Taking a road trip with kids isn’t always easy. In fact, sometimes it’s downright hard! But with a bit of planning, these tricks and tips for taking a road trip with kids will help make the drive more enjoyable for everyone!

With quite a few road trips under our belt, including a 3.5 week Northern Ontario road trip this summer and a month-long road trip to the East Coast of Canada this fall, we’ve had plenty of time in the car to figure out how to make road trips fun and easier for everyone.

Read more | The Ultimate Northern Ontario Road Trip

So whether you’re planning a short road trip or a longer adventure, hopefully these tips for taking a road trip with kids will help!

Tips for Awesome Road Trips with Kids

Plan for a stop, stretch and play break every few hours

Little bodies aren’t meant to sit still for too long. Adult bodies either, for that matter. Try to take a rest stop every few hours – it doesn’t have to be a long stop, but long enough to get out of the car, stretch those muscles and run around for a few minutes.

Many highways will have rest stops along the way. Sometimes they have picnic tables, washrooms and an area to move around, others are just a basic, pull-off spot. Either way, as long as you are safely off the highway, get out of the car and move around a bit.

We’ve found some great spots over the years with play equipment, but there’s not always something for the kids to do. We keep a small soccer ball in the back of the car and sometimes the boys will kick that around for a few minutes.

Other times, I’ll use google maps and find a city or town with a playground along the way. We’ll pull off the highway for 15-20 minutes and let them play at the playground! We’ve discovered some fun places this way!

Find fun roadside attractions along the way

Whether you’re a fan of roadside attractions or not, they’re a great excuse to get out of the car for a few minutes! And if you know of some ahead of your drive, tell the kids and encourage them to keep an eye out for them! It definitely helps pass the time, and gives the kids something to look for.

On our Northern Ontario road trip this summer we found quite a few roadside attractions. On the first day, I knew of at least 4 on that stretch of the drive, so I planned our stops and stretch breaks around these. The boys counted down these stops so they had an idea of how much longer we would be driving.

The rest of the drive, I knew of a few fun things to look for, but the others were a complete surprise! Either way, they made for an interesting, quick stop!

Bring plenty of snacks

Now this goes without saying, you’ll need snacks for a road trip! Good snacks are ones that aren’t too messy, are easy to eat and need minimal preparation. Granola bars, fresh fruit and crackers are good choices. And be sure to have lots of water!

Take lots of activities

Again, this might seem like a no-brainer, but you’ll need activities to keep the kids from being bored in the backseat. There’s nothing worse than hearing “Mom, I’m bored, there’s nothing to do!”

(I’ll be one of the first ones to say that being bored IS a good thing for kids to experience, but when you’re stuck in a car on a road trip for hours on end, it’s not the best time….)

Similar to packing snacks, you’ll want activities for a road trip to be mess-free, easy to prep and fun! Depending on the ages of your kids, the activities you’ll bring will be different. And you know your kids best, bring something that they enjoy doing!

Colouring books are always a good choice. My guys went through a stage where they loved those sticker activity books too – and they were great to do in the car! Now they’re really into colouring, so we have quite a few colouring books, along with crayons, pencil crayons and markers in the backseat. **markers may NOT be the best idea to bring for younger kids!!

We also have these colouring on-the-go kits from Kid Made Modern, and they are fantastic! The boys used them almost every day on our 3.5 week road trip and I just added some extra paper for the next long road trip.  You can find them on Amazon – or in Canada, they’re also available at Indigo.  

For more road trip activity ideas, we’ve got a whole separate post that you can find here.

Bring a cookie or baking sheet!

Although this tip sort of goes along with the activities mentioned above, I figured it deserved its own section, because it worked so well for us on our last two long road trips.

Baking sheets, or cookie sheets, are perfect for kids to use in the backseat. They can use the trays as a hard surface to draw or colour on, and they’re also great to play lego or magnatiles on. When it’s time for a snack or meal on the go, pull out the baking sheet and use it as a makeshift table.

We found these sheets were great for our long road trips. They work well (most of the time!) and they’re easy to store – they just slide in the pocket on the back of the front seats. 

There are also some great options for backseat tray tables to purchase – you can see some here on Amazon. They are designed for the backseat and have lots of neat options like pockets to store things. They fit well over the child’s lap and won’t fall or spill things.

Download some podcasts before you go

Did you know there are some great podcasts for kids? Podcasts aren’t just for adults anymore – there are some great ones out there for kids too! And they’re a fantastic way to pass the time in the car! We have a few different podcasts that we listen to, and the boys will ask for certain stories OVER and OVER again. They can easily pass an hour listening to a podcast; then have a snack, do some activities and stop for a stretch break. Repeat as many times as needed until you are at your destination for the day!   

Use Packing Cubes

Now this is more of a packing tip, but hear me out. When you’re taking a road trip with kids, you don’t want to be carrying multiple suitcases into the hotel each night. This is where packing cubes come in.

Pack clothes in packing cubes and place the packing cubes in a duffel bag or 31 tote bag. Open top bags work best for us – I love this one – and simply pull the packing cube(s) out before heading into the hotel. It saves bringing a large backpack or suitcase in every time, unpacking and repacking, especially if you’re only staying one or two nights.

Find out more about packing cubes here – how and why to use them and the different styles available.

Involve kids in the planning

Obviously this depends on the ages of your kids, but even young kids can be involved in the planning. While it may be you who decides where to go, and how far to drive each day, kids can help choose activities to see and do along the way. Allowing them to help choose gives them a sense of responsibility and cuts down on the ‘aww, do we have to do that??”

And when I say involve kids in the planning, it doesn’t have to be for the whole trip! Even letting kids have a say in the day’s activities, where to stop, what to do, will help them feel involved. Usually at the beginning of each day, we’ll discuss what our day will look like, where we want to stop and do along the way. I’ll admit, I have the general idea and tend to guide their choices a bit!

Hopefully these tips for a road trip with kids will help make your next road trip more enjoyable! Let us know in the comments if you have any other tips to add!

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One Comment

  1. These r great tips! We will be going
    on a 18 hr road trip for the holidays so I will definitely keep these tips in mind!

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