7 Road Trip Tips with Little Kids

This post is sponsored by Plum Organics, one of my favorite brands of organic baby foods, plus toddler and kid snacks (and Janssen snacks – I am OBSESSED with their Jammy Sammy). They make my life so much easier at home and on the road. 

road trip with kids

This has been the summer of road trips for our family.

In the eight weeks of summer vacation we have here, we’ve driven up and back to Utah three times, for a total of sixty hours of car time.


I’ll be the first to admit that I am not the biggest car trip lover.

If money was no object, it’d be an airplane ride every single time for me (I LOVE to fly).

But with four kids now, it’s just not very feasible for us to fly so I’ve had to up my road trip game.

Every family has their own strategies that work for them and I’m delighted to partner with Plum Organics to share seven things that have worked for us to make the miles fly(ish) by.

long road trips with toddlers

Tips for a road trip with kids

1. Drive straight through. I know this isn’t for everyone – some families love to stop lots of times and see the sites along the way. For me, it’s all about the destination. I just want to GET there and not spend a lot of extra time on the road. So this summer, we decided we were going to just drive straight through and aim for one stop in the ten hours so we could get to our destination as quickly as possible. We tell our girls that we’ll be stopping once, halfway through, and then everyone goes to the bathroom and we fill up with gas.

2. Divide the time into chunks. We are pretty sparing with our screen time at home, but on the road we definitely let our kids have a lot of time watching movies or playing games on their tablets. Even so, it can just get too much and it helps to break the car trip up if we have blocks of time. So we might do two hours of them watching shows, then turn everything off and have a snack time followed by listening to an audiobook. Then we might pass back out the tablets for an hour then switch to coloring before a lunch break.

family road trip

3. Food. I mean, this is the whole point of a road trip, right? I always hit the store (or send Bart) the night before a trip so we have plenty of snacks for the road. We’ve found that stopping to eat lunch burns up tons of time, makes our whole car smell like fast food, and then our children usually won’t eat anything except their soda (which means more bathroom stops. The worst!). It works better for us to pack a bunch of delicious snacks and our children can eat when they’re hungry and things that are a lot more nutritious than soda! Plum Organics makes such a wide variety of foods for all ages, and especially for Tally, who is too little to play with screens or be very easily entertained on a long trip, snacks are KEY.

I love that Plum Organics use fantastic ingredients and have a wide variety of flavorful and colorful
foods that everyone in our family, from one-year-old to adults love.

Tally loves the Super Puffs (what baby doesn’t?!) and every one of my girls is a massive fan of the Mashups applesauce pouches.

The Mighty Morning Bars are also great for on the go (the lemon blueberry ones are fab).

Having a good stash of food means we don’t have to stop and everyone stays happy and well-fed.

road trip with baby

4. Keep drinks to a minimum. With four small children, three of whom are potty-trained, we could spend our entire day stopping for bathroom breaks. We have EVERYONE try to go to the bathroom before we leave and then remind them that we aren’t stopping for probably 4-5 hours for a bathroom break. We usually try to only do water because not only does it not get sticky if it’s spilled, but they only drink if they’re thirsty, not just because it’s tasty.

5. Set everyone’s expectations beforehand. This is basically my tip for all of life, not just road trips, but it’s especially important when you’re on the road, I think. We always tell our girls that we won’t break out screens until we’re on the freeway, and then we tell them how long they can play before we switch to something else. We remind them that we’re trying to stop only once, so they know it’s going to be a long time in those carseats. When we switch to an audiobook, we tell them that we’re going to listen for an hour or if we’re going to play games together, we let them know that’s going to be a thirty minute period. Whatever it is, knowing what the schedule is, at least loosely, seems to help us all.

road trip snacks

6. Keep a few surprises. I’m not a fun enough mom to wrap a dozen little dollar store gifts for them to open every hour, but I do like to have one or two little things in my back pocket that I can pull out when everyone starts getting restless. Whether it’s a surprise snack they didn’t know about (the Mighty Dinos cheddar crackers are especially popular) or a new CD of songs to sing all together or new coloring books, it’s nice to have a little secret weapon to pull out around hour six or seven when you’ve been in the car FOREVER but still have hours to go.

7. When you get home, clean out your car ASAP. Spending ten hours in your car does a NUMBER on it – there are crumbs and wrappers and shoes and toys. One of my favorite road trip traditions is to go get a carwash the next morning. I usually just do the very cheapest one ($3) and then use the free vacuums to make sure my car is totally clean inside too. It feels so good to have that done and not feel like it stretches on for weeks after your trip is done.

road trip with kids

I’d love to hear your favorite strategies for being on the road with little kids!

And if you haven’t tried Plum Organics, definitely give them a try – you can pick them up at Target or Walmart or your local grocery store or order them online!

road trip with baby

Photos by Christie Knight Photography

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  1. When we do stop on a road trip, we always make sure it’s somewhere the kids can run and move (ages 8, 6 and 4). Rest area, park, local university, even a strip of grass next to shopping center, etc. Then we encourage everyone to MOVE. Who can run to the tree the fastest? Who can crab walk to the sidewalk? Play duck, duck, goose. ANYTHING that gets them moving. Even just laying down in the grass and stretching out for five or ten minutes is helpful.

    Stopping at a restaurant and getting “real food” sounds good to the grown ups in the group, but getting out of the car simply to sit at a table in a restaurant for an hour = more whining, bickering, and fussing for the littles.

    It just works better for our family to eat snacks and run around at a park for 20 minutes…

  2. I would love some of your audiobook and song cd recommendations for little ones (my son is 3 1/2), we leave for a road trip next week. Thanks!

  3. We are driving from Wisconsin to Florida in a couple weeks. On the advice of other parents, we are renting a car. It really isn’t that expensive, plus it saves us the mileage and wear & tear on our vehicle. Best, no clean up when we get home!

  4. I don’t have road trip tips but I’m impressed by the single bathroom break and also thinking about all those miles on your car. Is the drive mostly through mountains or desert or both? My family road trips from Michigan to central Illinois so we see a lot of cornfields.

  5. Do you worry about sitting in the car without moving? My doctor and pediatrician recommend moving every 3 ish hours to avoid health issues (I have had two friends get blood clots from traveling, so I have a heightened awareness of them). We travel a great deal from the Midwest to New England and I cannot imagine not stopping a lot. Lots of walking and moving. Plus some car yoga! We also sleep in a hotel (the trip is more than a day) and eat dinners in restaurants for real food. We try really hard not to snack to pass the time but do get special snacks and activities for the car ride.

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