5 Tips for Road Trips with Kids

Originally published Wednesday, 15 July 2015.

We just got back from a fabulous family road trip. After years of traveling with kids, both on the road in South Africa and the U.S., and in the air across the Atlantic, I’ve learned a few tricks for making traveling easier and more enjoyable.

Here are five tips for making road trips with kids more enjoyable:

1. Get your hands on these new Laugh Out Loud Pocket Doodle books from Revell Books:

I got a girls’ version and a boys’ version for my kids, and they’re great — perfect for road trips! Also, they’re nice and small for easy packing.

Each page includes a joke or a riddle, plus half of a picture for kids to complete on their own.

Here’s what my nine-year-old daughter had to say about the Laugh Out Loud Pocket Doodles for Girls:

“I like this book because it has jokes and you get to draw in it — I mean, who doesn’t like a book that you can draw in — and has jokes?!? There’s half a drawing already made in the book, and then you get to doodle the other half. The drawing is about the joke. The only thing against the book is that some of the jokes aren’t that funny. I would recommend this book to kids aged 6 to 11.”

Here’s my 13-year-old son’s opinion about the Laugh Out Loud Pocket Doodles for Boys:

“This book has a lot of jokes but some of the jokes are not that funny. I like this book because kids can draw in it, and I liked taking it on our trip.”

And finally, from my 8-year-old son:

“This book’s jokes are funny but they don’t make me laugh. Some of the jokes are easy to think of the answer. I like the part that kids can draw in. My favorite joke is:

Q: What did the robber say when he robbed the bookstore?

A: I better book it out of here.

My siblings could not guess it.

2. Take along a Magna Doodle, Etch-A-Sketch and/or erasable white board.

Magna Doodles have been lifesavers in the past on airplane trips; this time around, we packed a white board and markers for the road. Worked great for countless games of Hangman, Tic-Tac-Toe and other creative drawing inventions!

3. Stock up on snacks and pack a separate snack bag for each child.

Last summer we packed our five-person family plus my sister and brother-in-law into a seven passenger van for a 17-hour drive to a family wedding.

The kids did really well in the car, except for one thing: They asked for snacks approximately every 12 minutes. My eldest had a knack for waiting until I zipped up the snack bag and packed it back under the seat before asking if he could have something to eat.

This summer, I came up with a new plan.

I went to Costco and stocked up on individually packaged snacks — granola bars, fruit snacks, dried fruit, trail mix, pretzels, Goldfish, etc. Then I got some giant Ziploc bags, divided up the stash into two bags per kid, and wrote their names on their bags.

Then I explained to my kids, “This is what you get for the whole time we’re gone. Obviously you’ll get breakfast, lunch and dinner, but if you want anything to eat in between meals, this is what you have. You don’t have to ask me before you take something from your own bag. You can eat it whenever you want, but — if you run out before the trip’s over, you’re not getting any more.”

It worked brilliantly!

They were forced to learn self-control and budgeting, and they never asked me for a snack once! They even had snacks left over when we got home.

Definitely using this trick again next time!

4. Audio books, audio books, audio books!

Audio books will become your new best friend during long road trips. Some of my kids’ favorites are the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis, the Magic Tree House series, and Adventures in Odyssey. For older kids, we’ve also loved The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Johnny Tremain, and Listening for Lions, to name a few.

5. Pack more wipes and garbage bags than you think you’ll ever possibly need.

One thing I’ve learned after years of travel: you don’t want to run out of wipes. It will always happen at the least opportune moments. You also don’t want to be stuck in a vehicle with gross trash and nowhere to put it. I also remembered to pack hand sanitizer and Dramamine this time around — just in case!

What about you? What tips and tricks have you learned and used to make traveling with children more enjoyable?

Disclaimer: I received free review copies of the Laugh Out Loud Pocket Doodles for Boys and Girls from Revell Books in exchange for my honest review.