Kids road trip planning

How to Survive a Road Trip with Kids

Family road trips, do you love them, or hate them? I used to be a person that said I would never drive across the country for a vacation. That was before I had kids. Now, I get it, and we are about to embark on our 2nd road trip from Michigan to Florida!

The image below is the ultimate reason for that first road trip, and am about do it again. Especially after the winter we had in Michigan, I would do just about anything to get to this view.

Spring Break Beach Trip

I have to admit that last year when we embarked on our first long road trip as a family with 2 kids (then ages 4 and 5), I was DREADING it! But, I was pleasantly surprised at how well the kids did.

I learned a few things from that trip and I am hoping for an even better trip this year. I thought I would share a few tips in case you have a family road trip coming up.

Tips #1: Create a Grab Bag

The number one thing that I do on road trips, short and long (and on airplane rides), is to do a “Grab Bag” for the kids. It’s a bag of surprises and activities/toys for the kids that they get to reach into and pull out a surprise.

The purpose is two-fold:

  1. It makes the trip a little more interesting, adds a unique/different element, and gives the kids something to look forward to (they actually get really excited about it)
  2. It provides them with something new to do to occupy their time, therefore helping to keep my sanity!

The credit for this idea goes to my parents, who did this for every road trip that we took as a family when I was growing up. I have the fondest memories of our family road trips and it always started out with the grab bag. The tradition actually started with my Grandmother who used to do this with my Dad and his brothers and sister when they took road trips. That makes even more special that I can pass this tradition down to my kids. I also have a new found appreciation for my Mom and the time she put into each grab bag!

So, what’s in a grab bag you ask? It can really be anything that you want, but I like to fill it with things that will occupy their time, include some educational activities (in disguise), and a few of their favorite snacks.

Kids road trip planning

Some of the things here included (all from Target):

  • Coloring or Activity book – this year I did a maze book for my son and a color by numbers book for my daughter.
  • Fun notebook to doodle or draw
  • Travel Games (found these in the dollar spot)
  • Something for them to open (mini Hatchimals, LOL surprise, etc)
  • Silly Puddy (I am a little worried about this one in the car, but it’s better than slime!)

Of course you should personalize it for your child. Include things that are appropriate for their age and preferences. For example, the dollar spot had little fake nails that I knew my daughter would love. I also threw in a few things from home (flash cards, travel color kits etc).

If you have more than one child, make one bag for each child so they don’t fight about sharing or wanting what the other person has!

Depending on the ages of your children, I also recommend setting a specific timeframe (or number of miles) for when they will get to do the grab bag. If your kids are like mine, they will want to do it every 5 minutes!

Tip # 2 – Keep them busy with activities

This year I created an individual activity book for each child. Last year I printed out a scavenger hunt game, and it was a big hit, but by the time we were on the way home, it was getting a little old.

Here is the end result:

Road Trip Activity Book

This one has a lot of different activities and games to keep them busy (it’s about 50 pages). I printed out each game/activity and my husband bound them into a book. The easiest way to put this together is to hit up Pinterest. There are so many free printables on this topic, there’s no need to recreate the wheel. To make this easier, I created a pinterest board: Kids Roadtrip Games. It has the games that I used and several more ideas if you want to check them out and create your own book.

Here are a few of my favorites (source linked under each image):

Roadtrip bingo
Pinterest: The Suburban Mom
Roadtrip Scavenger Hunt
Pinterest: Free Kids Crafts
Roadtrip Games
Pinterest: U Create

Tip: Have a stash of M&Ms (or your favorite treat) on hand to give the winners of bingo or the scavenger hunt or other games. It can be a good incentive to keep playing.

Tip #3: Get Organized

I upped my game this year by purchasing a back of the seat organizer from Amazon. My purpose for this is a little selfish. I am hoping that by having essential items right in front of each child that it will cut down on the amount of things that they ask me for from the back seat! I will have to report back on how that went. Wish me luck!

Here’s what I bought from Amazon. I liked that it came in a pack of 2.

Road trip car organizer

I hope this gave you some ideas and useful tips if you’re going on a road trip soon. I would love to hear what you do on road trips to keep your sanity, I mean, keep your kids happy!

Thanks for reading,



5 thoughts on “How to Survive a Road Trip with Kids”

  1. We always loved playing road Bingo and license plate games growing up and of course our family snack bag! Such fun! We did grab bags for kids on an airplane when they were small and they loved it! Have a great time and enjoy the view!

    1. Thank you so much Susan! Making memories that will last a lifetime! Even though there was a lot of “how much longer…”, it’s still great and the destination is worth the journey!

  2. I remember when our kids were smaller. We use to play games to pass the time while driving. I love those times. What a great way to spend time with the kids.

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