Surviving a Road Trip with Young Kids

Erin Lorton

We love to take trips as a family. Weekend trips exploring our state or long road trips discovering new and exciting places. However, traveling as a family of five with three toddler boys is anything but easy! Picture the Griswolds on steroids. We miss our exit, the GPS doesn’t realize the construction has shut down the highway, we hit a pothole and my to-go coffee goes flying, and the vehicle is filled with ”Are we there yet’s??” and ”He’s touching me again!” . It is then you realize your baby just had a blow-out all over the car-seat. This momma is ready to throw in the towel and call it quits on family road trips. However, we aren’t willing to give up on traveling until the kids are bigger. These special times away connect us as a family and the good memories far outweigh the bad ones, and the bad ones even become funny … eventually.

But I decided I had to get smart about our road trip adventures. Through experience, Pinterest and blogs I was able to compile a list of my top five ways to survive (and have fun) on a road trip with small kiddos.

1. Timing.

Timing really is everything. Leaving at rush hour will start the trip off with anxiety and frustration. Leave right before nap-time or bedtime will start the trip off with a long quiet nap, which will be peaceful for everyone involved.

For longer trips plan on packing a picnic and finding a fun park along the way. A little 30 minute lunch and play break will do wonders for your children — and for mom and dad too! Don’t forget to have everyone use the potty and do diaper changes.

2. iPad.

Be sure to download movies onto your iPad or electronic device. Just make sure you download movies and shows before you leave. Wi-Fi isn’t always available but required to download movies. I’ve learned this the hard way!

3. Activity Bags.

Buy a pack of gallon Ziploc bags, and fill each one with a different activity.

Some ideas include:

  • Seek and find dry erase books and a dry erase marker
  • Interlocking mini building blocks
  • Shoestring puzzles
  • Miniature coloring books
  • Glow sticks

You can use the timer on your phone to alert everyone when it’s time to rotate activities, this will eliminate the ‘’can we switch yet?’’ inquiries. You can do the same thing with snacks. Take snack-size bags and place a variety of trail mix, goldfish, blueberries, granola, squeezable apple sauce, fruit snacks, etc. into each one. This makes snack time easy and quick.

4. Clothing.

This may sound like a silly point but make sure you and your kids are dressed comfortably. Wearing restrictive clothing can make a long road trip very uncomfortable.

5. Games.

There are tons of games you can play as a family to pass the time. I Spy, The Alphabet Game, Car Bingo, Would You Rather are just a few games you can play with little ones. Get creative and make up your own family games, your kids will think that is the best!

Remember to be flexible and leave room for margin. Plan extra time for detours, potty breaks and make sure to take some time to enjoy the ride!

Erin is the mother of three little boys (5,4 and 2), and the wife to a wonderful man. Erin and her brood live in the St. Louis area and love spending the weekends exploring their great city as a family of five!

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What is your best tip on traveling with small children?