips as a family can be one of the best heartwarming memories kick-starting the holiday season. Make a list and check it twice and make this journey one to remember by taking pictures along the way and singing Christmas music during your travels. Check out our go-to podcasts for newbie parents, our guide on how to keep your family healthy during this long adventure, and our different life insurance options.

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Sources: Business InsiderCape Town Insiders | Traveling Mom | Very Well Family

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