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Our 5 Top Tips For Family Road Trips

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Family road trips are an essential part of traveling with kids. They’re budget friendly. And unlike with a plane or train, you can decide how long the trip will take and when to pull off the road and get out of the car. But asking kids to sit still for long periods of time isn’t easy and delays due to the weather, traffic, car problems or motion-sickness can turn an adventure into a slog.

Here are my tips for making family road trips manageable.

car packed for a road tripGet Your Car Ready

Be proactive with your car and tire care. Before a family road trip, make sure you’re up to date on your regularly scheduled maintenance. Check and double-check your tire pressure. Your tires are the only thing connecting your hunk of moving metal to the earth and pressure that’s either too high or too low can be a danger. Moreover, proper tire pressure helps you optimize your car’s fuel consumption.

If you do have a problem and have to call roadside assistance, be sure to tell the service provider how many children will need transportation and their ages.

Join AAA

AAA is helpful on family road tripsMost people associate AAA membership with roadside assistance (which can be darn invaluable when you need it). But members can get discounts on hotels, attractions, entertainment destinations such as Disney and Universal Orlando, and tickets for concerts.

Keep Distances Reasonable

jeepI try to never drive more than six hours a day. When I sense that one of my kids is headed for a meltdown, I know it’s time to stop for the night. Better to keep everyone’s mood on and up and up than to push them beyond their limits and be stuck in a car with cranky, stressed out kids.  I always try to find a hotel with a pool, even if we’re only there for one night. It helps kids get out all their pent-up energy from too much time in the car. I recommend getting a morning swim in before hitting the road, too!

Along the way, I’ll try to embrace my kitschy side. I leave room in the budget for spontaneous, fun roadside attractions like milking a cow at a local farm, or seeing the World’s Largest Ball of Twine.

With smaller kids I always traveled during naptime when I could. It reduces your chances of having to deal with motion sickness or meltdowns. Bring along whatever pacifiers, lovies or blankets you need to make the car seat comfortable for sleep.

BYO Everything

pack a cooler for your road tripBring an ice-packed cooler and pack lunches, snacks and drinks. When I’m feeling really creative I puree fruit and put it into freezable, squeezable pouches like the Sili Squeeze (which stays cold). My kids  love slurping up a chilled slushy, and I don’t have to buy those fake blue ones at rest stops.

In fact, I don’t have to bother with rest stops at all (well, maybe for that emergency bathroom break). With lunch packed can have a leisurely picnic wherever we see a park or nature area. The kids can run around and stretch their legs better than at highway rest areas. If there’s time, we break out a ball to kick around for a bit.

back seat organizers are great for family road tripsPack For Easy Access

Pack a “kids bag” with essential like bottles, baby food, diapers, medicine for little ones; snacks, toys or electronics for older kids; and a change of clothes for each kid. Keep it where it’s easy to grab.

Avoid Schlepping suitcases into the hotel for every one-night stay by packing a smaller tote in advance, with PJs, essential toiletries, a change of clothes, and bedtime essentials like a book or lovie. When you don’t have to dig through a car trunk rife with suitcases, getting into PJs at the hotel late at night is so much easier. And you’re more likely to hit the road with a rested, eager family the next day.

What are your favorite tip for family road trips?

Kristin Varela is Chief Mom at You can follow her on Twitter.


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