Wondering how to survive a road trip with kids? Here are the travel activities and tips that helped us enjoy our recent 40-hour family road trip! Hopefully, they can help you have a great road trip with family too!
I’m not someone that loves road trips. In fact, I don’t really enjoy them much at all, especially since we’ve had kids.
But guess what? Last week we took a family road trip and drove 18 hours straight with 4 kids (and no screen time) and I actually didn’t hate it! In fact, it went way better than I ever expected it to.
I know some of that was because over the years I’ve learned to keep my travel expectations really low.
Instead of looking at travel time as a chance to read, relax and have fun, I’ve learned to expect lots of interruptions and be prepared to take care of lots of needs. #momlife
Then if fun and relaxation happen, yay! I’ll enjoy it. But I view it as an added bonus.
Maybe that seems ridiculously obvious to you. But it wasn’t always so obvious to me. I had grown up as the youngest of a family of five kids that traveled a lot and as a new mom, was just unprepared for how non-relaxing traveling with young kids would be. And it took me a number of years and trips to adjust to that.
It also helped that we went into this trip prepared with things to do to help pass the time.
Over the 10 years that I’ve been a mom, we’ve done a decent amount of traveling. I’ve learned that taking too many things along for road trip activities ends up being frustrating. Because not only is it hard to stay organized, but it also seems like the kids almost get overwhelmed with all the options.
So the last several family trips I’ve tended to stay pretty basic and it’s seemed to work pretty well!
Here’s what we took along for travel activities for the kids and the things that we did to pass the time on this most recent family road trip where we traveled 40 hours total- 10 ½ hrs. one day, 11 ½ hours another and 18 hours the final leg of our trip.
Tips for Enjoying a Road Trip with Kids
Both our 7 and 10 year old took along several chapter books and ended up reading quite a bit.
I also grabbed a couple of big picture books that I thought our 2 and 5 year old would enjoy looking at too. By far, the biggest hit with those was this HUGE Richard Scarry book that I had grabbed at a yard sale a while back and stashed away to use as a gift.
As we were packing, on a whim, I decided to take it along since it would be something new and also because the pictures are so detailed and fun that I thought they would provide a lot of entertainment.
That was one of the best decisions ever! It kept our 2 ½ year old occupied for several hours over the course of our trip.
COLORING BOOKS & TWISTABLES CRAYONS
Our 5 and 7 year old both had fun pulling out the coloring books and crayons at different times throughout our road trip.
I try to keep a few coloring books set aside to use just for travel, that way they are new and seem more exciting! The kids always look forward to getting to color in different coloring books.
And can I just give a big shout-out to Crayola for inventing Twistable crayons? Twistable crayons are seriously amazing, especially for coloring on the go.
In the past, I would pack a bunch of regular crayons and we always ended up with crayons scattered everywhere. Because they are so small, little hands drop them easily and then they roll around and are hard to find. Plus, the smaller kids tended to break them too.
The Twistable crayons are big enough that they don’t get lost easily and they’re impossible to break unless you really twist out the crayon part and try to do it.
We don’t use Twistables at home and save them just for trips so that probably helps up the coolness factor of coloring when we travel too!
We declared a nap/quiet time every afternoon. The younger two slept and the older two had to do quiet activities, but they usually ended up napping a little too.
This ended up being a win all around because it helped people get rested up and be less grumpy and also gave everyone a little bit of personal space (well, as much personal space as you can have while traveling together in a minivan!) and helped reset attitudes.
POST-IT NOTES, STICKERS, PIPE CLEANERS, LITTLE PEOPLE
I’ve found that having a few random small things for the kids to play with is super helpful! I often try to keep these items in a place that the kids can’t access so that they don’t even know they are an option. Then I wait until everyone is bored and surprise them with someone new to do!
This road trip, I took along several pads of the really small Post-It Notes and let the kids use them however they wanted. Such a simple thing, but they honestly thought it was the coolest and had fun doing all sorts of things with them- creating patterns with them, writing notes and just sticking them all over the place.
They also enjoyed playing with a bunch of sheets of small stickers that I took along. The younger two liked sticking them on papers and all four kids got a kick out of decorating themselves with them. A bit of a mess to clean up, but it helped pass the time!
Pipe cleaners were also a fun hit! The kids liked bending them into all sorts of shapes and creations.
Our 2 ½ year old love to imagine, so I took a few of our Little People figures for him to play with too.
We spent quite a few hours listening to audiobooks via Scribd. They have lots of family-friendly options and this was something that helped pass the time for all of us!
ROAD TRIP GAMES
Playing the ABC Game, I Spy and doing things like singing through the alphabet (you sing a song for each letter and the song either needs to start with the letter of the alphabet that you are ready for or the song title needs to start with that letter) also were fun things that helped pass the time.
Here are some other fun road trip game ideas.
My philosophy is that if all else fails, pull out the snacks because they tend to make everyone happy! So sometimes that means we end up snacking quite a bit, which is okay with me since I try to take along fairly healthy options.
On this trip we had cheese sticks, homemade trail mix, bought cereal (we ate it dry), bananas and apples, applesauce tubes (had gotten them free thanks to couponing) and potato chips. The trail mix was by far the favorite and we ate a bunch of it!
As a side note, I highly recommend taking along paper bowls or small cups to put each child’s snack in. It makes things a whole lot less messy!
Our older three each had an activity book that they pulled out numerous times. I had picked up a sticker/activity book at Aldi a while back that I used for our 5 year old.
Our 7-year-old had a tablet/activity book combo that she recently picked out as a school prize in the Target dollar section. And the 10-year-old had a Sudoko book that his grandma recently gave to him.
Another idea that I’ve used in the past is to print out free activity pages that I found online and then put them between plastic sheet protectors and let the kids do them using erasable markers.
RAN OFF ENERGY AT STOPS
We tend to want to keep moving when we road trip and don’t like to spend a lot of extra time when we stop for potty breaks or gas fill-ups. But we still try to always take a minute or two to run around with the kids and get the kinks out of everyone’s legs!
Often, it works best if my husband takes the boys in to go to the bathroom while I run off energy with the girls. Then we swap roles and I take the girls to the bathroom while the boys run around. This ends up not taking much extra time, but still allows them to get a bit of extra movement in!
One rest stop on this trip had a really fun playground, which was a fun surprise. We ended up taking an extra 10 minutes and letting the kids play on it for a bit, which was totally worth the time “lost” getting to our destination.
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