Tips for Road Trips with Kids

With summer in full swing, families across the country are planning their vacations. Time away from the office and house work and more time to spend together as a family.

During the summer months, road trips are an ideal option for family getaways. They are cheaper than flying and can open up a lot of extra adventures when you stop along the way at various sights and towns.

Road trips can also be a little scary if you are traveling with kids. Being in such an enclosed space if someone is having a rough day, or even a complete meltdown is no one’s idea of a fun trip.

We just got back from our family vacation on Saturday and we were gone for two weeks. Not only did we drive from Edmonton to Winnipeg, we also went on three side trips to see our family’s cabin, to go strawberry picking and to Fargo, North Dakota. It was an eventful, and sometimes challenging trip.

I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. I posted the question to my friends on Facebook and asked if they had any tips for me. I got some great advice and I want to share these tips and my thoughts with you.

Tips for Road Trips (with Children)

  • Plan ahead: This includes making lists and slowly putting things aside that you will be packing. About two weeks before we left, we began putting items that we no longer needed at home, but would need on our trip on our dining room table. Our dining room is out of the way, so it was not an eye sore, but everything was easily accessible once we needed to pack. This way, we wouldn’t forget something. It turns out, we didn’t forget anything this trip.
  • Clean your house before you go: I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to walk in to a completely clean house when we returned. We were all exhausted from the wonderful times and the trip home and it was so nice to realize that we had nothing to do but unpack.
  • Pack a healthy lunch and snacks:We all mean to eat well when we are traveling, but often don’t think ahead to lunch time. Food will keep well for a day in the cooler and it is a lot easier than dealing with a hungry child when your next sign of life isn’t for another hour. Some food that we normally pack are:
    • Sandwiches or ‘bunwiches’
    • Chicken – you can buy a whole roast chicken and cut it up to put in a container
    • Hard-boiled eggs – we boil and peel them the day before for less mess
    • Cheese cubes
    • Vegetables – cucumbers, peppers, carrots, anything you like
    • Fruit – We stick with small fruit that you don’t have to cut because it saves the mess if you want a snack while driving (eg. blueberries, raspberries, strawberries)
    • Nuts – one of my new favorite snacks is roasted walnuts. I roast them the night before.
    • Milk and water
  • Get a portable DVD player: When I asked my question on Facebook, this was the overwhelming response from the parents. Our particular road trip was a total of 14 hours of driving time over two days (one way). I am working on a review of the DVD Player we took on our trip and it will be up at the end of this week, but in the meantime, this is a must-have if you are planning a lengthy road trip.
  • Pack treats and surprises:Who doesn’t love treats and surprises? I ended up going to London Drugs and picking out about $50 worth of a ‘whole lot of fun’ for the whole family that lasted us the trip to Winnipeg and back home again. Here is a picture of everything I picked up to make everyone’s time in the car a little more enjoyable

    Juice boxes, infant / preschool snacks, soothers, gummies, magazines and crossword puzzles. There was something for everyone. I also picked up 24 bottles of water and those little packets of flavour crystals that you can add to bottled water.

  • Pack a bag for the kids: Our girls each have a bag with their names on it. I packed a couple of their toys that I knew they loved and were easy for travel. We had also picked up a small toy (that was great for playing in their car seats) for each of them with gift cards we had left over. I packed their hats, their blankets and some colouring books. Then I added a couple of new soothers for our youngest and a magazine for our oldest and I left the bags on their car seats for them to use. Our oldest daughter (four years old) loved it.
  • Shop ahead: I was able to buy almost all of the items in my ‘treat and surprises’ list by looking in the flyers and buying items that were on sale at London Drugs. They always have great sales and as long as you are not set in the snacks you want, you should be able to get a good deal.

Now, it wasn’t all smiles and quiet times like I have pictured here. There were definitely some challenging moments. Our youngest needed to stop a lot for diaper changes. One day, our oldest asked if we were ‘there yet’ so many times that it just became white noise. There were tears…

But, there was also laughter,  questions, conversations, discoveries and moments where we all got to know each other a little better. And when we arrived back home in Edmonton, the car was a little more quiet.

What are your tips for road trips with kids? Did I miss anything?

Disclosure: I received a gift card from London Drugs to purchase some of the products listed here to post this feature. The opinions expressed in this post are mine only and are in no way influenced by any outside factors.

Sheri Landry
Sheri publishes, and writes at This Bird’s Day where she shares all of the thoughts in her head without the voices. Sticking mainly with content for Canadians, Sheri shares family stories, product information and anything that fits into her (and her family’s) daily activities.
Found in Kids, Summer, Travel