selective focus photography of yellow school bus die cast

By Amber

Thinking of taking a road trip with kids soon? Nervous about how to occupy them for hours at a time? Think you’ll be making pit stops every 10 minutes? We’ve gone on countless road trips with kids and survived to tell the tale. Follow along for part one of this road warrior survival guide!

Remember the glory days of hopping in your car, windows down, awesome 90’s music blaring, driving anywhere, and stopping when you feel like it?

You procreated. Those days are over.

If you tried that tactic on a road trip now, the wind would be too windy, the music would be too old, too loud, or too inappropriate. You wouldn’t be able to tell your offspring how much longer it would take and someone would probably pee in the car.

It doesn’t have to be that bad! In fact, my family actually enjoys road trips. Over my 11 years of parenting, we’ve taken road trips of 4-20 hours almost annually and lived to tell the tale. Keep reading for some of my secrets!



Are you a list maker? I am! When we are traveling I have a suitcase list and a car list (among other lists…I may have a problem). I want to be sure I have access to certain things while we are on the road and I won’t have to pull over, open up a suitcase and dig around for Motrin at 4 AM in the middle of Ohio farm country….(learn from my mistakes!).


  • If you still have kids in diapers make sure you have a small diaper bag ready so you can grab it easily at pit stops.
  • You will also want to plan for road snacks & cleaning supplies (more about this in a minute).
  • Surprises and activities for the kids.
  • Taking a purse? Clean out your wallet of items you won’t need on vacation like your library card. Make sure you have things you might need like a roadside assistance card!
  • Make a list of chargers you will need during your trip.
  • List of addresses, phone numbers & confirmation numbers for hotels.
  • Minor car repair items – a tire pressure gauge & a flashlight can be very reassuring when the levels dip while driving through the mountains!


If you get nothing else from this post, you should remember to act like a good scout and be prepared for anything!

Bring the following for a car sick emergency:

  • Disinfecting wipes for cleaning up a mess.
  • Baby wipes for cleaning up a kid.
  • A paper grocery bag – lined with a plastic grocery bag for a sick bag.
  • Gallon-sized zipper bags to put smelly and soiled clothing into until you can get somewhere to wash them.
  • Sour or ginger candy to help with nausea.
  • A roll of paper towel.

We also travel with extra disinfecting wipes for the hotel room. Little hands just love to grab that gross TV remote control and try to eat it!

Will you have bottles or sippy cups with you? Bring a travel-sized container of dish soap. A travel bottle rack is also really helpful but not a necessity.


At our house, there are a few road trip snacks that are just required – red licorice, Chicago-style popcorn (preferably Sam’s Club size), beef jerky (even though I hate it, and the way it stinks up the whole car), and caffeine for the drivers!

I pack a small cooler filled with our favorite caffeinated drinks-iced coffee for him, iced tea for me, and keep it accessible to the front seats. I use a reusable grocery bag or a diaper box (the sizes are great) to store our snacks. Don’t forget to bring snacks for the hotel room too!

Each kid gets their own stash next to them in the car. I fill a large zipper bag or plastic storage container with granola bars, raisins, fruit snacks, applesauce pouches, and maybe a treat or two as well. They know they need to ration it because it’s all they are getting for snacks for the day. It gets refilled as needed each new day of the drive.

When traveling with infants I make sure to bring bottled water with us for formula bottles. We drink city water where we are from but I know not all areas have that luxury. I use a formula storage container for the day’s bottles and just pack the entire formula container to refill daily.

If breastfeeding, I suggest having a travel pump. The baby may sleep through feedings in the car and a sleeping baby is a happy road trip baby. Let them snore and pump to the store!

If kids are in diapers then they also have access to a water bottle. If they are going to require frequent bathroom stops, water is on an as-needed basis! The more stops you have to make = the longer the ride takes = the more fun is more likely to wear off.


Okay, you’ve made your list, you’ve bought your stuff and you’re getting ready to head out onto the open road.

The night before the trip, fill up with gas, check tire pressure and pack the car as much as possible. We have everything ready to go besides the kids and the cooler. This includes blankets waiting for the kids in their car seats and setting up the GPS.

We like to leave the house so that our kids sleep for the first leg of the trip (usually around 4 AM). This way you’ve made some good progress without any whining or entertainment needed! We scoop them up from the bed and have them go to the bathroom one last time before putting them into the car. By the time the kids are waking up around 8:00, you’ll need to stop for gas and breakfast anyway.

We find a clean fast food joint and march the crew in to change out of their PJs. If you have enough room in your vehicle the kids can change in the back! Don’t worry about what you look like if you’re stopping at an interstate exit they are used to seeing weary travelers. An important road trip motto is: I will never see these people again…

Acoustic Post - Road Trip with Kids
Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on

Preparing for the road trip is not the fun part, but good prep allows the fun to happen. Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed by the lists here. If you see a good suggestion make a note on your phone for later and keep planning!

I’d love to hear any questions you have about my road trip with kid’s preparation tips!

Subscribe so you don’t miss the rest of this series! Packing lists, entertainment ideas, and more tips to come soon for road trips with kids!

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  1. Really great tips. I’m sure they will be helpful to people traveling with kids.

  2. I will be taking my first road trip with kids next month. Glad I came across this post today 🙂

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