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Taking a road trip with kids can be fun and create life long memories, but it you do not plan the road trip out it can quickly turn into no fun at all. In order to make sure your family has the most fun possible, Meagan Wristen from Mommy Travels is sharing her tips for taking a road trip with kids.

road trip

My family road tripping across the state of Texas. Photo by Meagan Wristen.

Surviving Road Trips with Kids

After road tripping across the country by myself with three kids more times than I care to remember, I have picked up a few road trip tips and tricks. There are many things you have to think about when it is time to embark on a road trip with kids. Unlike the days before kids, you cannot simply hop in the car and take off. Instead you have to have a plan and these plans have to cover a lot of details because let’s face it, the kids are only going to last so long in the car each day and you want things to go as smoothly as possible.

rent a car for your road trip

Our Kia Sportage loaner all loaded up for a 1,000 mile road trip. Photo by Meagan Wristen.

Road Trip Car Prep

You want to be prepared before the trip begins; this includes making sure your car is road trip ready. I recommend getting at least your oil changed and all the car fluids topped off the day before you leave.

If you do not feel comfortable taking your car on a road trip, rent a car instead. The last road trip we went on, I drove an SUV better suited for our trip. I knew we would be driving over a thousand miles during the winter and felt like renting a new Kia Sportage was a better bet than taking a chance with my decade old minivan.

In the car, I recommend keeping a first aid kit in the car to go along with your roadside emergency kit. Hopefully you will not need it, but I can almost guarantee that at some point on the trip, your kid is going to need a bandaid.

Cabazon Dinosaurs - the craziest road side attraction we've seen so far.

Cabazon Dinosaurs, the craziest road side attraction we’ve seen so far. Photo by Meagan Wristen.

Planning the Best Route

Weather can rapidly change, especially in the winter. I advise checking the weather the day before you leave. Make sure the weather is supposed to be cooperative for the areas you will be driving through. I also suggest you have a back-up route.

Take time to find road side attractions along your route. When the kids and I road tripped to Palm Springs last summer we found the craziest road side attraction, Cabazon Dinosaurs. We stopped long enough to stretch our legs and take some fun photos.

road trip with kids

Snacks and comfort items keep kids happier on road trips. Photo by Meagan Wristen.

Keep Kids Happy

Anytime you are traveling with kids, it is important to have plenty of food on hand. I pack items high in protein like protein bars, beef jerky, and peanut butter crackers to keep my kids fuller longer and prevent them from constantly asking for more food. I also do not let my kids gorge themselves on drinks. The more they drink the more bathroom breaks we will end up taking. Taking lots of breaks can quickly add up and make your day much longer than it should have been.

Each kid should have a comfort item. For example, my daughter has Mr. Hinkley, her unicorn pillow pet that goes with her wherever she goes. Depending on how long you plan to drive each day, having a small blanket and pillow for each child is always helpful.

Road Trip Games

One of the easiest ways to keep everyone happy is to play some games. There are lots of games that can be played in a car. Two of our favorite games to play in the car are 20 questions and the ABC game. To play 20 questions, one person has to think of a person, place or thing. The other people in the car get to ask 20 questions in order to guess what it is that person has thought of. For the ABC game, you just look around at road signs, license plates, or words on trucks and find the various letters in order of the alphabet.

In Car Entertainment

If you do not have a movie player in your vehicle, I sure hope you have a tablet or laptop. Whatever device you use, I encourage getting some new movies. I have a movie player in my car so anytime I see a Redbox at the gas station I will rent a new movie for the kids to watch. You can return a Redbox rental to any kiosk in the United States. If you do not have a movie player you can purchase movies through iTunes for kids to watch on a tablet or laptop.

Nowadays it seems like most kids have a personal device. All three of my kids have their own iPhones or iPods with their own games and music loaded on them. This is great until they run out of power. To make sure they never run out of power, have a power cord and external battery for each kid. And unless you want to hear everything they pull up on their device, make sure each kid has a pair of earbuds.

Along the Way

There are a couple of tips for saving parents’ sanity along the way. Each time you stop at a gas station, clean out the car. I do not know how your kids are, but mine are messy. Unless I want it to look like a bomb went off in my car, we have to clean at each stop. Also, since you have taken time to stop and get gas, you should also insist each kid go to the bathroom. You do not want to get gas, get back on the road and five minutes later have to pull over just to make a potty stop.

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