We love road trips around here! We can't wait to hit the road for the next one, but when you've got young kids in tow, well, let's just say it's a CHALLENGE. If you need advice or moral support, keep on reading for tips and tricks that will help you survive the next road trip with kids!

parents, kids, and dog on road trip, from Fun Cheap or Free

Do you remember the carefree days when you could gas up the car and hit the road on a whim? Those days may be a distant memory, but that doesn't mean you can't have some fun! Trust us, we get how tough it is to travel with kids, and that's why we're here to help.

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Keep on reading to learn from our mishaps, mistakes, and bumps in the road! Over the years, we've learned a thing or two about taking a road trip with kids, and today we're going to share some tips that will make your next family vacation a breeze. You've got this, mama! Here we go.


vacuuming car before trip, from Fun Cheap or Free

You know what they say about preparation, right? Failing to prepare is preparing to fail. Well, that's certainly the case when it comes to family road trips! Here are our best tips for road trip prep:

  • Start Early – Don't wait until the last minute. Just don't! Even if you feel like there's not much to do or think you could do it the night before, we guarantee you it won't be that easy. Trust us; it's never as easy as you think it will be. Save yourself a ton of stress by planning ahead!
  • Make Lots of Lists – Lists are your friends! Make grocery lists, packing lists, and pre-trip cleaning lists. Don't forget to do laundry! Writing things down prevents you from forgetting and also relieves a ton of stress. Want a little help? We put together these free travel printables!
  • Prep the Car – Fill the car with gas, get it cleaned, and check the oil before leaving. Check out our car hacks and essentials for quick tips!

Once you've gotten that sort of prep out the way, it's time for organization! Ready to get going?


There's nothing more annoying than having to rummage through hundreds of bags to find what you need. Especially on a long trip with kids! Try these tips to keep everything in order:

  • Keep Items You'll Need Handy & Contained – Grab a large, flexible bucket from Target or The Dollar Tree to hold your food, snacks, and a few things that you'll want close by.
  • Bring a Cooler – Keep perishable snacks and cold drinks inside. Road trips work up an appetite! Instead of using cold packs, fill bags with ice. You can easily refill those at gas stations when you stop. If your freezer packs thaw, well, there's not much you can do six hours down the road! Be sure to throw a few frozen water bottles into the cooler, too. Not only will they help keep things cold, but they'll thaw for drinking, too.
  • Prep Several Sippy Cups – Go ahead and pour the milk, juice, or water into those cups! Pouring while driving is a no-go. Make sure each kid has a few sippy cups ready to grasp. Keep them in your cooler or an insulated tote.

Whether you're driving or co-piloting, it's also nice to keep things accessible for your kids so you don't spend the whole trip distributing snacks, toys, or drinks. That brings us to our next point! Let's talk about how to keep the kids busy and happy on the road.


A young girl wearing sunglasses is giving a thumbs out out the window of a van during a road trip.

Keeping the kids happy and keeping whining to a minimum is every parent's biggest worry on the road. While we can't guarantee a whine-free trip, these tips will help:

  • Give Each Kid an Entertainment Bag – We pack a little backpack or large freezer bag for each kid. Inside, they get a few snacks, a book, a coloring or activity book, and a few toys or games. Magnetic toys are CLUTCH in the car! #JustSaying
  • Ditch the Screen Time Rules – Mama, we salute you for trying to keep screentime to a minimum, but anything goes on the road! Make playlists of toddler tunes for the ride, download their favorite movies or shows on an old phone or tablet, pack games for the older ones, and do what you gotta do. Bring more than you think you'll need. Attention spans are extra short on the road. Oh, and don't forget the headphones!
  • Bring Prizes – Okay, not to toot our own horns, but this tip is genius. Buy several little trinkets from the Dollar Tree and wrap them up like gifts. When the kids are getting restless, let them go to town! Half the fun is the unwrapping. Just bring a large trash bag for easy cleanup!
  • Stop Every Few Hours – We like to look for rest areas with grassy areas or parks so our kids can burn off some energy and stretch their legs.

One more thing! If you've got three or more kids, seat them strategically to avoid arguments on the road. You know what we mean! πŸ˜‰ Now, what about keeping mom and dad sane on the road? Well, let's talk about it!


Alright, you've packed and planned for the kiddos, but what about for you?! Happy parents = happy kids, so here are a few tips for preparing the grownups for a road trip with kids:

  • Bring Caffeine – Need we say more? We had a six-pack of Mountain Dew in our cooler for our last 12-hour road trip.
  • Don't Forget the Chargers – You'll want those devices charged up for you and the kiddos, so pack plenty of cords!
  • Download Podcasts or Audiobooks – Radio reception can be spotty on a long trip, so make sure you're prepared! Bingeing on a favorite podcast or audiobook can help the journey fly by.
  • Ditch the Pressure to Make Great Time – Want to stay sane (and maybe actually) enjoy your next road trip with kids? Ditch the expectations! You won't make your best time, but you can plan some fun stops along the way, so go for it! Is there a fun drive-through zoo a few hours away that you've always wanted to go to? Plan a stop. A killer roadside stop for cheap, yummy soft-serve ice cream? Treat yourself! You deserve a small prize or two, too, so have some fun!

Oh, and one last tip for mom and dad! Dress comfortably. Break out that new pair of yoga pants, lace up your comfiest sneaks, and bring a jacket or blanket in case it gets chilly in the car. Make sure the kids have blankies, too!


There you have it! Just a few of the tips and tricks that have helped our family road trips run a bit smoother. If you're about to head out on your first road trip with kids, keep calm and carry on! You've got this, and we hope these tips help.

Are you a road warrior? We'd love to hear your best tips for hitting the road with the kids! Drop a comment below.

Image with text that reads "road trip hacks" from Fun Cheap or Free

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Bon, voyage!