Tips & Tricks: Road Trips with Kids

Last year, we drove from Minnesota to Spokane and back again for spring break. Then, when we moved to Spokane last June, we drove all the way from Minnesota with a moving truck and trailer and both kids, too! Suffice it to say that, after all that, we are really good at road trips with kids! Our top tips and tricks to making it stress-free and enjoyable, after the jump…

Start Early 
This is so obvious. It’s also easier said than done. The only way we’ve been able to make this happen is by having everything ready the night before. Then we set our alarms and get up, make coffee and put the kids in their car seats in their pajamas. 5am is the target! If we leave by then, the kids are almost guaranteed to sleep the first 3 or 4 hours of the drive. Bliss!
Don’t Stop 
When the kids are sleeping, we do not stop. This rule makes for a careful balance of coffee and water consumed. We make sure to have snacks in the car and talk or listen to podcasts. When I’m the passenger, I play Candy Crush! ;) We’ve found that if we stop, even to go to the bathroom, or hit a drive-thru, the change in sound, direction and motion wakes the kids up, so we don’t. Ever!
Eat When the Kids Wake Up 
If you succeed in making the 5am start a reality, the natural time to stop and eat breakfast is when the kids wake up. This is impossible if you’re driving through the middle of nowhere, so look to see what’s ahead and pack breakfast if necessary. In the US, there are tons of rest areas with bathrooms and picnic tables. In Italy and Europe, there are the Autogrills, where you can make a pit stop. We like to stop, use the bathrooms, let the kiddos run around a bit, eat, use the bathrooms again and then get back on the road.
Keep them Entertained 
Coco has a pair of sound-governing headphones and the iPad on road trips. A lot of the time, we all talk and notice things out the windows, so she doesn’t use it the whole time, but she is free to if she’d like. We load it up with games and shows and she plays with it when the mood strikes. For Theo, we have a cute firefly musical mirror that we could not live without. It has a remote that clips to the car's visor to start the music. When it's on, it lights up and whether it's on or not, it lets us see what he’s doing in the rearview. Another toy he loves in the car is his Baby Einstein classical music player. It’s so simple and inexpensive and he could push the big button on his own from the time he was about 11 months old. But, really, Theo is the easiest baby in the car. His favorite thing to do is sleep, followed by looking at Coco.
Stay at a hotel with a Pool 
If your trip is long enough to do an overnight, make sure to have a pool where you’re staying. Swimming is so fun and refreshing after a day in the car. Plus, something about being in water makes kids so tired and ensures that they sleep really well. That’s a must unless you want cranky kids in the back seat all the following day!
Take breaks 
Riding in the car can be stressful for children. On the Amalfi Coast, Coco got a lot of carsickness. Stop when things are getting uncomfortable. It’s better to take a half hour and get out, walk around and regroup than to try and force things and deal with a screaming, hysterical, throwing up child. The same goes for adults. Stretch your legs and get some fresh air when you need it. And never, ever drive when you’re tired.
Turn in Early 
It’s tempting to drive at night when the children are sleeping, but it’s also dangerous. We always prefer to start super early and stop early as well. When staying at a hotel, we like to get checked in by 3 or 4pm. Then we have plenty of time to swim, eat dinner, get the kids to bed on time and have a little time before going to bed early ourselves.

That’s it! We are heading down to Oregon for spring break, so we have a 7-8 hour drive ahead of us next week! Compared to the two or three full days it takes from Minnesota to Spokane, it should be a breeze. But it’s still pretty long. We’ll be leaving early, and using these window clings (fourth item down) to keep the backseat shady and cozy for sleeping. Hopefully by the time Coco and Theo wake up for breakfast, we’ll already be half way there!

It’s funny to look back and see how far we’ve come. After our first road trip with Coco, we swore we’d never do it again! Luckily we didn’t stick to that. Do you take road trips with your kids? How do you do it?


  1. Thanks so much for this post! It makes me realise how spoilt we are in little old island UK as my idea of a long drive is 3 and a half hours, not 3 days! Silvia (age 1) has a selection of toys that only live in the car, so they are fresh and new and she doesn't see much of them, so they are exciting! Our other big thing is to look for a place of interest to break the day up- a historic site, an animal sanctuary, something! It makes the break from driving purposeful and stimulates little ones so they sleep again right away. My favourite is to stop at Stonehenge as it's halfway between my home and my parents- the indoor museum has all sorts of fun displays and a surround diorama video that fascinates S.

    1. A stopover at Stonehenge sounds absolutely delightful! The only road trip of sorts I ever did in the UK was through 1066 country and along the Canterbury Trail. It was beautiful!

  2. Excellent post! I never thought of leaving before breakfast, always just after which does make for some squirmy children at first. Such a great tip! We are just starting to play "I Spy" these days so the next roadtrip should be much more exciting, subject to landscape that isn't devoid of farms/trains/traffic, etc! ;-)

    1. Oh yes, "I Spy" is a classic! Coco likes to play it with colors, but hopefully we can play with sounds on this trip. Thanks for the reminder! xx

  3. So glad I just found this! Our two are 11 months old now, and we'll be driving from PA to TN in July. I'm basically already panicking ;)

  4. The link to the window shade isn't working, and I'm so eager for a good one that works! Could you re-link it? Thanks!!

    1. Here is a new link. We had a bit of trouble with shipping and ours didn't arrive in time, so we ended up getting the fourth ones down at Target:

  5. This is amazing thanks for sharing this blog I have become a fan of your blogs now. This blog is so interesting and informative.

  6. I just love how you explain each and everything here amazing tips for road trips. And yes you said it very well above Start Early is the first important tips to make your road trip wonderful and for that you have to pack everything a night before. Thank you for such informative knowledge. I also have similar views that I apply in my life and business at Gati Packers and Movers In Delhi. I will start following you for more such great content.


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