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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