Road Trips with Kids | Tips on Travel

Just for fun

July 6, 2021

Two weeks from today, I leave on my 5th annual Mitchells Ultimate Road Trip. We have done 2 other “mini” road trips over winter/spring breaks, but this is our 5th annual road trip. It’s hard to believe that I started these trips in 2017 when Levi was just 3.5 years old. Abigail is now that same age and here we are four years later about to venture out on our 5th trip!

Just for fun, here’s a mini recap of our prior trips:
2017– Branson, MO – Louisville, KY – Nashville, TN
2018– Charlotte, NC – Raleigh, NC – Culpeper, VA – Washington DC – Roanoke VA – Knoxville, TN
2019– Southern Kentucky – Southern Missouri – Branson, MO – Little Rock, AK – Tupelo, MS
2020– Asheville, NC – Charlotte, NC (with a handful of out and back day trips from each location)
2021– Raleigh, NC – Culpeper, VA – Annapolis, MD – Baltimore, MD – Pittsburgh, PA – Cincinatti, OH

Today’s post is going to focus on how to successfully travel in the car with kiddos. I’ve done all ages 9 months through 7 years old so far with my kids; well minus when Abigail was 1.5 years old. I didn’t take her that year in order for Levi and me to have a “big kid” trip and not have to deal with an almost 2 year old in the car for over a week!

I hope you find these tips helpful as you plan your road trip!

1) Take a Deep Breath– these trips are my favorite each year, but they are anything but relaxing. It’s a lot of work and is often stressful to drive as many miles as we do with two young kiddos in the car. So take a deep breath and know that you will have a moment or two of questioning your sanity and why you did this to yourself… haha. Super encouraging, I know. But obviously, the good outweighs the bad (as is anything with having kids), so I obviously love it enough to do it year to year!

2) Take Toys, Games, and Fun– most kids get bored fairly quickly in car. Mine can often just sit for an hour or two and keep themselves occupied by singing, looking out the window, or talking to each other… seriously. We just went to Chattanooga yesterday for a day trip and they didn’t have any specific to play with or do on the way up for an hour and a half. However, after longer trips and rides, they need something to do! Bring toys, car games, and crafts to do in the car. I avoid markers and crayons in the car and bring colored pencils. I learned the hard way to not bring crayons in the car! Levi dropped one and it melted in the car. It’s still there 3 years later! haha

Toy train purchased at the gift shop to be played with the entire trip after!

3) Get a Portable DVD Player– if your car doesn’t come with a DVD player, buy a portable one! Maybe two! haha. I have one for the kids that they share. I let them watch one movie per leg we go. Personally, I don’t want them watching TV the whole time so I limit their TV time. But it definitely comes in handy for when you want some quiet time!

4) Take Breaks– About every 2-3 hours, I take a break. Three hours is the longest I will drive without a stretch break. My kids start to get a little antsy at that point and need a stretch break. Sometimes we will stop at a fast food place with a playground, find a local park, take a hike at a state or national park, or just have lunch somewhere to give us a break in the car.

Random stop at Land Between the Lake National Recreation Area for lunch back in 2019

5) Limit Your Daily Travel– if possible, limit your daily travel. I don’t typically drive more than 5-6 hours in one day. I try to keep my average to around four hours a day at the most. Taking less time to drive allows you time to still do something that same day. We can wake up and leave at 8am or 9am for example, drive 4 hours and still have a full afternoon in our next city. Too much driving in one day leaves the kids really antsy and bored.

6) Pack Snacks– if your kids are anything like mine, they are constantly asking for food. I have healthy snack options sitting in the passenger seat in a box for me to pull out for them with ease. If you’re traveling with your spouse or someone else who needs that passenger seat, you can condense the snack bag/box and put it in back with the kids. I just suggest keeping the snacks close at hand for easy access and not in the trunk.

7) Drive During Nap Time– I often drive in the middle of the day during nap time in order to make the drive easier for all. Napping toddlers in the car make for a much more pleasant trip! I know the timing isn’t always possible to do this, but when it does, it’s a win-win for everyone. Kid gets a nap and Mama doesn’t have to listen to kid talking! haha

8) Download Podcasts or E-Books– I always have a good podcast or two or e-book to listen to while we drive. I throw one earbud in my ear and get a lot of listening done on our trips. It’s a great way to get a book “read” or some good podcasts you’ve been dying to listen to! Plus, it drowns out the back of the car noise like DVD’s and kids talking constantly!

9) Stop for Fun Traditions– make some traditions along the way! We have a tradition (inspired by my best friend) to have ice cream in every state! So we make sure to stop at at least one ice cream stop in each state! We’ve checked off quite a few in our years of travel so far! Find something fun that you can find a reason to stop whether it be every baseball park in America, or every National Park, or a Chick-Fil-A in every state! Something fun to look forward to and a reason to stop somewhere!

In 2018, we hit up ice cream in Virginia, Maryland, and Tennessee!

Ice Cream in Missouri and Arkansas in 2019

Next post, I will share tips on how to save money on road trips!

  1. Karen says:

    Love your tips… any tips for traveling with kids prone to car sickness? We do various things to help but it just makes for a stressful car ride.

    • mandi says:

      I am lucky that I don’t have that issue with mine. I know personally, that I tend to get carsick more if I’m looking down at things. So while coloring books and stuff like that might be helpful for a kiddo to keep them occupied, that might be something to avoid. Playing car games that have them look outside like “I spy” or the “ABC game” could help. If your car doesn’t have a DVD player, maybe putting something in front of their faces that make their heads stay up? Stopping for breaks as often as you can to let them get out and stretch their legs. It might make for longer routes to get to places, but this could possibly help, too!

  2. Olivia says:

    I love how real these tips were! It’s also amazing that you included tips not just for the kiddos, but for maintaining your own sanity wrapped into one awesome blog post. I can’t wait to use these for our next road trip!

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