Tried and Tested Tips For Road Trips With Kids

Make your road trip more pleasant with these tried and tested tips

OK, strictly speaking, we should be absolute experts on entertaining kids in cars on a road trip. When ours were babies, we lived in the North of Scotland and regularly made a 5-6 hour journey to visit my family. As they got older, we started driving to France on holiday from the North East of England, and since we bought a house there, we’ve done the journey at least twice a year for the last three years. Yet the trips are never without some trauma or other, which led me to wonder what we are doing wrong?Child in car, travelling on a long journey and feeling bored. Find top tips tried and tested for entertaining them on the journey

Are we too confident now that we’ve done it so many times that we are somewhat under-prepared? It has happened, I’m sure. Or is it just that our kids’ needs have changed as they’ve got older? That’s definitely a factor. Plus, they are kids, so it’s their job to keep us on our toes, right? I’m therefore calling in more expert opinion from some fellow family and travel bloggers to give their tried and tested tips for road trips with the family.

The key here, these tips are tried and tested.

I didn’t just pick the prettiest ones on Pinterest (which believe me, I’ve done before! As a self-confessed Pinterest addict, I have a board full of them – feel free to look!)

It seems my friend Sam at North East Family Fun has done something similar in the past too! Thank goodness I’m not the only one! Sam tells me “Don’t do the Pinterest trick of wrapping up lots of little toys and giving them a new one to unwrap every 10 minutes. It just creates lots of mess, there is nowhere to put all of them all, they don’t hold the kids’ attention and it’s a waste of money!”

Naomi at Trips With A Tot has a whole post about travelling with younger children on public transport, but which may also work on a car journey, which Sam from NE family fun also helped with!

I especially like the ‘AquaDoodle’ water mats she suggests, which are relatively mess-free. Our kids also loved the Crayola Colour Wonder ‘magic pens’ and colouring books. Both products ensure there are no ‘accidents’ with felt pens on car seats and clothes, as they are clear on surfaces but make a mark only on the surface intended. Brilliant!

Technology on the road

So many people advise either DVD players, or Ipads/Kindles loaded with…. well, read about it:

Louise at Pink Pear Bear began “We drove to Venice in the half term and the portable DVD players we have were a Godsend. We saved them until the kids had really had enough and were getting stroppy and then let them choose a film to watch. Also factor in stops where there are playgrounds to let them burn off steam and run around. Best car game at the moment is ‘guess what/who I am’, you can only answer yes or no & everyone has to ask questions to find out the identity of the player. And no sticker books unless you’re happy for your entire car/child/car seat/clothing to be covered in stickers! – I second this one!!

Amy at The Mighty Duxburys continued “We allowed our child to hold the tablet whilst watching CBeebies on the way to Scotland. Huge, huge mistake. He vomited everywhere an hour into the journey. All over his seat, all over himself and we had to bung his sicky clothes in a box in the boot. You can get holders to go over the front seats. Use those. For the love of God use those!” Poor Amy. We’ve had our fair share of travel sickness over the years. Once, Toby was recovering from a tummy bug and just gave us one last hurl for good luck! We had to throw those clothes in the bin as we were on our way to the airport and would have otherwise had to leave them festering in a carrier bag for the week (TMI?).Make your road trip more pleasant with these tried and tested tips

Tracey from Pack The PJ’s suggests “Definitely portable dvd players. Nintendo 3DS’s and a fair few games. Pillows so they can nap. Sleeping sacks that they can ‘wear’ under their seat belts. But the best bit of advice I can give is for seat-back organisers. One on each seat in front of each child – fill with games, colouring pad and pencils (I like the Klutz doodle-type ones), headphones, a book etc … water bottle etc. All organised and it means their feet won’t dirty the back of your seats! We treat long journeys like they are ‘camping out’ in the car.” I love this advice about ‘camping in the car’, and I also very quickly ordered some seat back organisers after reading this. Our car ends up such a tip after two days of travelling! I also ordered one with a cool bag – that will be really useful on day trips too.

Vikki at Family Travel With Ellie says “DVD players are an absolute must have and I allow both children to choose a new film each for the journey, as well as their usual favourites. Also, tablets with their favourite games (don’t forget in car chargers!) Plenty of healthy, non-messy snacks (with some treats thrown in too!) – don’t forget plenty of wipes and a rubbish bag! We love to have a sing song, play I -Spy, 20 questions, Who am I. Pillows and small blankets for comfort. You can also get fab little travel books that challenge the children to spot things on the journey and then tick them off – mine love these!” You can get printable I-spy sheets too, see my Pinterest boards. These travel books all look good:

Donna from Bobsy’s Mum suggests Portable DVD players or tablets with downloaded tv shows stuck to the back of the front seats. They get bored of films, but short episodes work great.

Kelly-Anne at Mimi Rose and Me suggests a Kindle with a few apps as it helps keep them stimulated but they are also able to change their activity. She has written about travelling with toddlers here.

Stacey from One Small Human suggested “Like a lot of people, I’ve tried tablets loaded with videos etc. Our toddler got frustrated though if he pressed the wrong button and couldn’t get the video back on. What did work for us was creating a big print out with lots of pictures of things he might see on the way to our destination. We gave him a stamp as well (which we tied to his seat so it couldn’t be dropped) and he stamped pictures as he saw things.”

Emma from Our Fairytale Adventure is on a road trip to Denmark with two toddlers at the moment, and has written about how they prepared. The small world play is more for hotel rooms but the rest have worked a treat for car journeys. She says that for toddlers the buckle toy is an absolute must!

Emma at Me and B Make Tea has also written about travel with a toddler, and suggests lots of snacks! And puppy pads if you have a potty training toddler.

Ann at Rainbows Are Too Beautiful suggests to stay away from snack food that easily melts or crumbles or you’ll be clearing it up for weeks! She puts things into zip lock bags so the kids can open themselves (so not passing around open bags of snacks) and then they can be sealed again when they only eat a handful after claiming to be starving. Great tips Ann, and I would also add to avoid things which are sticky, and also that may have vomit potential (sorry, I’ve just been there too often!). We also limit drinks a little, to avoid the typical “I need a wee!” refrain every 15 minutes!Use these tried and tested tips to make your road trip with kids go well

May I add just a few more pearls of wisdom,

…gleaned from my experience? I’ve seen a few posts about giving small boxes of lego, maybe in lunch box type containers. Now, I do have particularly naughty children, it’s true, but in my experience these (or any other ‘small pieces’ toys) will inevitably end up all over the floor at best, with the kids whining that they can’t reach them, or standing on them as they get out at the next stop. At worst, they will be thrown at each other, or put in their mouths (I shudder at the choking potential when you can’t reach them to help). You know your own kids – I wouldn’t take the risk. Similarly, with a craft activity, would the bits end up all over the floor, the glue in each others’ hair or all over the windows, the felt tip pen all over their faces, the upholstery or their clothes? Well, they would in my family!

Just saying, it’s worth thinking ahead. I wouldn’t give them anything which has potential to be dropped (and cried about), smeared or used as a weapon, or has potential to distract the driver. The whole reason for this post is that it’s happened too many times for us, and we want to get it right this time!
Oh, and take a bucket – it will be the most useful piece of equipment you pack, for one reason or another. Trust me!Buckets have many uses on a road trip!
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Please pin this for later:

Tried & Tested Tops For Road Trips With Kids, from those of us who have been there before!
Tried & Tested Tops For Road Trips With Kids – pin for later
Flying With A Baby


25 Replies to “Tried and Tested Tips For Road Trips With Kids”

  1. Lots of fantastic tips here. We travel a lot with our two and we always take a bag of goodies to keep them occupied! We have had many delays at airports so we have come to understand the importance of being prepared!

    1. Familymakes says: Reply

      We’ve just done the 2-day journey and survived (just!)

  2. Fantastic tips! We haven’t travelled much with our two yet, as we don’t have a car can you believe? But we have done a couple of plane journeys and agree with all of these! It’s always good to be prepared with plenty of snacks and activities. I agree with the tablet/dvd option. It’s the one time I don’t worry about screen time!! x
    Rosie Little Fish recently posted…4th of July Easy Treat BagsMy Profile

    1. Familymakes says: Reply

      Thanks Rosie. I don’t worry about screen time when travelling either, my only concern is to keep them still and quiet

  3. Lots of great ideas there. The portable DVD players are a lifesaver really. How did our parents manage to get us anywhere without them?

    1. Familymakes says: Reply

      Thanks Sinead. I don’t know how we coped without DVD players. We’ve even stopped to buy new ones when they broke mid-journey once!!

  4. Great tips for families travelling with children and some classic fails too! I would not have liked to have been the one who had to clean up the vomit from the tablet! Not nice!

    Debbie Roberts recently posted…Monday Morning Blog Club 26/06/17My Profile

    1. Familymakes says: Reply

      I’ve been there unfortunately Debbie!I hate vomit!!

  5. Aw thank you so much for featuring me in this piece. There are so many great tips here…one I shall be bookmarking for our holiday.
    Kelly-Anne Combes recently posted…CHANGE UP YOUR SKIN CARE WITH SKIN YOGAMy Profile

    1. Familymakes says: Reply

      You’re very welcome Kelly-Anne, thanks for your contribution. You can always pin it to have for later?

  6. These are great ideas. I’m not so keen on handing a tablet to them but I’m keen to try the other suggestions. #familytraveltips
    Helena recently posted…Word of the Week: SunMy Profile

    1. Familymakes says: Reply

      Thanks Helena. I think it depends on the age of your children whether you’d give them a tablet or not. Hope the tips help you!

  7. […] Oh, and if you want some tried and tested tips for keeping the kids entertained on your road trip, here they are… […]

  8. Some great ideas here. We travel with a bag of stuff plus we play I spy type games. Nothing is perfect, but it’s worth making the effort. Otherwise we wouldn’t go anywhere!

  9. Great tips, we use carefully rationed out sweets. Never hand them the bag, they’ll eat the lot or drop them or make themselves sick. Instead whenever they start getting a bit testy hand them a sweet each one at a time until they’ve had and small handful each then say they can have some more later if they keep being good. Seems to work with our two and I find having something small to eat every half hour or so helps my travel sickness too x
    Alana – Burnished Chaos recently posted…Happy Days: Roman Forts and Snuggle SeatsMy Profile

    1. Familymakes says: Reply

      That’s a great idea, I really like it!

  10. Wow, some brilliant tips there. I particularly love the one from Lou about scheduling in stops with a playground so they can burn off steam. You can tell she’s a road trip pro! I’ll definitely be doing that on our next trip. Thanks very much for linking up to #familytraveltips
    Plutonium Sox recently posted…What’s on West Midlands Summer holidays 2017My Profile

    1. Familymakes says: Reply

      Yes she is definitely a pro! Everyone gave great tips.

  11. Some really useful ideas and a good reminder at the end about small pieces and things that can be smeared! Very hard to retrieve them in a car footwell but slightly easier (but still annoying) on a plane!
    (We find wrapped up toys work very well on ultra long- haul flights as well as items like the aquadoodle, magnetic games, window gel stickers are more. ) Thanks for linking up to #familytraveltips

    1. Familymakes says: Reply

      Thanks Carrie, I agree lots of these tips are transferrable to plane travel too. It all just takes a little planning doesn’t it?

  12. We’re huge fans of the Amazon Fire tablet for kids! They’re very affordable, durable, and there’s loads of great free content (games, learning apps, movies and books). Over on our blog we recently posted a list of our favorite *free* Fire apps for preschoolers and toddlers 🙂
    Melissa @ The Family Voyage recently posted…Choosing Wings: Our BIG Family UpdateMy Profile

    1. Familymakes says: Reply

      Oh, I’ sure that would be a useful read too. Thank you Melissa.

  13. Great tips! We do use the tablets sometimes – we try for a film as games often bring on car sickness. Also, our kids are young and so we time drives around naps. In fact, when we used to live in the UK – to visit the inlaws up north we would always leave at 7pm and drive through to 10:30pm, whilst the kids slept. #wanderlustkids

  14. There are loads of great tips here. Many of them we used with BattleKid on our long journey from Santander to Portugal. And we will be using them again on our forthcoming USA road trip as we’ve a 10 hour drive (at best) from Richland to Yellowstone on Day 2! Thanks for linking up again to #wanderlustkids!

    1. Oh fab, those are epic trips. No wonder you needed lots of help. Have a fantastic USA road trip – that’s something we would love to do one day!

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