Are we there yet? My 10 best tips for car trips with kids.

by Shae on December 12, 2012

I’ve taken my kids on a road trip or twenty and I feel like it just keeps getting easier. I thought I’d share some of my best tips for long trips in the car in with kids.



-Don’t have any expectations. You may be hell bent on making 3 hours without stopping or everybody being asleep for at least a few hours but the kids won’t have read this memo, nor will they care. They’ll need to pee or stretch their legs pretty regularly and if you set up an expectation that you’re going to get x amount of kms before that happens you might be setting yourself up for some disappointment. Which will no doubt make you cranky. Not fun for anyone.


-Make it as easy as on yourself as possible. Long car rides are not the time to worry about your kids TV habits or how many hours they will play Angry Birds without a break. Use all of the available technology you can-it’s a great time waster and can keep bored kids entertained in cars for AGES. Portable DVD, tablet, iPod, hand held gaming console and so on. Hours in the car is a special circumstance, forget the screen time rules.


-Find a playground to stop at. It doesn’t always have to be a roadhouse where everyone stretches their legs at. Boredom snacking in the car will mean no one is particularly starving so pack a couple of sambos and let the kids run around for 20 minutes at a park instead. The fresh air and exercise will be a huge bonus.


-Pack a full change of clothes for every kid somewhere within easy reach. Spew, spilled drinks, wet pants, sticky fingers. These things happen. An uncomfortable kid is not a happy one and if you can pull over and do a quick change into dry/clean/non puked all over clothes everyone wins.


-Stickers. If your kid is old enough to enjoy stickers then buy a billion of them.


-Drive at a time when the kids might have a sleep. We get up and leave before 4am every time we road trip. Sometimes the kids go straight back to sleep but mostly they sit in sleepy silence for a while but are so exhausted from being woken so early that they crash later. We drove after dinner once for a 5 hour trip and the kids fell asleep and we just transferred them into bed when we got home. Drive at night if you’re good at it or leave just before nap time. No promises though-Harper slept for a grand total of 30 minutes in 13 hours last trip.


-Dress them comfy. leggings, trackies, tee shirts, slippers-pajamas even! You won’t know any of the people at the places you stop so if their ugliest clothes are their most comfortable let them wear them.


-Mostly healthy snacks. Don’t load your kids up on hyper foods when they will be sitting still for hours-it’s a recipe for disaster and back seat fighting. I save the lollie snakes for the afternoon when I need to pull out something cool to get through the last couple of hours.


-New stuff. Whether it’s a new playlist, app, movie, printable activity, toy, stickers, book etc it’s worth having something new to explore to pass the time. You can borrow these from friends of you don’t want to buy or get some op shop/ebay toys that are new to you. It needn’t be a huge money spending consumerist exercise. Check out pinterest for fun ideas for new games to play in the car.


-Don’t decide it’s going to be a nightmare before you even get out of the driveway!  Who knows? It might even be fun.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Jen January 4, 2013 at 10:38 pm

On my (solo adult) first road trip from Melbourne to Sydney with 18 month old & almost 4 year old (in summer time), I packed a bag with all our swimming gear within easy reach. When everything eventually went pear shaped (as expected), I pulled off the freeway at the nearest country town, found the local swimming pool (indicated by handy blue street signs) which fortunately had a big curly waterslide & the kids & I had a ball swimming & watersliding for a couple of hours. Even managed a few hours more on the road after our refreshing swim break.

I know have now done many road trips with our kids & I work on a rough formulaformula for stop breaks: stop at half way mark & again at 3/4 mark of the trip. This has worked v well for us. Also works well to be open to opportunities for surprise stops e.g.. fetes, carnivals that you might see along the way – helps kids to develop a positive association / sense of adventure & unknown with road trips


Jen January 4, 2013 at 10:41 pm

Facial expression snap is another fun car game. Kids use their hands to hide their face then reveal facial expression via peekaboo gesture, calling out ‘snap’ if their facial expressions match


Kirsten McCulloch July 19, 2013 at 9:03 am

I love the idea of developing “sense of adventure & unknown with road trips”. We’ve done a few in our time, with all three kids, and have grown to love them. But the very first one with kid # one, when he was 8 months old. Nightmarish. Talk about not having expectations. We left at nap time so he would sleep. instead he screamed. And screamed. And screamed. Yeah, that was a fun trip.

But, next year we are planning to spend 3-4 months road tripping and camping, so I am on the lookout for all and every tip there is! By the end, we should be pretty expert :)


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