The ultimate guide: 50 tips, tricks & ideas for road trips with kids

 Well, my friends, we will soon be traveling across the United States to see all of our family and friends that live far away from us, and we can’t wait to see them!  We are also…driving. (Airline tickets for 8 people + a rental vehicle for that will fit us all… need I say more?)  It’s a 24 hours of driving, plus any stopping along the way, and we’re hoping to do it in 2 days.  We’re a road trip family, and we’ve made this trip several times before, but this will be the first one since our baby arrived.  Six kids, including 2 three year olds and a baby? 
We DEFINITELY need a plan. So, I introduce to you…
ultimate guide to road trips with kids |

I already had a few tried and true favorites, but I really wanted to add to the mix–branch out and find some spankin’ brand new ideas, and I knew just where to go.  I reached out to my fabulous Simply {Kierste} Facebook readers, and I was not disappointed.  I was flooded with tips, tricks, suggestions, and tried and true ideas from parents with a lot of combined road trip experience.  THANK YOU!  I am just so excited to not only implement many of them on our trip, but to share them with all of you.

I’ve divided everything into three categories: Entertainment , Logistics, and Games.  I really want to give credit back to their owners, but there were a lot of people that gave the same/similar ideas, so  instead of trying to list them all under each idea, I’m just going to give you the link to the Facebook post, so you can read through it and see all of the people that shared their awesome ideas!

So…whether you incorporate just one or several of these ideas, I hope it will help you plan and complete the best road trip ever!

entertainment for kids on road trips |{Great ideas to keep those little…and big ones entertained and happy!}

1. Movies

This was one of the number one suggestions, and I have to admit that this is big for us too.  We don’t have a built-in DVD player, but we do have a dual DVD player for the headrests that allows for two different movies going at the same time.  With the span of ages, this has been a huge bonus.  iPads, iPhones, and laptops also work well, and we’ve incorporated all of them.  We have an AC/DC Outlet Adaptor for the car, which has allowed us to plug lots of stuff in!

2. Travel Size Games

You can get many of your family favorites in a pocket-sized version!

3. Spiral Notebook & Fun Pens

The multi-color pens were a fun suggestion, and a practical one, because you get so many colors on just one pen. Spiral notebooks are inexpensive, and you can get hours of entertainment from them!

4. Calculators

This is BRILLIANT!!!  When I read this idea, I knew it was a winner.  My kids love to play with calculators, and at home they can keep them entertained for hours.  I’m definitely packing these on our trip!

5. Audiobooks 

This was another idea that was mentioned many times, and it’s one that we’ve used on every single road trip we’ve taken.  We love to listen to them as a family, and we also get a few that are for the driver. You can check these out from the library.

6.Cookie sheets

I really love the idea of a cookie sheet for each child.  So many possibilities were mentioned: magnets on the backs of puzzle pieces, magnet games, a place for kids to color (and not have their markers or crayons fall off, thanks to the lip around the edge).  You can get these at the dollar store!

7. Give them a camera

 Hand out disposable cameras, or even an old camera or phone and let them take pictures of the trip.  It’s always fun to see something through their eyes, and  I love the idea of being able to compile all the pictures after you’re home.

8.Grab Bag

This was a definite winner from a lot of contributors!  Wrap up a bunch of prizes/toys/games/treats, and create a “Mary Poppins” bag. You can decide on the terms of the bag before you leave–perhaps opening one an hour, or whatever works for your family.  This gives them each something to look forward to, and can be a reward for good behavior along the way.

9. Matchcar on the ceiling

Place velcro on the bottom of a matchbox car, then move it along the car ceiling as you travel…it’s a great visual for “are we there yet”? I have a friend who did this several years ago, and she actually created a little road on the ceiling for the car to travel along.  SO fun!  I know my little boys would especially love this idea.

10. I spy bags

11. Bubbles

Blow bubbles—with the vents on, they go to the back, so they won’t bother the driver! Fun!

12.  Finger lacing/crocheting

A little yarn can provide lots of fun!  There are books on different things you can make and do, and even games, like cat’s cradle. 

13. Color Wonder

This stuff is a mom’s dream come true! No mess.

14. Froot Loop cereal necklaces

What kid doesn’t love their cereal on a necklace? I think this is a super fun idea–a snack around their neck! ☺

15. Fun Music Playlists

Music always makes a trip more fun!  Create a playlist or two before you leave and rock out in the car together! I also like to make “quiet time” playlists, to play when it’s time to rest,  sleep, or to quiet down.

16. USA map

I got a couple of ideas using a map…1.  mark your route on a map so everyone can see where you are, and where you’re going, 2.  copy a map for each child and use it to play the states game, mark then off as you go!

17. Journaling

A long car trip is a great time for journaling–and could be the perfect time to hand out new journals or notebooks specifically for that purpose.

18. Books

I’m a reader, and I’m lucky enough to be able to read in the car…and so are my kids!  Kids can read individually, and you can also read a book out loud together as a family.

19.  Fun treats & snacks

If your kids are anything like mine, they love to eat on road trips.  Pack fun treats and snacks–things you don’t usually have, or favorites–you can use them as motivation, a reward, and just something fun!

20.  Etch-a-Sketch/Magnetic Drawing Boards

21.  Window Clings

Love this–so fun!!

logistics for road trips with kids |{Tips on Organization, Hotel Stays, Eating Out, Kids’ Behavior, and more!}

1. Pack for rest stops

Take a jump rope, sidewalk chalk, or something similar along with you–they’re perfect for rest stops!

2. Organizer over back of seat

You can buy an actual organizer made for headrests, or even a jewelry organizer with all the little pockets! Great for sunglasses, DVD remotes, notebooks, pens/crayons, and more.

3. Print out the all the rest stops along the way

LOVE LOVE this!  This is vital information, lol, and so handy to have!

4. Fabric Bin in between seats

One reader suggested fabric bins in the seat between kids to hold their toys, games, etc. It’s sturdy, holds a lot, and is easy to see into.  If you the room to do this, you are lucky!  Every seat is filled in our vehicle.  ☺

5. Basket for toys

Pack a basket for toys…keeps them organized instead of all over the car.

6. Suction cup holder (for the window)

  Our kids usually have a water bottle of some kind, and it’s really nice to have a place for them.

7. Let everyone have a chance to choose where you eat…

and a no-complaining rule for everyone else!

8.Pack ONE bag for hotel stays

Staying in a hotel along the way? Pack a bag with everything you need for that night, so you don’t have to open and dig through a bunch of suitcases!

9. Give them each a roll of coins: 

Every time they fight, take one away! The rest are theirs to keep.

10. Leave around 2am or 3am…

Put kids in the car in their pajamas.  Stop to get breakfast, and get dressed! You’ll hopefully get several hours in before needing to stop, and it will make the trip seem a lot faster for them.

11. Bring a flashlight

They’re great for finding things at night without waking everyone up!

12. Kid Behavior Clips

13. Individual Snack Bags

We do this a lot, and it works really for us.  I divvy out the treats for the day into individual snack bags, and pass them out to each child. When it’s gone…it’s gone!

14. Redbox

If you do have a DVD player, consider renting and returning from Redbox along the way.  They’re only $1, boxes are pretty much everywhere, and it gives some variety to the movie selection.

15. Quiet Time

Institute a specific quiet time at some point. and have everyone rest or read quietly.  They might even fall asleep!

16. Storing crayons, markers, Twistables, etc.

Use a Parmesan cheese shaker to keep Twistable colored pencils in. They fit perfectly, and are less likely to melt. Wipes cases are perfect for crayons, colored pencils, etc.

17. Let older kids help plan the trip!

If they have a vested interest in the route, it may help make the trip easier for them.

18. “Grabber nabber”

This was described as a great way to pick up toys that fall down without having to stop and get unbuckled! It’s a toy with pincher-like things on one end, so you can just “grab” them from the floor! Love this!

19.  “Clean Up” Supplies

Stock your car with paper towels, garbage sacks, and wipes handy–you never know what messes are going to come your way!

20. Pillow & Blanket

If there’s room, let your child bring their pillow (mine bring their pillow pets) and a blanket.  Most kids will feel better staying someplace other than their own home when they have their own stuff, plus it makes the ride so much more comfortable.

games for road trips with kids |{Some oldies but goodies, and new ideas and printables too!}

1. Concentration

“I’m going on vacation, and in my suitcase I put a ______(comb, swimsuit, toothpaste, etc. Each person says one item and then each person adds an item. You have to repeat ALL items for each turn. It’s really fun and lots of laughs!

2. Count the Cows

Yep, you got it…you literally count cows!  Each side of the car counts cows on their side. Keep a running count…prize for the winner!

3. License Plate game

4. Alphabet Game

Starting with the alphabet, find a word that starts with a , then b, etc. like on billboards, signs, etc. Have fun!!!

5. 20 questions

6. Travel Bingo…Free Printable

7.  Oh the Places We’ll Go…Free Printables for Car Games

8.  Summer Road Games…Free Printable

9.  Telephone

Remember this game from junior high? ☺ Have one person whisper a story or phrase to the person next to them, and they whisper to a third person, and so on.  The last person says it out loud, and everyone gets a good laugh!

10.  The Animal Name Game

Someone says an animal, and the next person has to say an animal that starts with the the ending letter of the previous one.  Repeat!


And as for us??

utah or bust

Do you have any favorite tips, tricks or ideas? Please leave me a comment, and I’ll add them to the list!!!


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  1. You could not have posted this at a better time. We’re about to take off on our adventure of 2500 miles in 8 days with 2 boys (4 1/2 and 2 years old – I might be insane). I’m totally taking some of your tips, and I’ll let you know how it goes when we return! Love your blog :) ~Nicole

    1. 2500 miles in 8 days?? Wow! You might be insane. ;) Please let me know how it goes, and what things worked the best for you. Our trip isn’t for a few weeks, so I’d love to hear about it! Have fun!! xo

  2. Such a great post filled with all kinds of helpful tips!! :) Thanks for including a link to my printable travel Bingo game!

  3. You fogot the most important thing any mom needs on a road trip…Benedryl! Call them smarties and enjoy a couple of hours of silence. :)

    I am kind of kidding – just in case this makes people angry. I really only use it when we are in a desperate situation, and I totally got it cleared by my pediatrician.

  4. We have a flip-flop basket that the kids put their shoes in when they get in the car and then we can easily find them when we get to stops. It saves time finding all the lost socks, tying shoes, etc. Keeps them from tracking dirt and gas station grime all over the car too! Happy road-trip! We also have an eating and snack schedule as to not over eat on snacks.

    1. Those are both fabulous ideas! I especially love the flip flop basket–I’m going to see if we can make room for it when we go!!! xoxo

  5. This is SO helpful! And I love how you organized the post AND listed everything out (rather than having to go to a bunch of different blogs/pins/websites to get the ideas). Oh, and we made your popcorn balls for our FHE treat last week and let’s just say they were a big hit. Thanks for sharing so many great ideas – I love your blog!

    1. I’m so glad, Julie! I’m with you–I like just going to one place and finding information that I need. I appreciate you letting me know, and your kind words. Oh, and so happy that your family loved the popcorn balls! xoxo

      1. Oh and I forgot to mention one other travel idea. I love “Water Wow” books. It comes with a stylus you fill with water and after you color the pages (usually there are hidden things to look for) and it dries, you can do it again! I’ve gotten them at Target but I’ve seen them on Amazon too. My 2 year old and 6 year old both have fun doing it.

        1. I’ve never heard of those books—I’m going to have to stop by Target and see if I can find them. Thanks!

  6. This is an older post but hopefully you’ll see this comment. Your great list was posted in a mommy group I’m part of and several of us are wondering which of these ideas worked super well and which were flops. How did the trip go overall? Did some of these things work better for older kids and some better for your younger kids?

    I glanced through your archives to see if there was a follow up post, but I didn’t see one that seemed like it was. I’d love to read a follow up post! Thank you!

    1. I haven’t done a follow-up post…yet. :) I definitely plan to before the summer, so stay tuned! So glad you found me!

  7. I have another suggestion, a pack of pipe cleaners for each child. Keeps them entertained for awhile.

  8. If you have room for it, a potty chair in the back of the car was a lifesaver for us during the younger years when the kids often couldn’t wait for a rest stop in states where there were long stretches of road between towns.

  9. Great tips! I’ve been surfing all over looking for good ideas, and everyone has a lot of the same stuff. We’re going to be traveling with 6 kids (between 10 yrs and 2 yrs old) over 1300 miles, and the last time we made this trip was HORRIBLE so I am determined to make this as painless as possible! Thanks!

    1. Hopefully you’ll be able to try some new ideas that will work for you! I completely understand–I’ve got six kids as well, and it can be CRAZY!! Good luck, and I’d love to know which ones work the best! xoxo

  10. This is great! A lot of these will be better when the kids are older, but as we get ready to embark on our first ever family road trip to western Montana (from the north eastern corner of South Dakota), I know some of these will be so helpful! Thanks for all the tips :)

    1. You might find some them working now too–when I wrote this I had 5 kids aged 6 and under (they’re still 8 and under now), and many of them were great for our family’s trips across the United States. Good luck, and have a wonderful trip!!! xoxo

  11. Hi! Just found this thanks to Pinterest! Every summer for the last 7 years we drive from Florida, up to Ohio, through Chicago and end up in northern Minnesota. Over 2500 miles one way! My kids now are 11 and 4, thank goodness they are good in the car! You are my hero for taking 6 kids! Even though I feel like I am a seasoned road trip veteran by now I still like to browse for new ideas! Why did I never think to take sidewalk chalk for the rest areas! Great tip! We also love glow sticks from the dollar spot at Target or Dollar Store, stickers are always a hit. Melissa & Doug make some fun make a face stickers books that any age kid would like. Love your site!

    1. You are definitely a seasoned veteran! And I’m with you–I’m always up for new ideas. Glow sticks are a fabulous idea–love it! I’m so glad you found me–thanks so much for stopping by and saying hello!! xoxo

  12. My friend and I used to play the count the cows game when we were girls. The only difference is that if one person saw a cemetery on the other persons side, it would wine out that persons cows! Made it a little interesting. ;)

    1. I love that!! And the cemetery part is so funny! I’m totally going to have my kids try this!!

  13. Thank you some much for all the tips! We are going from Montreal to Fort Lauderdale with twins toddlers 3 1/2 year old. The organization tips and the snacks will be more thant helpfull! :)

    1. You are so welcome! I know very well about traveling with twins (I have two sets), and I hope these tips help!! Have a wonderful trip!!! xoxo

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