How to Survive a Long Road Trip With Young Kids

Jul 7, 2021 | Blog, Raising Kids

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One of my fondest memories of my childhood is when we took a cross-country road trip when I was fourteen.

We took a whole month and explored Civil War Battlefields, Washington DC, New York, and everywhere in between.

We started our trip in Oregon and drove all the way across the country in a big motorhome.

Ross and I love to travel and go on adventures.

We have done a fair amount of road trips back in the day, but going on a road trip with young kids is quite different!

We just got back from visiting friends in Colorado, and since this was our second long-haul road trip (multiple days of travel and multiple hours each day), I thought I should write about what we have learned road-tripping with two little kids.

How to Survive a Road Trip With Little Kids

How To Go On a Road Trip With Two Little Kids

1) Do Practice Road Trips

When we went on our first big road trip, our girls were 18-months-old and 4-years-old. We were excited to go to our friend’s wedding in Montana which was 10 hours from our house.

But Ross was terrified of the drive.

Both of our girls hated their car seats until they were old enough to face forward. And our youngest had a tendency to scream from the moment we put her in her car seat until the moment we arrived at our destination.

So to help her get over this, we decided to do several practice road trips. I took the girls up to my grandma’s house (3 hours away), we went to visit my parents (2 hours away), and down to visit friends in my hometown (2 hours away).

And the more we drove, the more she got used to it.

By the time we were ready to go, they were both enjoying being in the car.

2) Practice Having The Kids Close Together

Another thing we were a little worried about was the girls being in close quarters for so long. We wanted this to be an enjoyable experience and not have them bickering in the backseat.

So I decided it would be good practice to put both of them in the jogging stroller/bike trailer and go on runs and rides with them.

I would load them in with their Doodle Pads, some books, and their water, and we’d be off!

Then when they did have a disagreement, I would try to stay out of it and let them figure it out themselves.

And when I did need to help them figure it out, it was a lot easier to “pull over” a jogging stroller/bike trailer and teach them how to work together and negotiate with each other than it is to pull over a car.

This may not seem like something that would make a big difference, but I definitely recommend that you take this step (or find something similar if your kids are too old to ride in a jogging stroller together).

Because we had a LOT of opportunities to practice working things out during the one-hour long rides and runs… but by the time we went on our road trip, their disagreements were few and far between.

Coincidence?? I don’t think so!

3) Practice Sleeping in the Same Room

This is something I haven’t done before, but we will be doing it in the future!

This was the first time we have stayed in a hotel together as a family with two kids and the first time we have tried to have the girls share a room for 2 weeks in a row at our friends’ house.

(We do most of our vacations to friend’s or family’s homes so we often end up with a little more space than a hotel room provides. So usually we try to put the girls in separate rooms, and Ross will sleep in the same room with one child and I will seep with the other so that the girls will get the maximum amount of sleep.)

But since we were going to be there for two weeks we decided that the girls would sleep in the same room… and it definitely could have gone better😂

One child tended to keep the other awake pretty late, and then one child would always end up waking the other one up in the morning.

So yeah… next time we will be doing some practice ahead of time so that they can learn how to be quiet while the other person is going to sleep, then be quiet if they wake up first in the morning.

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4) Give Yourself Plenty of Time

Now back in the day… when Ross and I were cool and we slept until noon on the weekends… the 19-hour road trip that we just did to Colorado would have been done in less than 24 hours.

But now that we have kids… bahahahahahahaha!

We decided we were going to break it up into 2 days of 5 hours, and one day of 6 hours.

And it was PERFECT!

5 hours of driving took us about 6 or 7 depending on how many potty trips we needed to make (oh so many potty trips).

We also tried to let the girls run around for a couple of minutes when we did stop so that they could stretch their legs.

So my advice is this: Don’t Rush the Drive!

It will be much more relaxing if you just realize that your drive is going to take much longer than you think it should and you just embrace it.

Trust me!

5) Get Some Games

If your kids are a little older (3 and up) you may want to grab a couple of games that will help pass the time.

For this trip, I grabbed the License Plate Game, Car Bingo, and a Maze and Dot-to-Dot Book.

For my girls, the license plate game and car bingo were games that we played multiple days and everyone had a lot of fun with.

The water pads entertained them for a short amount of time but were not nearly as captivating for them.

How to Survive a Road Trip with Little Kids

6) Essential Road Trip Toys

Buckle Toy

When we went on our first road trip and our younger daughter was 18-months old, the biggest life-saver we had on our trip was a little Turtle Buckle Toy.

She would buckle all the buckles then say “hep! hep!” and I would reach back, un-buckle them, and then she would do it all again!

I highly recommend this toy if you have a one to two-year-old that you want to keep entertained.

They have a ton of different styles, animals, and colors to choose from depending on your child’s preferences.

Doodle Pads

Our second favorite road trip toy is their Doodle Pads. We got these for them when they were each two years old, and they have yet two outgrow them even at 6 and 3.

I definitely recommend getting a doodle pad for each child. I know it isn’t the most minimal thing to do to get duplicate toys, but the Doodle Pads is one of the few exceptions to my minimalist rule!

Craft Bag

Our last absolute must-have entertainment is the craft bag.

We love having this craft bag both at home and on the road.

Before we got the bag the markers and crayons ended up all over the floor… almost every day.

I originally got the craft bag to solve the solution at home, but then it turned out to be an amazing road trip hack too!

We put the bag between their car seats and everything gets put away in the proper compartments when they are done… for the most part.

Now I can’t imagine going on a road trip without the craft bag.

Do a Dollar Store Run

After we were armed with our tried and trues… I made a dollar store run.

I got 4 small new items for each of them that I knew wouldn’t last any longer than the trip.

They were only allowed to do one new thing each day, and it just basically gave us an extra 30-60 minutes when they were getting fidgeting at the end of the day.

Then at the end of the trip, all of those little trinkets went into the garbage because dollar store things are not meant to be used forever.

Yes, I know getting stuff at the dollar store isn’t the minimalist thing to do, but since those things don’t last forever, they didn’t even make it into the house at the end of the trip. They took a detour right into the garbage. 😂

7) Have Something Interesting to Listen To

The next thing you have to have on your road trip is some new stories to listen to.

Yes, music is great, but stories really help pass the time for everyone. Ross and I find the stories just as interesting as the girls do.

We enjoy The Bible on Living Sound and Your Story Hour, and there are so many great podcast options out there as well.

8) Plan Out Your Meals

Create a Meal Plan

Just as no road trip would be complete without meals, no post by Kassy would be complete without a meal plan. (Just kidding… kind of, but not really 😉

Seriously though, if you want to keep everyone happy on your road trip, have an idea of what you are going to be eating when.

That way you won’t be frantically searching for a fast food restaurant once everyone is already hungry.

Have an idea of which meals you want to eat out and which meals you want to make yourself.

If the meal plan is already set, it will minimize negotiations when everyone has a different idea for what they want to eat.

On our last road trip, Ross and I actually decided which meals we would eat out on the trip and where we would eat those meals before we even left the house. This made it easy to know that there would in fact be a restaurant around when we wanted to eat from one.

(It is surprising how long you can go without seeing any restaurants when you are doing a long-haul road trip!)

Have Special Snacks

Normally our kids don’t eat between meals but on a road trip (just like on hikes) this rule kind of goes out the window.

Before our road trips, we load up with lots of fun snacks from Trader Joe’s and Costco.

Have an Awesome Road Trip with Little Kids

Have Special Drinks

Typically we just have our kids drink water, but sometimes it is hard for them to get enough when all they are doing is sitting all day.

So to solve this problem, we grab several coconut waters for the girls before we hit the road.

The first day on the road we made the mistake of giving each of them their own. And we might have had to stop 5 times in an hour and a half for potty breaks.

The next day we decided we would split the containers and that made for a much better drive!

9) Have Fun and Stretch Your Legs Along the Way

Back when Ross and I were cool and slept until noon on the weekends, we were all about the destination.

But now that we have kids, it’s much more about the journey.

Stop and take some hikes, go to a park, or just find a grassy place to let your kids stretch their legs.

If we can, we like to take a break about halfway through our drive.

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See you on the next one! Kassy