Essential Tips for a Family Road Trip

Parents are often surprised that I enjoy taking family road trips with my husband and 3 kids. I do really love them. There is no better way to discover a new destination then driving through a city or town. If you do a little prep and planning the drive can become part of the vacation and are often some of the best parts of the trip. Here are eight of my favorite family road trip tips that have helped me get through 10+ hours in the car with the family and can help you plan a successful family road trip.

When Flying is Not an Option

Flying can save time. When working around school and work schedules it may be the only choice.  But if you have the time you should consider a family road trip.

There is something special about spending time on the road as a family. You begin to discover different parts of your destination and it can be an unexpected adventure.

I am not promising quiet kids and no complaints. We have had meltdowns and kids puking. It has been chaotic and we can’t wait to get out of the car but it bonds us in a different way than flying does. Whether you love road trips or loathe them, these 8 family road trip tips will help you and your family have a happy road trip adventure.

family road trip tips

Best Family Road Trip Tips to Enjoy the Ride 

Essentials or My Family Road Trip Survival Pack

When planning a long or short family road trip you need some essentials. The things that will help you get through any mess along the way. I always pack the following:

        • Ziploc gallon bags/sandwich bags- For any accidents along the way and to hold extra stuff(crayons, food, etc.)
        • Bowls/Bags- We always bring a plastic bowl lined with a bag from your local grocery store. I bring lots of extra bags. My son often gets car sick and this helps with the clean up. The extra bags also helps with garbage control. I put one in the front with us and one in the back for the kids. They put tissues, food wrappers, etc. When they are full I throw them out at a gas station and replace them.
        • Water bottles/snack bowls- The kids bring a refillable one from home. I also buy the character cups that you can get at walmart/target for .99 cents. These are great for keeping snacks contained along the way.
        • Snacks!!!
        • Baby wipes, tissues, paper towels.
        • Change of clothes

New Movies & Old Favorites

New movies are a great way to pass the time when we are driving long trips. If it is a weekend trip we borrow them from our local library. If it is a longer trip we let each kid pick out a movie to buy. A lot of the stores have a $5 bin for movies and it is a great way to introduce them to different/classic stuff. My kids have really enjoyed discovering Looney Tunes. Another option is renting from Redbox, just be sure to check that your destination has a drop off box close by.

Another Post You May Like: Awesome Family Movie Night

Jammy Jam or The Ultimate PlayList

A Jammy Jam is my families take on the classic “mix-tape”. It is a must have for any road trip. We have been making them every year since 2008. My husband and I have a running list of music that we put together year round and then create a cd(or playlist) for the road trip.

Often we pick favorites that we grew up with and mix it up with music the kids like. It is something we always look forward to. My favorite part about it is listening to the music when we get back and throughout the year. It brings back great memories!!

family road trip tips

Activity Fun Packets

I try to make fun packets for my kids on most trips. Sometimes I will add coloring sheets of states we drive through or license plate bingo. Journaling pages are also great and can be used for any age. The big kids can write and the little kids can draw pictures. These are also great as a keepsake when we return home.

Crayons/Coloring Books & Sticker Books/Activity Books & Electronics 

I try to pick up new sticker books or activity books to surprise the kids on the road. Sometimes we go to the store and they pick. The Dollar Store has great ones and my kids love picking out a new book for the trip. We also pick out new apps that will be fun and entertaining for the drive.

Another Post You May Like: Family Friendly Apps for Road Trips 


I bring a bunch of snacks my kids like and I try to include cut up fruit, grapes, and carrots. Its fun to go to the grocery store and allow each kid to pick out a snack they really like. When we get tired I bring out a special treat. Sometimes its a lollipop or candy, sometimes cookies. Just something to make the trip feel special.

family road trip tips

Something Special From Home

Having something special from home can help your family feel better on long drives. It also helps in hotel rooms for a child that may feel home sick. For my kids this includes pillow, blanket, and their favorite stuffed animal. It can also be a action figure guy or a doll. Anything that makes your kids happy.


Remember the reason you planned this family road trip in the first place…to have a family adventure! The journey can be part of the trip and a little patience can go a long way in keeping the drive fun. Yes they will have to use the bathroom(a lot!), they will want snacks, and need things during the drive. If you approach it with a fun attitude and make it an adventure you will find that it can be enjoyable and you will create memories that will last a lifetime.

Inspired to take a Family Road Trip?? Check out Road Trip: Rochester to Myrtle Beach.

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family road trip tips


  1. 2TravelDads (@2TravelDads) | 18th Mar 17

    Thank you for the reminder about music! We are heading to Florida for a week in a campervan and MUST HAVE TUNES.

    • Leah | 18th Mar 17

      Thanks for reading!! Love our Jammy Jam!!

  2. Annabel | 8th Feb 17

    Some great ideas, thanks, useful for our forthcoming road trip through Sicily. Really like the family music cd to bring back the memories afterwards, will definitely try that!

    • Leah | 8th Feb 17

      Thanks for reading! We are working on our Jammy Jam now!

  3. Momma To Go | 7th Feb 17

    my son gets car sick too so we do plastic bags and paper towels, our next trip is flying but the fun bags will be a great suggestion for that as well!

    • Leah | 7th Feb 17

      It’s always good to be prepared. Have fun on your next trip!

  4. Elizabeth Brico | 5th Feb 17

    My husband has been wanting to take not just a road trip but an *extended* road trip, so I am definitely bookmarking this page. Thanks for taking the time to make this list!

    • Leah | 6th Feb 17

      Thank you for reading! We are planning a big one in a few years!

  5. allthingsmomsydney | 5th Feb 17

    This is such a wonderful post. Thank you for sharing these great ideas, will be sure to use them – especially the travel activity packs.

    Reading this makes me think that road trips are possible and can be enjoyable. I think we should look into this.

    • Leah | 6th Feb 17

      I am so happy that you like it and I inspired you to think about road trips with the family. Start out with a small one and see what works and what doesn’t.

  6. projectlifewellness | 4th Feb 17

    These are such wonderful ideas. My Hubby and I have been talking about taking a road trip for the longest and I think we’re going to finally make it happen this year. not yet sure on the destination but it will likely be a shorter distance drive. Either way, it’s nice to have things to do on the way and be super prepared! thank you so much for sharing these ideas.

    • Leah | 4th Feb 17

      Thanks for reading! Planning is part of the fun!

  7. Little Miss Dexterous | 4th Feb 17

    These are great ideas! Pinned and sharing!

    • Leah | 4th Feb 17

      Thanks so much for reading.

  8. Jalisa Marie | 3rd Feb 17

    Love these. Especially the bags and the baby wipes. My son is three and I still carry wipes around with me everywhere lol.

    • Leah | 3rd Feb 17

      Yes! My youngest is 4 and I like having them too!

  9. Justine Y @ Little Dove | 3rd Feb 17

    These re great tips! And amen to snack, lol. Ziplock bags are another great one, they come in handy for so many things! I just took a bunch in different sizes on our cruise and I was so thankful for them!

    • Leah | 3rd Feb 17

      Me too!! Even without kids they are so useful!

  10. heart, home and hope | 3rd Feb 17

    These tips are so good! I’m pinning this! (And wishing I had a trip planned!)

    • Leah | 3rd Feb 17

      Thank you!! Hope you can start planning soon!

  11. Stephanie Lowry | 3rd Feb 17

    Great ideas! I always over pack haha Always prepared for the what ifs!

    • Leah | 3rd Feb 17

      Yes!! There are always unknowns!

  12. Midori | 3rd Feb 17

    good to know! hahahaha

  13. Hitchy travel stories | 3rd Feb 17

    Great articles even if I can’t relate to all of your advices (no kids 🙂 )
    Some can be used for group travel and even solo travel.

    One thing is sure, When I’ll have kids, I want to continu travelling as often as Possible, huge respect for you guys 🙂

    • Leah | 3rd Feb 17

      Thanks for reading! And thank you so much! I would never want to slow down because of the kids. Honestly I only want to travel more to show them as much as I can.

  14. homeboundbuthopeful | 2nd Feb 17

    You have so many great ideas listed… I usually go to the thrift store a few days before a big trip to pick up new-to-him DVDs for my son to watch. Another favorite way to pass the time for us is to take audio books out from the library- they have so many kid chapter series on cd, and my son can use his headphones with his DVD player to listen on his own too.

    • Leah | 3rd Feb 17

      Thank you! That is a good idea to pick up DVDs at a thrift store.

  15. Meredith from Mommy in Leggings | 2nd Feb 17

    I love your ideas!!! All super helpful, especially the ziplocs! Seriously can’t have enough bags or garbage bags JUST IN CASE! I love the name Jammy Jams too!!

    • Leah | 3rd Feb 17

      Thanks for reading!

  16. Amy Crooks | 2nd Feb 17

    Great tips!! Your kids are so cute in the back seat!! 🙂 We love road trips! 🙂

    • Leah | 3rd Feb 17


  17. onepeainthepod | 2nd Feb 17

    Great ideas! We have a road trip in May I’m going to need these!

    • Leah | 3rd Feb 17

      Very fun! Where are you going?

      • Kate | 3rd Feb 17

        St. Louis! It should be about a five hour drive from our house!

  18. Vicki @ Babies to Bookworms | 2nd Feb 17

    These are great tips! Ziploc bags are a great idea! So many possible uses.

    • Leah | 2nd Feb 17

      Yes!! Dirty clothes, hold snacks, etc…I always need them!

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