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How to Survive a Road Trip With Young Children

Updated on August 31, 2017

Are We There Yet?

Whether you're traveling to Grandma's house for Thanksgiving or taking a vacation to the beach, road trips with young children can be an adventure! We've got some great tips for keeping kids busy in the car, avoiding car sickness, minimizing potty stops and keeping parents from going crazy!

Get ready for your Thanksgiving family trip with these our road trip survival guide!

Do it the Old Fashioned Way!

Remember These Fun Car Games?

My family took a lot of road trips when I was a kid. We lived in Washington State, and back then most cars from Washington didn't have air conditioning. We would drive down through the dessert in California, three kids crammed together in the narrow back seat of a Celica, hot and believe it or not, with no smart phones, DVD players or video games. Somehow we survived! Here are a few of the games and songs I remember singing in the car on family road trips as a kid.

  • Play the Alphabet GameSee who can be the first one to spy all of the letters of the alphabet, in order, out their window.
  • 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall I think we were bored by this, even as kids, but we knew it was driving our parents crazy, so we sang it anyway! Try making your own variation of the song with your children's favorite drink.
  • The Animal Game Assign two teams, one gets the left side of the road, one gets the right. Assign a point system for animals that you might see along the road (no, not roadkill, but I suppose you could play it that way too). Cows might get one point each, horses two, deer ten. Think of animals that you might encounter and start watching out the window to see who can get the most points!
  • Play the Quiet Game I was always so determined to win this game as a child that I don't think I realized that my parents had an ulterior motive when they suggested we play it. First person to make a sound loses!
  • Down By The Bay Remember that song? Down by the bay, where the watermelons grow... Our kids love making up their own verses to this song. Sometimes their verses rhyme (Did you ever see a spider whose pants were getting tighter?) and sometimes they aren't even close, but the kids think they are hysterical. My son's usually have something to do with poop, and on a long road trip he doesn't even get in trouble for singing songs about poop!

Dealing with Car Sickness - I think I'm going to throw up!

Carsick kids can ruin a road trip. A few tips if you have a child prone to motion sickness:

  • Have the child sit as close to the front of the vehicle as possible
  • Crack a window or put a cool cloth on the child's forehead
  • Have the child avoid reading in the car or playing games on a phone

There are also some great products that can help you avoid the disastrous vomit in the car.

I Need to Go Pee!

The number one thing that slows down our road trips

With three young kids, it's never too long before we hear "I have to go pee!". We stop and a get back on the road, and it isn't long before the next one, who insisted they went at the last stop, claims that they can't hold it another second. Have you been there? Here are a few tips to stretch out the time between bathroom stops.

  • Everybody goes! This seems simple, but make everyone go to the bathroom before you leave and each time you stop!
  • Drink less, but don't get dehydrated! We've made the mistake of giving our kids each a full water bottle or sippy cup at the beginning of the trip. They drink it all down in a matter of a few minutes, and it isn't long before we are having to stop. Have someone monitor consumption.
  • Avoid caffeine. This goes for parents who need to stop at the worst possible time, as soon as the baby falls asleep! The fact is that caffeinated beverages make you need to pee!
  • Avoid salty snacks and other snacks that make your kids thirsty. The more they drink, the more you're stopping!

Now if you are a parent of boys, you of course have more options for bathroom breaks than some of us. I have heard from others that the empty water bottle can come in handy, and boys have a much easier time pulling off the side of the road and finding a tree!

If you are the parent of girls, try taking a child's potty training toilet along for the ride. I know it seems a bit gross, but I know people who have done it and it has saved them from a few accidents!

We try to combine our bathroom breaks with necessary stops for gas or food. We also have our little one travel in a pull-up, just in case!

Make the Most Out of Every Stop

Multi-tasking on the road

Whenever possible, we try to pack a meal and stop to eat at a park or playground that isn't too far out of our way. We all eat, then one of us stays and plays with the kids while the other goes to fill the car up with gas and maybe even pick up some candy to use as a tool when the kids start getting whiny 100 miles down the road. By the time the car is filled with gas, the kids have gotten a little energy out. We go to the bathroom and hit the road again.

If the weather is bad, we stop at a fast food restaurant that has a playground at it. Our family tries to avoid fast food, so my kids are always hoping for rain when we travel so they can get some nuggets! Some fast food restaurants even have a Red Box outside of them, so we pick up a movie that the kids have never seen before.

If there isn't a playground to be found, we will have our kids run races around trees or hop on one foot down the sidewalk. Anything to get out some energy usually buys us some more driving time!

Share your questions, comments, road trip tips or horror stories about traveling with young children!

Questions, Comments or Funny Road Trip Stories?

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