Ever wonder, How do I entertain my kids on a long car ride?
Gasp! I get it. traveling with kids is a task that needs to earn a badge upon arrival.
First of all, long car rides with kids can be messy.
Traveling with kids can be longer than without.
But before you wave the white flag and surrender, I have some simple tips to help your next road trip be as peaceful as possible. – You may even get to press play on that podcast you downloaded weeks ago. 😉
Inside has all of my tips and tricks for traveling with kids on road trips. Take what works best for you and your family and try something new the next time you pack the car.
Inside things to do on a road trip you will find:
Packing snacks – what to pack and how to pack it
Packing toys – what to pack and how to pack it
Unique rest stop ideas
Downtime in the Car
RELATED: Want a large variety of activities for toddlers and preschoolers? Come visit our home page.
Things we do on long car rides have carried a similar pattern over the years.
To begin, a couple of times per year we take an eight-hour road trip with three kids. – and it’s not awful!
Where a given tip is to drive as they sleep, it is not always that simple.
My husband and I are nonstop throughout the day, and to extend into an evening drive in the dark is not always a doable task. Especially when most of our drive is on small backroads.
We typically have to leave shortly after sunset.
Certainly with three kids ages 5.5 and under, I have learned a couple of tricks to help along the way.
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Travel with a travel potty.
You got that right. Pack a potty. Probably what I need to get every new mom.
This travel potty has a permeant home in our car and has been used countless amounts of times.
It is in our car for the big guys that are potty trained, and also perfect for those ‘in training”. This potty is a lifesaver when you need a rest stop that you don’t mind your child touching.
Pro tip: Skip the OXO bags and reuse plastic shopping bags as inserts when instead. The bags are expensive and can easily be swapped out. – Just remember to double bag it! 😉
Furthermore, the legs of the potty also fold in so you can easily store it in the pocket of the back seat. Cheers to easy storage!
Which snacks are best when traveling?
Now, I realize vacation may mean doughnuts and juice boxes. But…
Remember, keep foods familiar to your eating style at home.
I want to feed my kids foods to help them feel comfortable for such a long car ride.
Doing so, means I need to pack snacks that last, and snacks to keep their little bodies feeling strong.
My oldest son also has a peanut allergy which means we need to pack foods that we know and trust. When I pack snacks for a road trip, I am thinking about what my children are familiar with and which snacks go a long way.
Quick Tip: Offer the protein/veggie/fruit before the crackers and chips. It can be difficult to go in the other direction.
How to pack the snacks for a long car ride with the family:
Now you know me.
You know I am not going into this snack packing gig without some sort of strategy.
Quick Tip: Find containers with two sides. Go healthy on one side, add a treat on the other.
These road trip snack containers are our favorite:
Remember, I am packing familiar snacks. Your snacks may look differently based on what you eat at home.
I make sure each boy has the same combo. Again, I do not show or give everything out at once.
PRO TIP: Keep some snacks in your cooler bag until needed.
The travel cooler is life for long car rides with kids!
We pack our snack containers into one portable cooler. The one featured below collapses for simple storage when not in use. – genius.
What can you do on a long car ride?
Road trip activity tip one:
Keep packed toys hidden and pull out as needed.
Allow time to look out the window.
Allow time to get bored.
When frustration kicks in, you will be ready.
Allow your child to pack a small backpack prior to leaving the house.
Here, I hand my two-year-old a small mini backpack and say, Go ahead and put some toys inside your backpack for our trip.
Just like most two-year-olds, he only has a small understanding of what he is packing for, but the trick here is that the toys are self-selected.
These are your “round one” toys.
I do the same for my older boys.
Your turn. Find a few small bags to pack a couple more supplies.
Again, keep this bag for when you need it most. Do not show all your bags and items in one session.
What you are doing here is creating a mystery bag of fun.
Ooooh, what’s this?
Can I open it?
What is inside?
How can I pull these objects out of the bag?
Road trip activities to pack for your next long car ride:
Toddler books to lift the flap.
Toddler books to feel different textures.
Mini versions of Breakfast Invitations.
Songs! – Our favorites right now are Raffi and the soundtrack to LEGO MOVIE TWO.
RELATED: Our Amazon shop has many of our favorites listed.
Where can we stretch along the way?
Have you ever thought about how rest stops could be more like movement breaks?
I know, Chick-Fil-A is a quick in and out to feed the family. But what if you took the time to grab the chicken tenders at the drive-thru and spend more time running around?
Our last eight-hour road trip took a break at a splash pad. It. Was. Glorious.
As the kids ran, they also cooled off and burned energy.
It took a quick change of clothes when we were ready to leave, and we were back in the car to sit for the final stretch. This made the holiday traffic a lot more bearable.
Here we are on our road trip break at the splash pad!
Take car breaks at grocery stores:
It took me a couple of road trips to think of this, but this may be my favorite and most helpful tip.
WHY stop at a grocery store on a road trip?
For one, everyone gets to stretch as they walk up and down the aisles. Get those gross motor muscles moving! We may or may not have been known to even throw the ball around the toy aisle as we shopped.
Stopping at the grocery store also allows everyone to pick a favorite snack for the next stretch of the road. Some grocery stores, such as Publix, have great sandwiches!
Grocery stores have familiar brands and great air conditioning. – Much better than sitting down in a crowded fast-food joint.
RELATED: Traveling with a food allergy? You’ll want to read this.
Find a unique road trip stop on your next long car ride!
Grab your phone.
Read the list of ideas below.
Google search to see what’s around.
Movement breaks quickly turn into opportunities to wrestle with dad.
RELATED: Toddler Approved also has some great road trip suggestions! Read them here.
Long road trips may require movies:
We have our routine at home that limits TV and promotes independent play.
…But when it comes time for long road trips, the portable DVD players come out for my five and four-year-old. Some additional screen time makes a much more enjoyable trip for all.
These DVD players are a really BIG deal.
Of course, the boys know once we arrive, the screens are disconnected until the return trip home.
Pro Tip: Rent movies from your library rather than buying them.
But there’s one catch.
My two-year-old does not watch television… yet. In this case, he hasn’t shown much interest, and so I’m going to ride that wave as long as I can.
For him, we hope he will sneak in a nap somewhere along the ride. My secret weapon for my toddler is to keep his pacifier hidden. Typically, we do not use a pacifier in the car, but for road trips, I bring it when it is time to take a snooze.
Finally, remember when I said we have an eight-hour car ride with kids?
I wasn’t kidding.
In like manner, you don’t need to bring the kitchen sink, but take some ideas from above and see what works best for your family’s style.
Which things to do on a long car ride will you add to your travels?
Let me know in a comment below!