9 Tips For Surviving A Road Trip With Kids

9 Tips For Surviving A Road Trip With Kids

Janelle Gonzalez

Motoring expert

08/11/2017

No kids! Are we done?

Seriously though, anyone who’s gone on a road trip with kids knows that as much as you adore them, it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows.

A road trip with kids is not for the faint-hearted. I don’t recommend choosing a road trip just because it will be a fun outing with the kids – chances are, unless your family is the Brady Bunch, all hell will break loose and you’ll be wishing you packed that bottle of champagne.

The key is preparation. Plan, plan, plan.

Having embarked on many road trips with my own kids, here are my top 9 survival tips when travelling with children.

1.  Know thy kids

You can read all the tips you like but if they don’t work for your children, then they’re obviously useless. The DVD player is a classic example. If your child is prone to motion sickness, the DVD player will just end up covered in vomit. So consider:

  • Do they get motion sickness?
  • Do they have a small bladder and constantly want to go to the toilet?
  • Do they sleep well in the car?
  • Do you have two or more who constantly fight?
  • Are you travelling with a baby or a very young child who doesn’t understand bribery yet?
  • Do they travel well or not?

Knowing the answers to these questions will help you make sense of the rest of the tips and help you adapt them to suit your child.

2. Be ready for car sickness

Motion sickness in children is common (peaking between 10 and 12 years) and if you don’t know if your child suffers from it, you soon will when you embark on your first journey. There are motion sickness tablets designed for children, most of which need to be taken before they actually get sick. If you’re caught out there are a few other remedies:

  • Peppermints, ginger ale, hard-boiled sugar lollies and lemonade are all known to help sooth a nauseous stomach.
  • Avoid focusing on games or reading. Instead, focus their attention outside the window.
  • Give them a light snack beforehand—nothing too heavy or greasy.
  • Avoid unnecessary head movements by using a pillow.
  • Get some ventilation in the car from an open window or air- conditioner.

3. Pack lots of entertainment!

Audio entertainment: Just because you need to entertain your kids doesn’t mean you should forget entertainment for the adults. Hours of the Wiggles may drive you more bananas than your children so invest in headphones for them and then listen to what you want. However, this is only recommended if your children are old enough to put their headphones on themselves, otherwise you’ll forever be leaning in the back trying to put them back on.

Games: Most of us have fond memories of playing games on road trips as children. Start by looking at the world once in awhile. There’s nothing wrong with staring out the window and leaving your kids to their own thoughts. It builds character.

When that runs out there are plenty of tried-and-true games that will help them explore the scenery including:

  • 20 questions
  • The alphabet game
  • I spy
  • Road trip bingo
  • Travel versions of Scrabble and other board games
  • One of my favourites is the “Are We There Yet?” phone timer app. Just put your mobile within the child’s sight and put the timer on. is will mesmerise them for a while and divert blame for the long ride onto the phone.
are-we-there-yet-simpsons

9 Tips For Surviving A Road Trip With Kids

IN-CAR DVDS

If you Google ‘road tripping with kids’, the most common tip is not to leave home without a DVD player. While I don’t disagree, it’s only really an option if your kids don’t get car sick. If they don’t, then ensure they all agree on a movie, they can all see properly from where they are sitting and no one leans forward to touch the buttons.

OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES

Rest stops are a great opportunity for your kids to stretch out and burn off some pent-up energy. Bring a ball they can kick around or create a rest-stop activity, like creating a scrapbook of all the places you stop. Picking up a flower, leaf or something else small that they can collect along the way helps them focus on the trip rather than the destination.

4. Don’t forget the essentials

You can find a huge list of all the essentials for a road trip here, but for those specifically related to kids:

Food: While I hate the thought of food in cars, it’s essential. You can plan to have rest stops and eat your main meals then, but the ‘I’m hungry’ whine is inevitable, so a few snacks at the ready that you can chuck in the back are a must.

Cleaning essentials: is includes an overload of nappies, towels and spare clothes for everyone (including you!) and a plastic bag. Baby wipes are essential, not just to clean up after any motion sickness, but for sticky fingers, messy mouths, runny noses, spilt drinks and impromptu toilet paper.

Motion sickness bags: Enough said.

Toy bags: Let them pack their toy bags themselves. Filling a small backpack with their favourite toys of the day gives them a sense of responsibility and they’re more willing to play with them along the way. Give them a set of rules, though: nothing noisy and nothing likely to be used as a weapon against a sibling.

Car seats/boosters: Ensure these are properly secured, as up to 60% of car seats aren’t installed correctly.

A ball: is great to get everyone moving at rest stops.

5. Break up the trip

Travel, rest, travel, rest. Break up the trip in bite-sized chunks. Roadside rest stops are good. Roadside restaurants are not. The little munchkins will want to run around and stretch their legs, which they can’t do at restaurants. Let them run free while you catch your breath (and your sanity), tire them out and then head off again— hopefully they’ll be ready for a nap. Rest-stop picnics are also a great idea.

If you find yourself in bad weather and a roadside restaurant is your only option, this is not the time to make them sit still and be on their best behaviour. Other families are probably in the same boat, so try and let them stretch their legs and burn off some pent-up energy.

kids car

Take advice about going on a road trip with kids and save on the stress

6. Leave at the right time

Consider the following points when choosing your departure time.

– Check the weather: Bad weather could slow down your trip. It also excludes outdoor rest stops, so you may want to leave later in the day.

-Estimate your travel time, then double it: Don’t give yourself a deadline—there’s nothing worse than being under pressure to get somewhere and forcing the whole family to push on.

-Consider leaving while it’s still dark: Stealing your kids away in the night in their PJs and slipping them into their car seat while they’re in a semi-comatose state will mean they’re likely to be very quiet for some time. Again, know your kid, though, as this can backfire if you don’t rest along the way. You could end yourself exhausted by the time you arrive with your kids full of energy.

-Leave when a nap is due: This has the same benefits as leaving while it’s still dark. The key is not stopping the car while they’re asleep as this is a sure-fire waker-upper.

7. Learn to ignore them

The more you interact with your kids, the more attention they’ll want. If you start off the trip entertaining them, they’ll expect it the whole trip and you’ll be exhausted by the end of it. Staring out the window and having some quiet time is necessary. Save your best entertainment for when they need it.

8. When all hell breaks loose

The more you interact with your kids, the more attention they’ll want. If you start off the trip entertaining them, they’ll expect it the whole trip and you’ll be exhausted by the end of it. Staring out the window and having some quiet time is necessary. Save your best entertainment for when they need it.

If you’ve tried ‘stop that or I’ll…’ for the umpteenth time, try doing something unexpected to stop whining or break up a fight, like turning up the music really loud, stopping the car and getting out, putting on the AM static (again, really loud) or breaking out in song. The distraction will take them out of the moment.

9. Pack a good attitude

Having the right attitude before you set out can also help. If you make the road trip more about the journey than the destination and plan accordingly, you’ll more likely get the whole family engaged, rather than counting down the hours until you reach your destination.

If you decide to brave the road with your kids, preparation is key. When you’re prepared and very aware that all hell could indeed still break loose, then when/ if it does you’ll have no problems surviving.

For more information on planning the ultimate road trip check out the Blue Toro Road Trip guide.