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Family Road Trip Tips for a Fun and Stress-Free Journey

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Depending on how you prepare, a road trip with kids can feel either like a terrible chore or a fun-filled adventure. Before you hit the road, be sure to read our tips when preparing for a fun family road trip with kids. These suggestions will help keep parents sane and kids content during your journey.

Family road trip tips for a fun and stress-free vacation with kids

Plan some pitstops

Before leaving home, be sure to map out your journey. Plug your destination into your smartphone's map or a mapping website to get a realistic picture of how long your road trip will take. This will also enable you to plan some fun pitstops. Do a web search for fun things to do in towns along your route. At minimum, plan to stop at a park or two during your trip to allow kids some outdoor play and let parents stretch their legs. Bring along some no-spill bubbles, a Frisbee and a ball for entertainment in case you can't find a park with playground equipment.

Plan pitstops during your family road trip

Plan pitstops during your family road trip (Photo credit: szefei, Depositphotos.com)

Stay on course during your family road trip

Even though many cars come equipped with GPS, you might also want to buy a paper map to help plot your journey. Then, even if you're using your smart phone for navigation, if you lose WiFi you will still be able to find your destination. Plus, a paper map can be a fun way for children to track your family's progress and get a real-life geography lesson.

Track your family's road trip progress with a paper map

Track your family's road trip progress with a paper map (Photo credit: Syda_Productions, Depositphotos.com)

Use snacks as distraction

Keep kids' hands and mouths busy when traveling with oodles of snacks. Pack healthy goodies in separate containers and slowly dole them out to get the most bang for your family road trip buck. Bring along such snacks as whole grain crackers, cereals, trail mix, and sliced fresh fruits. Other suggested road trip snacks include protein bars, hard-boiled eggs, sandwiches and individually wrapped cheeses. Throw in a couple of “forbidden” treats, too, for a whopper of a distraction when you need it most.

You may even want to consider eating your meals on the go and stopping to play instead of expecting children to sit still and use their inside voices during a restaurant meal. Another option is to pack lots of picnic goodies to eat at a park or rest stop along the way.

Pack plenty of healthy snacks for your family road trip

Pack plenty of healthy snacks for your family road trip (Photo credit: klenova, Depositphotos.com)

Play together and apart

If traveling with more than one adult, it works best if one grown-up can join the children in the backseat for at least a portion of the trip. Look at your time on the road as an opportunity to spend some quality time together playing travel games and working on simple arts and crafts projects. Of course, you'll also want to pack some toys for independent play. The Play-N-Go Travel Table Cover shown below makes a great option for traveling toddlers.

Travel toys like the Play-N-Go Travel Table Cover keep kids content on road trips ~ Family Road Trip Tips

Travel toys like the Play-N-Go Travel Table Cover keep kids content on road trips (Photo credit: Bryan Richards)

Rock out on the road

Playing some road trip music that pleases the whole family will make your journey more enjoyable. You can create a special road trip playlist featuring your family's favorite songs.

Turn up the tunes on your family road trip

Turn up the tunes on your family road trip (Photo credit: monkeybusinessimages, iStockphotos.com)

Choose audiobooks for entertainment

I suggest bringing along audiobooks to keep everyone entertained on the road. Listening to a story together can turn a boring stretch of highway into an adventure in an imaginary land. Check out our picks for the best audiobooks for family road trips. Purchase audiobooks on CD if your car has a player, or you can download the stories to your smartphone and play them through your car's bluetooth system.

Listening to an audiobook can turn a boring stretch of highway into an adventure in an imaginary land ~ Family Road Trip Tips

Listening to an audiobook can turn a boring stretch of highway into an adventure in an imaginary land (Photo credit: belchonock, Depositphotos.com)

Take steps to stay safe and comfortable

When I was a kid, my brother and I climbed into the “way back” of our wood-paneled spitfire orange station wagon during family road trips. We spread out on pillows and blankets from home and, if our parents were lucky, we napped for at least a portion of the journey. Today we know how important it is for kids to remain seated and safely buckled in a car seat, booster seat or seat belt. To make the trek more comfy for your children, bring along a kid's neck pillow or mini Pillow Pet and a favorite blankie or stuffed toy (like this this adorable elephant!).

Everyone should stay buckled during your family road trip for safety's sake

Everyone should stay buckled during your family road trip for safety's sake (Photo credit: lsantilli, Depositphotos.com)

Of course, you should make sure your car is up-to-date on tune-ups and oil changes before hitting the road. Bring along an emergency road kit, too, filled with bandages, antiseptic wipes or spray, jumper cables, and other necessities. You can also download our checklist for traveling with kids for more tips to prepare your family for the fun adventure!

If you follow these family road trip tips, I bet the miles on the road with your kids will zoom by!

Do you have any tips for planning a fun family road trip with kids or questions? Please let us know in the comments below!

About Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama

Colleen Lanin, MBA, is the founder and editor-in-chief of the popular travel blog, TravelMamas.com. She is an expert in travel with kids and without. As the author of the book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents how to make the most of traveling with babies and children. Colleen loves sharing tips on hotels, cruises, spas, theme parks, and global lifestyle topics. When she is not traveling the world, she lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

Comments
  1. Solitary Selcouth says

    What a great post! I loved the advice you gave for packing, driving routes and music. It was really helpful to know about all of these things beforehand (and yes, we will be stopping at every rest stop!). My family is looking forward to our road trip because it’s going to be so much fun–thanks for giving us some awesome tips!

  2. Thank you for informative post.
    Google Maps is awesome for driving directions, but it’s infinitely more fun to track your progress on a real, printed-out atlas. Trace your route on the map as you go along, then hang it in your bedroom or office to smile at every day.

  3. These are great tips. Thank you! One thing I wanted to mention is that you can download “offline maps” with google maps! It can take a while to download them, so you want to be sure to do it before the day you drive, but it’s nice if you lose reception.

  4. Flyingkids says

    Roads trips are fun and exciting until children get fussy. These tips are really helpful!

  5. So Here in Belgium as well.. snacks are the best distraction during road trips 😉

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