I love road trips, it's true. But when you've got young kids, it can be…well…let's just say A CHALLENGE. I was in Oregon all last week and made the trip BY MYSELF. It was tough because I was flying SOLO with my 26 month old and 8 month old. not easy, people.
However, with lots of practice, trial, and error, I think I finally have this whole road trip thing down! Today I'm sharing lots of ways to survive a road trip with young kids…with OR without a co-pilot!
*Note: For road trip round 2 with tons MORE ideas, click HERE.

Trip Prep:

  • Start in advance! I only decided 2 days before that I was going to go on the trip, so I started planning and packing right away. Don't wait until the last minute…even if you feel like there's not much to do and it could easily be done the night before or day-of. Trust me, it's never as easy as you think it is.
  • Make lots of lists! Grocery lists. Packing lists. “What to clean around the house before you go”, lists. Write things down because I promise…you will forget things otherwise. (Click HERE for free printables)
  • First thing I did was prep the car; fill the car with gas, get it cleaned, and check the oil the day before I left. Yes, I paid to have it cleaned. Use a daily deal site to get a good deal on car cleaning. My car was gross, and I couldn't stand the thought of driving 12 hours in a nasty car!
Since I was flying solo I had to make sure everything I would/could need was organized, and easily accessible.

Organization On The Road:

  • Always try to keep things contained! Loose items in the car can be a distraction and make it hard to find what you need, when you need it. I used a large flexible beverage bucket from Target to hold my food, snacks, and a few things that I wanted close at-hand.

  • I kept my son's milk, string cheese, and other perishable snacks in a small insulated tote with bags of ice. I did bags of ice rather than freezer packs because I could refill the bags of ice at gas stations for free, but you can't exactly switch out freezer packs 6 hours into the trip.

  • I made sure to have some sippy cups already filled and in the insulated tote so I didn't have to worry about pouring while driving.

I wanted things to be accessible for my kids too, so I wouldn't be too distracted trying to reach things for them while driving.


  • I filled a tote with books that he could reach from his seat,

Pretty sweet bead-head, eh?

  • I had a separate (small) basket of snacks that I could simply hand him and let him choose what he wanted. I got this basket from the dollar store I believe.

  • For my baby I was sure to have pre-measured formula in a container like THIS and have my trusty travel thermos with me. Don't leave home without it.
  • I also filled a basket with toys a few days prior to the trip and hid it in the garage, so my kids would be excited to see the toys again once it was time for the trip.

  • I kept these at his feet where I could easily reach down and grab them for them.
  •  And I also would stack things next to the kids for easier access when we stopped at rest stops.
  • For both my kids I kept things bungeed to them with my favorite toy bungees. This especially came in handy with my 8 month old. A) She throws everything. B) She's strapped down pretty good in her car seat and can't reach much, C) I can't reach her very well because she's directly behind my seat. I used these bungees to link a bunch of toys to her and to keep the bottle she was drinking nearby.

  • I've never tried this, but I've heard another handy tool for grabbing things for your kids in the car is one of THESE BABIES:

  • My real life-saver was my trusty ipad holder for my car. (Remember my favorite things HERE?) It allowed my son to be able to watch movies without having to hold my ipad. LIFE. SAVER.

Note: I know not many of us don't have iPads, and yes, they are very expensive…but I won mine! All you have to do is have a lot of determination and a little luck, and you can have one too. If you can't win one, earn one! Make money on the side and find a way to afford it if you really want one. Trust me, these things don't really just fall into my lap, I have to work for expensive things that I really want…and you can too! Ok, I'm all done now 🙂

  • Have a trash bag handy. That blue canvas bag hanging from the headrest is ALWAYS in my car, all the time. I throw my trash in it and empty it out when I get gas or clean out my car. Make sure it's DEEP…you use a lot of trash on the trip. And make sure it's sturdy. My son can reach it with his feet so when he's throwing a fit (oh wait, my 2 year old isn't an angel all the time? Weird…) he can't rip it down with his feet. I like that it's canvas because if I have to throw something nasty away I can throw the bag in the wash at the end of our trip.

  • …and of course, Diet Mountain Dew for a caffeinated pick-me-up. I bought them from Walmart before I left so I wouldn't have to pay top-dollar at gas stations. (Yes, so these are my guilty pleasure…) Be careful of caffeine, though. It's next to impossible for your family to stay completely energized on a long trip from caffeine alone. Too much caffeine feels great for a time, but then your body will crash and you will be more tired than you were in the first place. You need to get a good night's sleep.
  • My car has an awesome wall-type outlet thing right in the car so I can plug in any conventional charger. I kept all my chargers wound up and close at-hand in my center console so I could easily plug them in if my phone or ipad started getting low. On the drive home I wised up and plugged the charger into the car so all I had to do was attach the charger cord to whatever I needed to charge, rather than trying to reach the outlet while driving. it was much easier. These guys are super handy to have:

  • The day before my trip I went to the Dollar Store and got a bunch of trinkets. There were great options because it's Easter time, and Easter basket fillers are EVERYWHERE. I wrapped them in old Christmas paper (he doesn't care) and if he got restless in the car, I let him open a “prize”. This works great with older kids. “If you are good and help your sister for another hour, you get to open a new prize!” Worth every penny, this was awesome.
  •  When we needed to stop I tried to find rest stops with play places or with grassy areas so we could run around and burn off some energy. I found this one random stop that had Llamas. Highlight of the trip for my little guy…
  •  I had my trusty travel neck pillow so my son could sleep easier in the car. Looove that thing.
  • I turned on Pandora on my phone (one of my favorite apps) to Toddler or Elmo radio and plugged it into my cable so it played through the speakers in my car so my kids could listen to fun music on the drive.
  • To keep myself entertained, I went to the library and got a bunch of books-on-CD. I put them on my ipad, and was able to listen (in one ear only) to an audio book while my son enjoyed watching movies. It kept me awake, entertained, and I actually looked forward to the drive so I could listen to my book!
Once again, just try to be as organized as possible. Plan ahead, think things through, and for heaven's sake…make as many lists as possible!
Once again, for even more ideas see my most recent road trip HERE with lots more ideas!
So there you go! Those are a few of the things I did that made my solo 12 hour jaunt not so bad. What do YOU do on road trips to make them easier?
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