Travel Tips for Car Trips with Children


Whether you’re headed to your in-laws’ house with kids in tow, or hitting the open road with friends, traveling by car can provide an aspect of freedom—no need for tickets, baggage check or security lines associated with flying. Yet, there are a few things you can do to make road trips easier and safer for everyone involved. 

Prepare for your trip.

  • Have your car thoroughly checked and serviced before leaving on a long car trip. If you will be driving in an area with few service centers, inquire ahead about the locations of service facilities along the route. This is especially important if you are driving a rental vehicle.
  • If you will be driving after flying to a destination, ask your insurer about a special proof of insurance card to take along. Remember, you must carry your proof of auto insurance when driving a rental car, too.

Pack what you’ll need.

  • Packing a picnic for the road means that you’ll be prepared when hunger inevitably strikes—no need to worry about what food is offered at the next rest stop. Keep it simple with sandwiches, fruit and granola bars, or plan a roadside picnic at a scenic or historic destination.
  • At the very least, carry a couple of energy bars to tide you over between rest stops.

Stay safe on the road.

  • If you’ll be relying on GPS data, see if your phone or device has the option to preload a specific area that will be accessible offline, just in case of cell service interruptions. If you're using a paper map, use a highlighter to mark your route. Circle interchanges where you’ll be changing roads or directions. 
  • For long driving trips, call state transportation agencies along your route and request information about highway construction. Plan for detours or delays.
  • Allow for rest stops on long drives. Plan on at least a 10-minute break every two hours. You’ll drive safer and arrive much more refreshed.
  • During hot weather, never leave a pet or a child in a parked car—even with the windows open. Temperatures can climb rapidly in a parked car.
  • When driving in unfamiliar locales, always park in well-lighted areas.
  • Don’t focus solely on getting to your destination. Be willing to investigate intriguing possibilities that arise en route.

Keep kids happy along the way.

  • When taking long car trips with young children, go to bed early the night before and start out long before dawn. This pretty much ensures that the kids will sleep through a major portion of the day’s drive.
  • Designate a large, soft bag as the toy tote. Fill it with simple games, toys, puzzles, books and similar items.
  • To keep bickering between siblings to a minimum, give the children three strikes at the outset of the trip. If any child bickers with another, all of the children are penalized a strike. When you arrive at your destination, if the children have not used all three strikes, they are allowed to do something special.
  • Pack a cleanup kit that includes plastic trash bags, paper towels and a travel pack of disposable wet wipes—just in case.
  • Take along easy-to-eat snack foods such as cereal, fruit slices and juice boxes.
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