family road trip tips

Are you taking a long trip with young kids this summer? It will be okay!

Below are so many great tips and ways to survive long road trips to make road trips in the car a lot more bearable when you have babies, toddlers, and small kids to travel with. You may actually even enjoy the road trip– just a little!

Drive Overnight

This is #1 tip. It is soo much better to drive at night. Hands down. The roads are empty and your kids are quiet and sleeping. It is so less stressful. I know it’s not always possible, but when possible, try to shoot for night driving.

If you are afraid you may be too exhausted for it, put the whole family by eight if possible (or whatever may be typical) including yourself and then wake up really early and throw the kids in the car by 3AM or however you want to do it. That way, you’ve gotten a solid 5-6 hours of sleep yourself and your kids will (hopefully) fall back asleep and you’ll get the peaceful roads and car for a few hours before it’s time for the first pit stop for gas, breakfast, and bathroom breaks and you’ve already knocked four hours out of your trip.

I have a friend who travels by herself with just her kids for her 10-hour trip to visit family and she does the half overnight/half day travel thing. She’ll usually have everything ready the night before, and then put sleepy kids in her car by 3-4AM and be at her destination by the afternoon.

We leave just after dinner and go right through the night but there’s two of us that don’t mind driving, so we get to sleep when the other one is driving, and go back and forth every 5-6 hours or so. When you have small kids you are use to being up at all hours of the night, so it wasn’t as bad as I imagined.

It’s just so much easier and more peaceful to do the night thing. I find that the trip actually goes much faster (and smoother) when you night drive!

Keep ‘Em Bored

Keep those kids bored. MADNESS RIGHT?!

My kids do pretty well on long trips and I think one of the reason’s is because they are use to being bored. We don’t always entertain them at home or in the car. We never had a DVD player or any screens in the car when they were really small, and we try not to entertain them when we have short rides.

Keeping kids bored can be such a blessing because they can figure out how to entertain themselves and enjoy the little things.

Now that they are a tad older (elementary age), they bag there own “fun bag” and it’s basically things for them to do when they get bored. My eight year old mainly packs pads of paper and markers and that keeps him fairly busy. He’ll bring the bag, place it next to him, and go to town with whatever he wants to do.

Start training your kids now to be bored and entertain themselves so they will do better in the car for future car rides!

Keep ‘Em Busy

The opposite advice from above, but hear me out. Not only do we keep them bored, we also keep them busy.

Sometimes when we stop for breakfast, we take it to go because my kids are pretty slow eaters and some of the foods make it easy to eat on the go (like McDonald’s hotcakes). They stay busy and eat their breakfast in blissful silence for 30 minutes and we knock an half hour off our travels because we’re not eating in the restaurant.

Also, traveling is a lot and you can’t expect them to stay good for a zillion hours of travel. We usually do an hour of boredom for some time for TV, iPad, Switch, etc.

We usually will bring along the Nintendo Switch for longer rides and that’s usually the go-to car ride favorite. I love how easy the Switch travels and can be used as a handheld device or hooked up to the TV. Since we usually won’t hook it up while we are actually on vacation, I don’t mind giving a little extra video game time on car rides.

My younger one still gets car sick easily so we really limit his screen time since sick children isn’t fun for anyone involved, but if you have kids that can handle it, don’t feel to guilty over it since you’ll be spending tons of time over vacation together.

Know When To Stop

Sometimes you have to stop. Gas, food, bathroom breaks, and sometimes, those kids just need a break. The more we travel, the better we know when and how to use those stops.

Sometimes you can get away with a quick gas/bathroom stop and take food to go, and sometimes you can’t. I love when our rest stops are quick but sometimes it’s great to get out, stretch those legs and just be out of the car for a minute. We will do a mix of eating to-go and eating there, we kind of base it on everybody’s mood and what we all may need. Sometimes we just need to get there and sometimes we can slow the pace down and do some fun stops.

I think the important thing is to know when to stop and when to go.

Plan for Anything

We often go with the flow and just stop when it’s needed; however, we do plan for anything before our trip now.

One thing I didn’t realize before taking our first family road trip was how different it was driving in other parts of the country was.

The Northeast has convenient travel plazas that has with gas, bathrooms, and food right off the highway. Once we hit Virginia on i-95, I realized we would need to get off the highway every time, which was kind of annoying. I didn’t plan on that.

We have our trip (very loosely) mapped out so we know where some of the bigger gas stations are and the more convenient stops.

I found that we made a lot of mistakes our first few trips. When we first started our road trips, we wasted more time off the highway, just because we didn’t have it planned out as well as I thought. Some 24-hour gas stations would be locked on the inside because the gas was credit card only, so we be able to get gas but not use the bathrooms and get food if needed.

I find the overnight stops are the most important to plan and then figuring out if you are going to hit a major city during rush hour.

I would try to plan for everything or as much as possible and try to be flexible.

I keep apps like Priceline on my phone just in case our plans change and we’d rather stay overnight somewhere instead of pushing ourselves too hard.

I also made a list of playgrounds right off the highway and other short travel stops if we needed a break for my kids.

You never know what can happen when you travel, especially with kids, so I always find that planning for different scenarios can be helpful and reduce stress levels too.

Bring Something New to Keep Kids Busy

New toys, new snacks, new show, whatever it is, bring something fun and new that you know you’re kids are going to love and will keep them busy.

I love going to the Dollar Tree or Target’s Drop Spot for fun and inexpensive toys for the kids. I can usually find something that will keep my kids somewhat busy.

Some of my other favorite toys for road trips and to keep kids are:

Of course snacks are sometimes the best toys too!

Practice Makes Perfect

The more you travel, the easier it gets. I promise. Our kids have gotten so much better on road trips with age and experience. The first road trip it took, it took us DOUBLE the time to get there and it was only a 3-hour trip from home! I felt so defeated, but luckily that first road trip was the worst one with our kids!

We’ve gotten a lot better at finding the best places to stop, when we really need to stop, and when we can push it along a bit. Also, the only they get, the better travelers they are becoming!


I hope you found these road trip tips for toddlers and kids helpful and you can now survive long road trips with your young kids! It does get easier, especially with practice!

Do you have any tips for traveling with babies, toddlers, or kids for long car rides? Feel free to share!

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