If you are trying to figure out how to survive a long car ride with kids, you’ve come to the right place to find some long road trip with kids tips and hacks.
The best way to start your vacation off on the right foot is to ensure you have planned some key things to keep your kids entertained while on the long car ride. It’s best for the entire family when kids enjoy the road trip as much as the parents.
Every year we make at least one extra-long car ride and our kids know when it’s time to pack it in for the long haul. We typically can do anywhere from a 12 hour road trip in one day. But, we have done up to 15 hour drive some days!
In Canada and the United States, it is typical for families to hop into a car and drive for hours and hours. The reason being is the cost to fly can be expensive, there is not an expanded train system and sometimes you need to go somewhere that you can’t fly into!
We’ve also done many long road trips when we travelled the world for 1 year with our kids. These long car ride survival tips helped us when we drove the Great Ocean Road in Australia and on our 4 weeks New Zealand road trip.
So if you are thinking about a long car drive with kids; review some of our survival rules for a 12 hour car rides with our kids.
What You'll Find in This Post
- How to Survive Long Car Rides
- 1. Snacks
- 2. Reusable Water Bottle
- 3. Kids Backpack of Fun Car Activities
- 4. Road Trip Games
- 5. Enjoy Family Road Trip Time
- 6. Electronics for the Car Ride
- 7. Headphones for Car Travel
- 8. Bathroom Breaks
- 9. Pack Toilet Paper & Wet Wipes
- 10. Small Blanket & Pillow
- 11. Extra Considerations for Infants
- 12. Are We There Yet?
- What Not to do on a Long Car Ride with Kids
- Kids on a Road Trip
How to Survive Long Car Rides
If you think you have packed enough snacks…. pack some more! We try to bring fresh veggies, fruit, sandwiches, cheese strings, yogurt drinks and other food that will last a good part of the day. We slice up cheese, pickles, salami and crackers for our go-to for a car ride with kids. We keep all our food in a soft-shelled cooler with ice packs to keep things fresh.
But, we also have the granola bars, crackers, apple sauce, etc that will never go bad. Just like us, kids seem to eat more while sitting in the car.
We always try and find a great picnic spot on the side to for lunch and let the kids get out and run around as we eat.
2. Reusable Water Bottle
I actually bring an empty water bottle and fill up as needed from bottled water, juice boxes, drive-thru drinks, etc. It just prevents spills for any type of liquid or at least cut the spillage.
Make sure the kids have used the water bottle before your road trip so they are familiar with it and have no problems drinking from it. These are some of our favourite water bottles for kids that we have used over the years.
3. Kids Backpack of Fun Car Activities
For every family car ride, you need to have some entertainment for the kids. Each kid gets to bring their backpack for their books, toys, twistable crayons, markers, stickers and colouring books, etc. We also bring a clipboard so the kids have a hard surface to colour/draw on.
I usually pack their backpack and not let them see what is in it until they get in the car. A bit of a fun thing for them to discover and check out during the long car ride. There are some staples that we always bring and I add in some new things usually for a dollar store for something new.
4. Road Trip Games
Car travel with kids can be a great opportunity for kids to play some car ride games. Our kids love playing games that have involvement from us in the front seat. Our favourites are I Spy, License plate game, and Alphabet game.
There are also some great games that the kids can play in the car and they also bring them inside at your destination. Try to find games that don’t have small pieces that can slide down in between the seats.
5. Enjoy Family Road Trip Time
So often our lives are crazy busy and we just don’t stop. We like really long car rides because we actually have to stay in a tight space with each other. Listen to the story your kids are talking about and ask trigger questions that get them more involved with the conversation. They are only little for so long, so listen to them.
6. Electronics for the Car Ride
Yep, sometimes mom and dad need a little downtime. We have reduced the number of electronics and keep things simple. They watch movies, tv shows and play games all on Ipads. We download our favourite travel movies from iTunes or Netflix before we leave. We usually buy them a new movie for the long car journey with kids to keep them focused on something new.
We usually have about six movies on each Ipad and different ones on each of them, so we can switch off and then we end up then having a couple of movies for the kids when we get to our destination too. Plus, kids usually end up watching the same show over, and over, and over again.
Always have your electronics in a sturdy case, this one is our favourite case that has held up with our 1 year of travel. We buy extra-long cords so they can stay charged the entire time. Check what kind of outlet you will need to have in your car, or better yet plan for all cases.
7. Headphones for Car Travel
Along with the electronics each kid will need to have some good quality headphones for the kids. This just helps the kids enjoy their movie and lets the parents enjoy a little bit of peace during the long drive. This will also help whoever is driving concentrate during certain stretches of the road trip.
Depending on the age of the kids there are certain ones that are better for smaller kids because they keep the noise levels lower. We have used both wired and wireless, we did prefer these wired headphones when the kids were toddler because they couldn’t accidentally pull out the cable and we didn’t need to figure out the Bluetooth pairing.
Whereas now that the kids are a little bit older (8 & 10) we do prefer the wireless headphones but ALWAYS have the auxiliary cable handy if they didn’t get charged. They also have some fun kid’s headphones when they can pick their favourite colour.
8. Bathroom Breaks
We call them bathroom parades! Every time we stop for gas/food/etc, the kids go to the bathroom whether they have to or not. When they were in diapers we changed them every time we stopped. It’s a good stretch for them too. When our kids were being potty trained we also brought their foldable potty training seat, so they didn’t get so scared by the variety of bathrooms on the road.
9. Pack Toilet Paper & Wet Wipes
When travelling with small kids they sometimes cannot wait until the next rest stop or gas station. So having toilet paper around always helps if you do need to have an emergency roadside pit stop. Don’t forget to pack the hand sanitizer too!
Wet wipes are also a great idea for kids sticky hands or runny noses that need to cleaned up.
10. Small Blanket & Pillow
We usually bring a small blanket for each of them, cover them up so they can snuggle with and maybe actually have a few naps. It was actually easier to travel with them when they were babies and smaller since they napped so often. The older they get the less they sleep, but they still love the comfort of their blankets. We also bring these great travel pillows that compress and pack away easily. There also our go-to pillows on our printable camping list!
11. Extra Considerations for Infants
When my kids were infants, I actually sat in the back seat with them for the majority of the trip. Their seats were reverse, so I found it settled them down easier if they could see me. Plus, a lot easier for bottle feeding, feeding snacks, making sure they were comfortable; easier for reading them books and “entertaining” them.
Bring extra soothers, a pillow for you to sit on in the back middle seat (argh), lots of baby wipes, extra diapers and a change of clothes for both you and baby.
12. Are We There Yet?
It never fails, 15 minutes into the trip, kids start to ask this question! We measure how much time is left with metrics kids can understand, like the number of movies, after supper, when it’s dark, or after we start to see mountains. Things they can grasp for time because taking a 12 hour car ride can be extremely long for kids.
Now that the kids are getting older we give them maps of where we are going so they can help understand and learn about where we are going. They love to watch the GPS navigation system too.
We also break up the trip and stop as special places that aren’t too far off the main driving course. If there happens to be a small hike, waterfall or cool place to go check out we make the detour to break up the drive and create some adventures.
What Not to do on a Long Car Ride with Kids
- Try to keep the sweets and sugary snack to a minimal
- Don’t overpack the toys, make everything be purposeful
- Keep to the basics when packing your clothes and gear
Kids on a Road Trip
We hope you have found some useful travel tips for your next long road trip with the family. Your kids will have certain things that work for them and maybe a little different. The more you go on long car rides with them, the better they will be at getting through them. Our kids now know, when we are packing the car up the night before there is a big car ride planned for the next day.
They love hopping into the vehicle at 5 am, in their comfy sweat pants, no shoes and get to relax in the back seat. Oh, but don’t forget their shoes! Yep – did that one time and drove back 30 minutes!
Our kids know that at the end of a long car ride is an amazing new adventure and trip, and sometimes getting there and the journey takes some commitment but it is so worth it in the end.