8 Clever Tricks for Taking a Road Trip with Kids

As the winter drags on, you’re desperate for that springtime vacation. (And, if the chalkboard countdown in the kitchen is any indication, so are your kids.) The thought of dragging your two little ones through five-hour delays, connecting flights and lost luggage is paralyzing. So you decide to travel by road…though that feels daunting too. That’s why we’re here with some tips to make the journey a little smoother and sweeter. Here, eight genius ways to seamlessly pull off a road trip with kids.

girl sleeping in car
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1. Have an Escape Plan (and Make It Moonlit)
We suggest mapping out an exit plan a few days before departure. Decide what time of day (or night) is best to leave based on your energy levels (remember those?) and your youngest’s sleep schedule. If possible, aim for the crack of dawn...or earlier. Pack the car the night before and get to bed early, so you’re rested enough when the alarm rings at 3 a.m. The kids will go back to sleep once they’re tucked into their seats, and you’ll get a few hours of peace and quiet under your belt before the “Are we there yet?” chorus begins. And it will.

2. Keep It Comfy
Speaking of moonlit, emphasizing a “slumber party” ahead of time will make being in the car feel like a special occasion. And with an ample supply of pillows, cozy blankets and their favorite stuffed animals, the perfect setup might even lead to longer stretches of sleep (here’s hoping). Spritz some lavender oil to keep their eyelids heavy and your temporary home smelling delicious.

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3. One Word: Snacks
When they rise, they’ll be hungry. Snack prep is essential. Keep it simple, accessible, mess-free and, most important, healthy. Fast food on the interstate is tempting for all of us. But you heard it here first: The post-milkshake toddler crash is definitely not worth it. Instead, opt for an ample supply of Mott’s Applesauce Pouches, with new clear packaging for quality you can see. Flavors like Apple, Cinnamon and No-Sugar-Added Strawberry will keep everyone happy and satisfied.

road trip map
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4. Map Out Fun Stops in Advance
With food in their bellies, a bathroom break is right around the corner. Take a look at your route ahead of time and decide on fun, educational places to stop. Is a national park three short miles away? Is the state line just off the next exit? Exciting sights will break up the trip and make carrying on more manageable for everyone. 

5. Speaking of Maps, Try the Real Deal
Let your oldest help navigate with an old-school paper map. They’ll see where you’ve been and where you’re headed and might even learn some geography. Pack some colored markers for drawing lines and circling the landmarks you’ve passed. (And we won’t tell if your navigation app stays open on your lap the whole time.)

little boy car road trip
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6. Establish Family Road Traditions
Introducing activities exclusively for road trips deems the time together a special occasion. We love “I Spy” and the alphabet game once the tots know their letters. Set special rules as they grow, like only spying something on the road. Try the alphabet game aloud or silently for an extra challenge. Best of luck getting past Q.

7. Entertain Without Technology
When family time wears off (it will), they’ll be ready for some individual entertainment. And while technology is tempting (we know), too much screen time in the confinement of your minivan is a recipe for a total toddler meltdown. To keep the kids occupied and the driver sane, we love organizing with setups like shoe organizers hung from the front seats, shower caddies stuck to the windows and mini cookie sheets as makeshift easels. These hacks keep toys, books and art supplies accessible (saving you from those tantrums) and you from unbuckling and turning around every five minutes.

girl on tablet in car
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8. And Then Reward with It (If You Must)
Remember that whole plan-ahead thing? We love hour-by-hour treats as rewards for good behavior. Fill a bag with exciting “prizes” and present them throughout the trip. You can even include an hour of screen time, if that would thrill your little ones. Call it another strategy for avoiding the dreaded “Are we there yet?” Soon enough, you will be.