Travel tip: road trip preparation with kids

We’re all about getting out of the car on long road trips and stretching little legs and exploring what the local community has to offer, but what about all those quality hours spent in the car? My family and I are leaving tomorrow for a two week road trip through the American Southwest (with three kids ages 10, 8, and 4), so all that hard travel time has very much been on my mind.

Road trip preparation with kids:

Arches National Park...aka, day 3 of our trip!

Arches National Park…aka, day 3 of our trip!

In preparation for our current trip, my mother helped them make personalized travel journals (see photo lower in post). Since their ‘job’ is to write in them everyday, I think they’ll make for a great car activity between destinations.

But writing about the previous day’s activity will only buy the adults in the car some peace and quiet for about 15 minutes or so. What about the other 5,984,398 hours? What do you pack for travel entertainment? What distance per day is ideal? Where do you stop along the way? (That last question I’m hoping to have answered by the time I return, so that you can read an abundance of new pitstops here!)

Mesa Verde National Park...what I'm possibly looking forward to most!

Mesa Verde National Park…what I

The following is a list of items we never fail to take with us on road trips, no matter where we’re headed (and yes, these are listed in order of importance, thank-you-very-much:

1. Water bottles, one per person, plus a gallon jug of spring water for refills. It sure beats someone wanting to stop at a drive-thru every 20 miles! And hydration is even more important while traveling, no matter the season.

2. Portable DVD player. Some of you are brave enough to face endless miles of road without one. Not me. We rent or check out a few new titles at the library before leaving, so that there’s a good mix of old favorites and exciting new features to watch.

Read More: TOP 10 Best DVD Players for Cars

3. Headphones for the DVD player, with an adaptor to accommodate at least two sets. This way, the four-year-old can be watching a movie while the older kids are read to, or vice versa. Also? By Hour 6 into a trip, I no longer want to hear the theme music for the Backyardigans.

4. Snacks. Fun snacks, that is, like Jelly Bellys and gummy worms. Healthy ones too, as long as they’re still fun¦our favorites include precut carrot sticks and ranch dressing, Babybel waxed cheeses, Annie’s Organic Hunny Bunnies. Oh, our kids also light up at the sight of Ring Pops. Remember those things? They still exist!

5. Audio books downloaded onto our iPods. My middle son and I both get motion sickness if we so much as glance at a book in the car, so this is a lifesaver. Cost saving tip: check audio book CD sets at the library, then download them and return them before leaving. At our library, there’s a good selection for all ages (even toddlers with read-along books) and by downloading them and returning them before the trip, you avoid late fees, too!

6. Pads of paper and pencils. So simple. So effective. And no crayons melting in the heat. When the kids were younger, we packed stickers instead (making sure they didn‘t end up on the car windows!). Wiki Sticks are also mess-free.

Travel journals are a must for us!

Travel journals are a must for us!

7. Cooler with ice, if there’s room. By packing lunches, we avoid the cost and the fattening foods of at least one fast food meal per day. Also, picnic meals are almost always a more pleasant way to dine with kids who have been cooped up all day.

8. Tube or baggie of cheap, plastic animals or action figures. Let the kids set them up on their pillows or in the folds of a jacket on their lap.

9. Wet wipes. Doesn’t matter how old your kids are¦they’re necessary, aren’t they?

10. Trash bag. You’d think this would be obvious, and maybe it is to everyone else, but we never fail to forget one, leaving us with a mountain of trash after the first in-car meal.

A great resource for travel games and downloads/printables is We also go old school and play various versions of I Spy and license plate bingo…but only if the iPods go dead and we’ve forgotten the charger for the DVD player.

Please share your own road trip survival items in the comments, and be looking for new pitstops coming soon!

About the author

Pit Stops for Kids AUTHOR: Amy Whitley is the founding editor of Pit Stops for Kids and content editor of Trekaroo. She writes on staff monthly at a number of travel publications, and contributes to OutdoorsNW magazine as an outdoor adventure traveler. Find Amy at Google.




  1. Terrence Leon says:

    completely enjoyed bumping into this blog – good work – keep it up!!

  2. I have never thought about the headphone. But I think we might have to look into that for our next road trip. But our road trip normally doesn’t involve a long stretch but merely getting from point A to point B. But even that, listening to High School Musical for the 5th times can get old.

    Love their travel journal. I need to look into something like that for them.

  3. electromozzo says:

    Thanks for posting about this, I would like to read more about this topic.

  4. WOW! Good thing you kept your wits enough to fight off the bugger. Glad you’re ok. The worse thing to happen to me on that street was when I encountered a pack of dogs late one night. I kept a safe distance behind them until I got home. Take care. – cool!!!!

  5. Ack, my comment didn’t come out the way I’d liked it to.

  6. Zashkaser says:

    Hey very nice blog!! Man .. Beautiful .. Amazing .. I will bookmark your blog and take the feeds also…

  7. This is an excellent review.

  8. I usually don’t post in Blogs but your blog forced me to, amazing work.. beautiful …

  9. Thank you for your help!

  10. Hey! National humor! Thanks, Internet!

  11. I’m glad that after surfing the web for uch a long time I have found out this information. I’m really lucky.

  12. Ya put a smile in my face.

  13. Wow I’m terribly jealous. All of my travel adventures end up horribly bad.

    I’ll definitely keep checking back here and look at some of your other posts!

  14. obviously like your web-site however you have
    to test the spelling on quite a few of your posts.
    Many of them are rife with spelling problems and I
    find it very troublesome to tell the reality then again I will certainly come back again.

Leave a Comment