Road Trip Hacks - Close up of a packed backpack with straw hat and map leaning against the wheel of a car on the side of the road.

Road Trip Hacks

Fun Family Road Trip Tips &Tricks

Let’s face it, people have a love/ hate relationship with road trips. Not only are they the means to get to your vacation spot, they can be in integral part of the overall experience. Make the most of your time in the car with these Road Trip Hacks.

As the days get longer and the weather improves, the urge to hit the road intensifies. Admittedly, things are not as carefree as they were before I became a mom. I’ve had to make some adjustments and considerations to make the experience a positive one for both of us.

I love a good hack. At heart, hacks are time savers when it comes to getting something done. When traveling with family, you need all the help you can get.

There are really only 4 things you need for a good road trip:

  1. Preparation
  1. Good Company
  1. Patience/ Flexibility
  1. Good Attitude

Beyond that and your clothing, if you really want to get down to the nitty gritty, here are some road trip tips to make your travels more enjoyable.

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1.Road Trip Essentials for Kids

There are definitely some things you can do to ensure things go as smoothly as possible when traveling with kids. The younger your kids are, the more planning, patience and flexibility may be required.

A road trip essential for you, may differ than what I may need. Knowing yourself and your family, just keep in mind the things that will make your time away from home as stress-free and fun as possible.

Here are a few things that everyone can benefit from…

1. Drive Overnight:

Put the kiddos in their PJs or at the very least some comfy clothes and hit the road around bedtime. The kids will naturally be excited initially, but will soon calm down and their eyes will close. Turn the music down and enjoy the calm in the car and the open road before you. If you’re lucky, you will make it to your destination before they wake up.

2. Frequent Stops:

Frequent bio breaks are a must! Our bodies, require attention. The fact is that little bladders need more frequent stops. Plan ahead and know where your stops are going to be. Make time in your schedule for those stops.

It’s good for the kids and will help with cabin fever as well for those long road trips. Bonus! You get to stretch your legs. Don’t be surprised if you need an unplanned stop. Even if it’s not on the schedule, don’t get upset, it’s just part of the process.

3. Rotate the Seating Chart:

Obviously, if you have a full car, with young children, this is not a possibility. Safety first! But, if you can, have one of the parents take a turn sitting in the back with the younger kids for a while. This will be different and therefore entertaining for the kids and may also help the parents feel more at ease on longer trips.

4. Playlist:

Music makes car trips so much more fun! Make sure to have a family friendly playlist (Spotify), suitable for all ages. If your kids are a little older, or you’re not opposed to headphones, your kids can have their own entertainment systems/ phones to listen to. Some cars are designed with entertainment zones, segregating the front and back systems, so that may be an option for you as well.

Something you may not have considered are podcasts and audio books (Audible). Both are great options, and can provide a nice break if you’re having any disputes over the music selection.

Travel Hacks Must Haves:

  • Wet wipes
  • Back seat organizers
  • Plan for naps
  • Refillable water bottle/ Travel mug/ Sippy cups
  • Give kids a job
    • ex. Headcount, Map holder, DJ, Snack distributor, Car sanitation supervisor, etc.
  • Kid friendly destinations

2. Helpful Road Trip Tools/ Apps

Using the right tools for the job is one of the key road trip hacks. Some people like to just go with the flow and rough it, so a map and compass may be all that’s needed.

Today, most people would be more comfortable travelling with the assistance of technology. There’s a small list below, but so many more out there that you may find useful.

  • Roadtrippers: This is the ultimate planning tool for your road trip! Map your route along the way (with turn-by-turn navigation), including fun stops, hotels and national parks. The app is free, but if you sign-up for the premium service, you’ll be able to take advantage of a lot more resources. Save $5 by using the promo code BTR5QTP. (Available on IOS and Android)
  • Waze: Successful navigation through a new place makes for a happy driver. Waze will have you working your way through traffic and around construction like a seasoned local. The app is crowd sourced, so by design, it uses the information from other users to improve your driving experience. (Available on IOS and Android)
  • Flush Toilet Finder App – Traveling with kids? You need this app. Chances are, nature will call just after your planned stop. Download the Flush app, because when you gotta go, you need to know. (Available on IOS and Android)
  • GasBuddy: Does filling up your gas tank give you the anxiety it gives me? And, once filled, you see that you could have saved some money just down the street. Give your wallet a break and download GasBuddy to find the best deals on gas before you fill up. (Available on IOS and Android)
  • HotelTonight: Plans change and you need a last minute place to stay for the night. That’s where Hotel’s Tonight can help. (Available on IOS and Android)

Nice to Have:

  • Roadside America: Seeing odd, interesting and quirky things is one of the best parts of a road trip. This is the app you need to find your way to a place that the kids will definitely remember.
  • Map: Ok, this one might be a little old fashioned, but when technology fails, a good ole paper map is your friend. It doesn’t hurt to keep one on-hand, just in case you need it.
  • AAA: Think of roadside assistance as having insurance. You never want to use it, but if you run into any issues (empty gas tank, flat tire, dead battery) it, is a lifesaver. You may even be able to save money with AAA discounts on travel, food, entertainment and more. (Available on IOS and Android)

Don’t wait until you’re ready to hit the road to give some of these apps a try. I use GasBuddy now. If I can save a little bit on gas, it makes all the difference in how much I can fill my tank. Sad, but true.

Do This! Cover the backseat with a small fitted sheet. It’ll help keep your seats clean on those long trips in the car.

Don’t forget:

  • Extra chargers
  • Batteries
  • First Aid Kit
  • Medication
  • Sunscreen/ Sun Cream
  • Toilet Paper
  • Paper Towels
  • Neck Pillow/ Blanket

3. Road Trip Activities

When travelling with kids, planning activities is an important part of preparation. Entertainment is high on the priority list of road trip hacks for kids.

Starting at a young age (toddlers) have your kids pack an entertainment bag for themselves. It’s a good way to ensure they have what they want while they’re away from home. Let’s face it, you might make the right choice for them, but the chance that you’ll forget something vital to their happiness and comfort is probable.

But, you’re not off the hook mom and dad! Part of your planning should still include some road trip activities for the family to enjoy together. Depending on how long you’re on the road, you will need entertainment to keep the meltdowns to a minimum.

Games:

  • I-Spy (with my little eye)
  • Slug Bug/ Punch Buggy
  • This or That
  • Would You Rather
  • Road Trip Bingo
  • 20 Questions
  • Car-e-oke

The beauty about these “traditional” car games is that they can grow with you. The questions can be catered to kids old and young. As your kids age, it’s a great opportunity to learn about what’s going on in their lives without it feeling too parental or intrusive.

It can be one of those fun things that they look back on with fond memories. Make them a part of your family travel traditions.

Make It Memorable

  • Map It: Print out/ draw a map with points of interest for the kiddo to mark off along the way
  • Family Trip Awards: “Best Packer,” “Best Attitude,” etc.
  • Start a Collection: Find something to collect on all of your family trips (ex. shells, sand, postcards, silly shirts, key chains etc.)
  • Make a Family Trip Passport: Mark it off for each trip you take

4. Road Trip Snacks for Kids

People take their road trip snacks pretty seriously. I know quite a few people with road travel must haves. m&m’s rank pretty high on the list for many people, but the type is different. When my dad used to travel, he was a peanut m&m fan all the way.

Chips also rank pretty high on the list for people. Personally, I am a Spicy Dorito kind of girl. But, in the case of road trip snacks for kids, I recommend that you balance your ‘treats’ with some healthier fare.

  • Nuts
  • Seaweed Sheets
  • Trail Mix
  • Fruit
  • Pinwheels (Rolled Sandwiches w/ Cream Cheese + Lunch Meat)
  • Cut Veggies
  • Hummus
  • Dried Fruit
  • String Cheese
  • Crackers/ Pretzels
  • Popcorn
  • Granola Bars
  • Fruit Snacks
  • Dry Cereal
  • Jerky (Beef, Turkey, Salmon, etc.)
  • Hard Boiled Eggs
  • Olives/ Pickles
  • Fun Treat (Gum, Lollipops)
  • Electrolyte Drinks (Vitamin Water, Gatorade, Propel)

Be sure to pack a cooler to keep cold foods cold. Frozen bottles of water are great for that and, once melted, a refreshing drink. Also, while soft drinks hit the spot, the high sugar content and potential for sticky spillage may not. Water is the best choice on the road.

Final Thoughts on Road Trip Hacks

I’ve always loved road trips! There’s a feeling of freedom and adventure when you just get out there.

Depending on where you go and what you like to do, there are a lot of travel tips that can make any family vacation a good one.

Be prepared. First, make sure your car is road ready! Get everything checked. Next, get planning. Involve everyone in the process, even the kids! It’ll be more fun for them if they know that they’re opinions were considered and included.

Between traveling on my own and doing so with my child, I’ve learned a few things. I would have to say that the top 3 were patience, preparation and flexibility. But, you know what they say about ‘best laid plans.’ The very nature of having kids is a lesson in flexibility.

Sometimes, plans need to change because of traffic, construction, or illness. It helps to have a positive attitude and stay open to the possibility of adventure over and above what you may have planned.

A plan is great, but allowing room for adventure and a bit of spontaneity is also good. You never know when you’ll get the chance to try something new!

So, make a plan, pack great snacks and give the littles some entertainment. Then, you’re ready to crank up the tunes and hit the road!

Related Article: Why Staycations are Better for Families

Did you find some Road Trip Hacks that will make your travelling a little more enjoyable? How do you plan for your own road trips?

10 thoughts on “Road Trip Hacks”

    1. You definitely should, Molly! We’re going on a short one this weekend and I’m looking forward to it. I got lucky having a kiddo that travels well in the car, so it should be fun. I am definitely with you though, it’s only worth it while the weather is nice, but cooler. I am not a fan of the heat in any way!

      ~ Cassie

    1. Hi Miriam,

      Thank you! Traveling anywhere is fun with our without kids. I hope that you have an opportunity for some fun and exploration this spring/ summer. I appreciate you reading and taking the time to comment.

      ~ Cassie

  1. I’m taking a road trip with my sister through Europe this summer and while we won’t have kids with us, I’ve gotten some great tips from your post! We have a playlist going already that we’re adding to weekly. My sister will do most of the driving as she loves it (I’ll be a little nervous driving in another country). Great app ideas! Going to download some now. Thanks for this!

    1. That sounds like so much fun, Vourneen! The US is a big country with lots to explore, but I love the idea of being able to go from country to country as easily as you can in Europe. And, what a great time to create memories with your sister. You can drive on the open road and probably feel pretty confident. I would definitely feel a little anxious driving in cities that I was unfamiliar with as well. I hope that you find some value in the apps I shared.

      Have a wonderful time!
      ~ Cassie

  2. These are great suggestions. Me and my partner picked up my nephew and niece and we had around a 3 1/2 – 4 hour drive ahead of us. So we played games, we chatted, listened to songs, had a little dance and I made tiny white lies about how much time had passed ha ha! Also stopping at McDonalds helped ha ha! Thank you for sharing.

    Lauren x

    1. That sounds like a great trip, Laureen! McDonalds always helps me, so I’m sure it was just the icing on the cake for the rest of your journey together. Your niece and nephew will remember the effort you made for years to come!

      Nice work, auntie!

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