Skip to Content

How to Master Road Trips with Toddlers & Kids

Taking long road trips can be exhausting, especially parents with active preschoolers and cranky babies.

The following is a comprehensive guide on how to manage road trips without meltdowns. 

12 Tips on Mastering Road Trips with Your Toddlers & Kids

  • Safety first
    Before you start your journey, check if your child’s car seat is properly installed because often it is not. Pack basic car safety equipment, a flashlight, a first-aid kit and plenty of water.

    Bring a phone charger and an extra battery and charge your phone before you leave. Sleep deprivation can cause frazzled nerves and result in unsafe driving, so get a good night’s sleep before your trip. If your children’s are well-rested and calm than it is also helpful.
  • Seating arrangements
    If you are traveling with more than one child, then rent a minivan if you don’t have one.

    A minivan will give you more flexibility about sitting arrangement and help pack more gear. Even if you use a van with built-in seats, take your own car seats because your kids might find them more comfortable for long journeys.
  • Pack strategically
    For easy access, pack everything you need on the road separately, so you don’t have to open your big suitcase every time you want something.

    For example, keep basic outdoor supplies, such as mosquito repellent and sunscreen in their own bag and keep hats and jackets within easy reach. If you are going to a warm climate, then pack towels and swimsuits in a beach bag because if you find a great watering hole along the way, you can jump in along with your kids.

    Keep sealing plastic bags, unscented baby wipes, and a change of clothes handy for you and your kids in case of a motion sickness, diaper blowout or another mess.
  • Don’t overload on electronics
    Taking a road trip is the perfect opportunity for your kids to find more imaginative ways to entertain themselves during the journey. So don’t overload on electronics and use iPad and DVD players a little more judiciously.
  • Driving at night
    If your kids are younger (2 and under), than driving at night will definitely help. Keeping babies occupied for a couple of hours at a time during the trip is difficult.

    Sleeping babies meant the driver could fully concentrate on the driving, which is essential. If your kids are a bit older, then schedule your driving time according to their eating and sleeping routine.

    If example, you could start the journey before lunchtime and let your kid eat in the car. This way they will sleep during the rest of the journey while you log some miles.
  • Pack healthy snacks
    Skip the drive-through restaurants and bring healthier homemade foods with you. Bring foods such as honey roasted pecans, bake bread, boiled eggs, apples, dried fruit, string cheese, tubes of yogurt and other perishables. Don’t bring fruit or juice boxes.
  • Map out breaks
    You are traveling with kids so don’t leave your rest stops to chance. Do some research on your route and find great roadside attractions, local eateries and other spots for a good pit stop.

    Find interesting places to stop for breaks, such as charming towns, museums, and historic sites. Also find beautiful places for picnics, including waterfalls, lakes and state parks.

    Make sure your kids burn some calories outside doing activities, so they will fall asleep quickly while inside the car. If nothing else, stopping at a park or playground for a few minutes during your trip is a great way to get a bit of fresh air and exercise for your kids. If the weather is not ideal, then stopping at a mall with a food court is another option.
  • Planning mealtimes when you are traveling with a baby
    Stop for a mealtime when your baby is awake and alert and choose baby friendly locations. If the weather is good, choose a rest stop or a park instead of a restaurant.

    If you are giving your baby expressed breast milk, then keep it in a cooler with frozen cold packs or ice for up to 24 hours. Use a thermos to keep it warm or warm it in a bowl of warm water.

    If you are giving your baby formula, pack a thermos of warm water and bottles of premeasured powdered formula. When you need to feed the baby, pour the warm water into the bottle, shake well and then serve.
  • If you are traveling with toddlers and older kids
    As mentioned before, plan your breaks properly and pick kid-friendly restaurants. Look for a restaurant with an open outdoor area where your kids can run around and play. Always ask for a kid’s menu because many restaurants offer discounted kids meals.
  • Stop those annoying questions
    “Are we there yet.” Is the most common question from kids to the parents when taking a road trip. To answer it, simply give them the map and ask them to figure out how long it will take.

    This will help in several ways, one – the ability to read a map is a valuable life skill, and your kids will be happy to do it because they got a job instead of just sitting in the car.
  • Prepare for emergencies
    When taking a road trip, make sure you have a roadside emergency kit stocked with blankets, extra food, and blankets; the kit is very useful especially during the winter travel.

    Also, when driving always bring a list of contact numbers – relatives, roadside assistance, and pediatricians. A written direction for the trip or a printed map and contact numbers might prove invaluable in the unfortunate event of an accident.
  • Spoil your kids a little
    During long travel, give your kids a few special treats than you normally do, like candy or lunch at a fast-food restaurant. You can also let them buy a new toy or pick a special snack.

    That special snack or toy can be enjoyed after one hour of driving without complaining. You are asking your kids to stay calm during travel, so forget about educational toys or giving them healthy foods while taking long drives.

How to Prevent Backseat Meltdowns

Squabbling siblings and fussy babies can turn your road trip into a nightmare. Tips to keep the peace while driving:

  • Make sure your kids are well-fed and well-rested before the trip because well-fed and well-rested kids are less likely to get cranky or start a fight with their siblings.

  • If both parents are traveling, then let your partner drive the car, sit in the back seat and join your kids. Your presence is enough to ward off any fussy fits. Also, you can help with car activities like sticker books or offer snacks and toys.

  • If you are driving a van, then allocate different rows for different kids when things are getting out of hand. On the other hand, if you have a smaller car, stick pillows between your kids to give each their own space.

  • Defuse drama: If a fight erupts between siblings, try to distract kids with a car game or pull over to take a break. You want to enjoy your road trip with your family, even if it takes a little longer than planned. Breathing some fresh air, stretching your legs or playing a game of tag can help you recharge.