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Travel | Road Trip


The revival of the great American road trip has ignited the spirit of adventure amongst travelers of all ages.  Embarking on an epic road trip with a small child can be a rewarding experience, full of lasting memories. Implementing a few of these road trip tips with kids can help make the journey go a little smoother.
Map with kids hand
Photo coutresy of the author, Stephanie Taleghani
Preparation is the number one rule for any successful road trip with a small child. Having a plan for unexpected situations such as illness, detours, and car trouble are critical in making sour situations more manageable. From personal experience, it’s better to be over prepared than under when traveling with small children.

I take precautions such as having blankets in the car in case the heat goes out, keeping multiple bottles of water on hand, and having a fully stocked “sick kit” available in the event someone catches a stomach bug or other sickness.

The second rule is flexibility. It’s good to set expectations; however, don’t be discouraged if plans don’t go as envisioned. Frequent potty breaks, late departures, or road construction constantly make their appearance during a road trip with kids. Staying flexible will help maintain a calm, relaxing atmosphere for the journey. I always assume that we will be leaving the house late, making a pit stop within the hour, and then encountering an obscene amount of traffic.

The final rule is to have fun. Don’t pass up the opportunity to create incredible memories on the way to your destination. Often, the minor hiccups during road trips tend to be the ones laughed about later. Enjoy classic road trip games for kids, make an impromptu stop at a roadside attraction, or try a bizarre new food. Remember: getting to your destination is half the fun.
Ready for the Road Trip
Photo coutresy of the author, Stephanie Taleghani

Excitement for new adventures can often cause us to overlook important steps while preparing for a road trip. It’s essential to be realistic in that road tripping with small kids will likely require more stops and a possible overnight stay on longer journeys.

A few questions to consider during the planning process include: What vehicle are we taking, and does it have enough space for all the luggage? Are there going to be designated stop areas and activities along the way? How long will my child be content in the vehicle before needing to overnight?

Answering these questions will help to identify potential road bumps that could be encountered. One of the many perks of road tripping with kids is not having the stressor of time restraints. Families can travel at a leisurely pace with control over stopping when needed. I often map out a few designated areas along our route in case a break is needed. A helpful tip is to remember to plan for the same amount of stops on the return trip.

Road Trip with kids
Photo coutresy of the author, Stephanie Taleghani

  • Ensure Your Vehicle is Road Trip Ready

    A key part of preparing for any road trip is ensuring that your vehicle is ready for the open road. This includes checking fluids, the air in tires, tune-up, and an oil change if needed. Keep a roadside emergency kit in your car along with jumper cables, flashlight, bottled water, extra food, and a blanket. Enrolling in a service such as AAA is imperative while road tripping with a small child, as they offer roadside assistance if auto repair is needed. Checking these things off the to-do list equals peace of mind while traveling.
  • Make a Family Road Trip Packing List and Check it Twice

    Circling back to the first rule for a successful family road trip: create a family road trip packing list. Start crafting the list a few weeks before leaving to ensure that nothing is missed. This packing list should include basics such as clothing and shoes, but also easily forgotten items such as medications and a spare car key.

    One of the most important road trip essentials for kids is mess-free snacks and drinks. Keeping a small cooler within reach can help alleviate any hunger crisis. Road trip games for kids are another item to place on your packing list to help beat boredom.

    I often will pack a variety of different toys in baggies, then swap the baggies out throughout the duration of the trip.  A few things you want to be sure to include on your packing list should be car sickness bags, an atlas, baby wipes, cash and change for tolls (bring coins for exact change only toll booths), a phone charger, and wallet.

  • Beat Boredom by Preparing Road Trip Activities for Kids

    Entertainment is vital during a road trip with small kids. While technology is always an option, finding new amusing ways to pass the time keeps boredom at bay. Engage children with creative scenarios such as coming up with a creative story about the car or person in the car next to you. Games of ‘I Spy’ can lose luster quickly, but games of ‘Would you rather…?’, especially when incorporating billboards, can be pretty entertaining. It could even lead to a sudden pit stop.

    To help overcome road trip fatigue, consider putting together road trip goodie bags.  Road trip goodie bags are inexpensive fun bags that can be given to kids, teens, and even adults periodically throughout a road trip. Choosing age-appropriate, mess-free, and entertaining items for all travelers in your car are vital for a successful road trip goodie bag. While some goodie bags may contain an activity such as stickers, others could have a special treat inside. Keep the contents a secret until the designated time.

    I will often go to the nearest dollar store to find fun things to put in the goodie bags. It keeps costs to a minimum while providing a good amount of entertainment.

Pack a wide array of entertainment such as a travel binder full of activity pages, road trip bingo, and plenty of toys. I always keep a charged tablet with movies and games as another source of entertainment.
Kids with tablets

Toddlers bring a new dynamic to any road trip. Full of energy and emotions, toddlers can present unique challenges that can be overlooked with older children. Here are a few essential survival tips for parents hitting the road with a toddler in tow.

  • Get organized. If you open the car door and an entire Target snack aisle falls out, it’s time to get organized. Chaos in the car can lead to toddler meltdowns when a favorite toy or snack is nowhere to be found. Car organizers are a great tool to keep items easy to reach for the toddler and passengers.
  • Create a diaper changing station. Have a diaper bag fully stocked and accessible for changes makes this necessary stop go by quickly and stress-free. Don’t forget to keep two extra outfits in the diaper bag, just in case.
  • Plan out a few stops for toddlers to run off that energy. Do a little research to find a nearby playground at the planned rest stop.  Remember, if opting to travel at night, toddlers will be awake and ready to go in the morning like any typical day.
  • Don’t forget to pack any favorite blankets or lovies. We left our daughter’s lovie behind once, never again. Be sure to add these items to your packing list!
  • Create fun playlists for sing-a-longsIn your toy arsenal, including a few new toys that have never been seen before.
Each road trip transforms into its own unique adventure with unexpected events and surprising entertainment. Enjoy the freedom of the open road while cherishing these moments with your children. Also, don’t forget to roll the windows down occasionally.