Need road trip preparation with kids hacks for your road trip with kids? Here are family road trip essentials every family needs for stress-free travel with kids on the road and even how you can keep your kids learning while traveling without them even knowing!
Ultimate Road Trip Preparation With Kids Tips
Thinking about how do you travel long distance with kids can be overwhelming.
No matter how much you love your family and how much family fun you have together, there’s something about being stuck in the car for hours with each other that can make you lose your mind.
But, what if I told you that a long road trip with kids doesn’t have to be… scary?
When planning a road trip with kids (and your road trip with kids packing list), use these family road trip tips to help keep parents sane and kids happy and you won’t be worried about how do you survive a road trip with kids!
Road Trip Prep and Road Trips with Kids Hacks
How do you make a road trip fun for kids?
Make a list of road trip games for kids and road trip ideas for kids before you go!
How to survive a road trip with family with these road trip hacks for kids:
- Listen to audiobooks or kid-friendly podcasts
- Take turns reading aloud (from a fun chapter book)
- Tell family stories that were passed down from parents and grandparents
- Have a sing-a-long
- Do some Mad Libs
- Ask “Would You Rather?” and give weird options
- Name the states and capitals
- Be prepared with busy bags
- Have a seated dance party
- Play the Quiet Game!
What are some fun road trip games?
- License plate game
- I Spy
- 21 questions
- Alphabet game category game—one person names something from A, another person names something from B from the same category
- “I’m going on a picnic” game where each person names what they are taking on a picnic that starts with a letter of the alphabet (and you have to list all the things that came before your turn)
- HOT SEAT where each person asks someone five questions that they must answer
- Cow game (see below)
- Find the color
- Car bingo
(Don’t miss the our 15 creative road trip with kids recommendations later in the post. Those are also things that helped save sanity on vacations! KEEP SCROLLING!)
Before we get to the best travel hacks, there are two areas I want to cover that people ask about…
What should kids bring on a road trip?
If your kids are old enough, you want to give them a say-so in what they bring on the vacation (within reason, of course).
Allow each kid to bring road trip items like:
- Favorite stuffed animal or comfort item
- Tablet / phone (don’t forget headphones!) and apps for road trip games
- One book, magazine or puzzle book
- Drawing pad or coloring books and crayons/pencils
- A small zip bag of snacks of their choice
- Road trip games (car)
- Travel water bottle (filled!) (We like this collapsible travel water bottle that saves space when not in use!)
But, what about long road trips with toddlers?
How do toddlers survive a long car ride?
Long car trips with toddlers may be a little more difficult, so you’ll need hacks for car travel with toddlers.
Toddler road trip must haves:
- Sit next to the toddler (or put an older child next to the toddler) so you can easily help without stopping the car
- Use a pull-down window shade to block the sun
- Take their favorite blankie or stuffed animal
- Bring one or two new toys that the toddler has never seen
- Use a toddler busy board
- Plan extra time and prepare to make frequent stops (and allow time for them to run around!)
- Load your tablet with toddler friendly movies
- Put one or two changes of clothes in easy to reach places
- Don’t forget favorite snacks!
TODDLER TRAVEL TIP: The best time to leave for a long road trip is when your kids are sleeping! Drive at night while they’re sleeping or plan stops before their nap time so you can keep driving while they nap!
How do I homeschool my kids while traveling?
One of the great things about traveling with kids is that they learn a lot just by traveling. So, you don’t need to worry about a road trip homeschool curriculum or roadschooling lessons! There are easy (and fun) ways to create an educational road trip for the ultimate vacation!
Homeschool road trip ideas to keep kids learning while traveling:
- Leave textbooks and regular school books at home and surprise your kids with some new books on topics/authors they love!
- Before you go, have kids map out your road trip, including miles, gas costs, etc.
- Give kids a map printable and allow them to color each state or area that you travel through.
- At the start of the trip, give each child money and let them budget, plan, and make decisions on buying items throughout the entire trip. (It can even be a small amount like $5 or $10.)
- Focus on culture and languages (even the differences between English terms if you’re staying in the U.S.). Discuss how places you’ve visited and people you’ve encountered are different and celebrate the differences!
- Allow your kids to practice life skills on the road: give them money to pay for the snacks, show them how to pump gas, explain how to check into the hotel, etc.
- Sign up for the Junior Park Rangers kids’ program and visit national parks during your trip.
- Make time to visit historical sites and landmarks along your travel route.
- While driving or at the end of the day, discuss their favorite things from the day and ask them what they learned.
OK, let’s get to the things to do on a road trip with family…
HOW TO ROAD TRIP WITH KIDS WITHOUT LOSING YOUR MIND
Many of these road trip suggestions are fun road trip activities for adults, too! (Which, let’s face it, is super important. Nothing like being stuck for hours in a car with super boring games you have to play with your kids!)
I think you’ll enjoy these helpful tips for parents taking a road trip with kids (including the car games to play with the entire family and driving games for road trips)!
So, when thinking about what to pack for a road trip with kids, here are some ideas — our best list of road trip games and travel activities for kids.
How do I entertain my child on a long car ride?
Road Trip with Kids Idea #1: Rubberneckers: Everyone’s Favorite Travel Game
The first questions almost everyone asks when traveling with kids is, “What are some road trip games?”
Rubberneckers is, hands-down, one of the best family road trip games!
If you only buy one or two good road trip games, make THIS one of them because kids (and adults) will both enjoy it and all ages can play!
We’ve been playing this road trip game for years, since our oldest daughters were young. It’s still one of the most fun driving games we’ve ever played.
It’s part scavenger hunt/I Spy and part double dog dare you.
Some of the cards have you searching for items (a weathervane, a soft drink on a sign) or perform a dare like waving to the car in the next lane with your foot.
Points are assigned for the person who performs the dare or spots the item.
If you have multiple cars, buy a couple of games to keep in each car.
We keep it in the car at all times in the event that we get stuck in traffic or decide to do an impromptu day trip.
It’s been a sanity saver on more than one occasion and the perfect road trip games for families!
LISTED AGE RANGE: 3-12 years (but the older kids and adults enjoy it just as much)
Road Trip with Kids Idea #2: Road Trip Games
50 Cool Things To Do In A Car is exactly what it sounds like: 50 games you can play on the road.
There are 50 total cards and each card has a different game that you can play while traveling in a car, plane, train, (boat, rickshaw, whatever).
Some of the games need minor accessories, like notebooks and pencils.
LISTED AGE RANGE: 4 years and up
Road Trip with Kids Idea #3: License Plate Travel Sticker Book
No matter how old you are, you’ve probably played the “Spot the License Plate” game while traveling.
(Heck, when I was a kid that and some books was all we had…)
And, it’s still fun for all ages today!
Grab a set of these License Plate Travel Sticker Books and you can keep the whole car entertained for hours.
Up the ante by offering a special prize (like this cool Thinking Putty) to the one who fills their book first (or hits milestones like first to 10, 25, etc.) with the included stickers for each state.
For the older kids, this book also has a place to write the capital of the state — a little something extra to keep the older kids occupied.
LISTED AGE RANGE: 3 years and up
Road Trip with Kids Idea #4: Travel Bingo Game
The trick to a road trip with kids is to keep them busy.
I’m a sucker for travel bingo just because of the sheer simplicity (and busyness) of it.
Not only can multiple people of any age play, but you don’t need anything else!
Flip the flaps when you find the item and it keeps track of your bingo play. Super easy!
This Melissa & Doug bingo pack has multiple cards (like vehicles, town, country, etc.) so that your travelers won’t easily get bored with, “We’ve done these before!”
LISTED AGE RANGE: 4 and up
Road Trip with Kids Idea #5: Mad Libs
Look, no one can ever go wrong with Mad Libs, no matter the age.
They’re the stories where you blindly input nouns, verbs, colors, etc. into blank spaces and then you read the stories with your words, which ends up being quite funny.
The great thing about Mad Libs is that they can work for ages preschool and up as long as you have someone who can read or write (um, like you).
For the younger kids, instead of asking a preschooler for a verb you can ask them for a word with someone doing something.
Check out these fun Mad Libs for your road trip with kids (AND they’re super affordable!):
LISTED AGE RANGE: Kindergarten and up
Road Trip with Kids Idea #6: Kids Ultimate U.S. Road Trip Atlas
Here’s your chance to sneak some learning in while traveling and still have fun.
This awesome National Geographic Kids Ultimate U.S. Road Trip Atlas offers maps, games, activities and more to keep the kiddos busy and make your road trip with kids a learning experience.
According to the product description:
“This book includes easy-to-read, simple road maps of each state and Washington, D.C., and a map of the United States. State symbols, cool things to do, boredom busters, fun facts, wacky roadside attractions, and games accompany the maps and provide engaging information with stunning photographs that will keep kids engaged for hours.”
LISTED AGE RANGE: 8-12 years
Road Trip with Kids Idea #7: Boredom Buster Book
Boredom Buster is a book full of different activities for a span of different ages.
There are also solo activities as well as group activities.
The book includes:
- Word games
- Memory games
- Board games
- & much more!
LISTED AGE RANGE: 5-12 years
Road Trip with Kids Idea #8: Wikki Stix Lil’ Traveler Playset
If your kids are creators (and love things like Lego Bricks), they’ll love this Wikki Stix Lil’ Traveler Playset.
Do you know about them?
They are the coolest thing ever!
Wikki Stix are a little like pipe cleaners that you can bend into shapes and create whatever growing minds can imagine.
And, your little ones can practice letters and numbers just by shaping the Wikki Stix onto the page (instead of tracing them).
(They’re GREAT for those oh-s0-important fine motor skills!)
This specific playset is awesome because not only does it come with the Wikki Stix and board activities for the Stix, but it also comes with a tidy little carrying case — a must to keep your travel area neat and organized.
(You know, in between all the juice boxes and food wrappers.)
LISTED AGE RANGE: 3 and up
Road Trip with Kids Idea #9: “Mom, I’m Bored” Activity Book
OK, I’ve talked before about how beneficial boredom can be for your kids.
Being with bored kids WHILE ALSO STUCK IN THE CAR FOR HOURS is not a good thing for anyone.
This book has different activities like puzzles, drawing, designing, and more — 22 different activities in all!
The great thing about this book is that it’s made of glossy, wipe-off cards with a dry erase marker included.
It can be used over and over again and shared between different kids.
TRAVEL HACK: Before the trip, tape yarn or twine to one end of the dry erase marker and then tie the other end of the yarn/twine to the coils on the book so that the marker is attached. This will prevent the “I DROPPED MY MARKER!” every 5 minute claims.
LISTED AGE RANGE: 3 and up
Road Trip with Kids Idea #10: Magnetic Board Games
Magnetic Board Games can be life savers and are a great addition to your travel tools.
The pieces and board are magnetic, so they stick to each other even in the bumpiest conditions.
This Magnetic Board Games Set comes with 12 board game choices like:
- Chinese checkers
- Tic Tac Toe
- Snakes & Ladders
- NineMen’s Morris
- Auto Racing
- Space Venture
It might just be the ultimate in must-have magnetic travel board games!
LISTED AGE RANGE: 6 years and up
Road Trip with Kids Idea #11: Travel Art Kit
If you spend money buying each kid a new thing for the road trip, make sure it’s an art kit like this Crayola Art Tools Kit that comes with markers, paper, and a storage case with a carrying handle.
Plus, when you shut the case, it makes a nice little desk.
The best part is the versatility and that it can be be used for solitary, quiet creating time, or for group games like tic-tac-toe, hangman, and more at the hotel or family camping ground once you arrive.
Great for a range of ages!
LISTED AGE RANGE: Preschool and up
Road Trip with Kids Idea #12: Book Bag
Don’t forget to put together a book bag tailored to each of the kids!
Include some paper and crayons, but also some new (surprise) books for them to read.
Road Trip with Kids Idea #13: Cow Counting Game
OK. This may seem weird but this is one of our top favorite car games that doesn’t need anything else but looking out the window.
And, bonus that all ages can play!
If you are doing a back road trip or taking some country roads, this is the perfect game.
Here’s how you play:
- Teams are divided by the side of the car they are on (the people on the same side as the driver are on one team and the people on the same side as the passenger seat are on the other team).
- If you pass a cow farm on your team’s side of the car, you count as many cows as you can before you get completely past the farm.
- Each time a team passes a cows (on their side of the car), they add the number of cows to their total.
- But—here’s the kicker—if you pass a CEMETERY on your side of the car, your team loses all their cows and you have to start over.
It may sound silly, but this is really one of the best games that has us squealing and laughing and competing while we are traveling. (And, you don’t need any “extra” things, just your eyes!)
Road Trip with Kids Idea #14: Time for Tech
Honestly, I don’t happen to think that a road trip or travel time is the time you want to limit technology for your kids.
Remember, the goal is to get you to your destination with everyone alive and all limbs intact and no one being too crabby to have fun after traveling.
One of the best ways to do this is to allow your kids time on their tech devices.
(And, don’t forget the headphones!)
Tech-Free Travel: Road-Trip Games for Preschool
Traveling with little ones can be hard because toddlers and preschoolers are sometimes difficult to entertain while traveling on long road trips. And, you might need tech-free travel tips for them while the older kids play on their tablets.
I love this SIMPLE, DIY preschool game idea (low tech travel idea) for this age range and it’s an easy, take-along travel car game for littles to add to your road trip ideas.
Road Trip with Kids Idea #15: Road Trip Playlist and (Seated) Dance Parties
Before you head out on your road trip with kids, don’t forget to make your road trip playlist!
This is something that you get the whole family involved in! Just ask everyone to give you their top five or 10 favorite songs and make a road trip playlist.
There will be something on there to appease everyone and (hopefully) it will prevent you from listening to 10 straight hours of that annoying preschool CD (or Baby Shark. You’re welcome.).
Then, when you’re in the car, have sing-offs or sitting dance parties to your road trip soundtrack.
Yep! Your own car ride fun kids’ sing-along!
And, road trip music is a great way to work off some of that energy from sitting so long!
TRAVEL TIP: These light-up gloves make seated dance parties a ton of fun! We have them and we’ve had SO MUCH fun with them from road trips to nights when the electricity has gone out to sleepover parties!
Add these travel hacks to your fun road trip games like the license plate game and road trip bingo and you’ll have a sanity saving (and fun) road trip.
ONE LAST FAMILY TRAVEL TIP: Don’t forget about podcasts and audiobooks. There are plenty of great family and kid-friendly podcasts and kids audiobooks that everyone will love.