5 Tips for Traveling with Kids by Car

Colin and Owen were born travelers. Up until several years ago, we lived in Wisconsin and traveled frequently to New York, by car, for holidays and summer vacation. Being that it was a 14-hour drive, I had to have many tricks up my sleeve to keep them content, comfortable, and calm. Here are my best 5 tips for traveling with kids by car.

5 tips for traveling with kids by car

Adjust travel plans to accommodate your child’s sleep schedule.

Leave for your trip at the beginning of nap-time or bedtime (that might mean driving at night if you are up for it!). Bring along any special bedtime music, blankets, and stuffed animals. That way, your child’s routine stays consistent and he isn’t overtired or cranky upon your arrival destination. 

Bring along car-friendly activities.

To me, car-friendly activities are books, coloring books, small pads of paper with washable markers, and travel games. I tend to avoid bringing many toys and items with small pieces (but that could be because knowing my boys, they will just end up on the floor). 

Before traveling, I often visit a dollar store and load up on new coloring books, pads of paper, and mini markers with super heroes on them. The difference a fresh coloring book can make is amazing! 

The boys also enjoy audio books and music that they can sing-a-long with. Additionally, I have no qualms about using a car DVD player (having a new movie always helps too!). 

Let your child make a “travel pack.”

A travel pack is simply a back pack that your child gets to fill with items that he wants to bring along. Owen chose to bring several super hero guys, a small car, and a train. Once in the car, he placed it near his car seat so that he could access it himself.

5 Tips for Traveling with Kids by Car

Stop for breaks often.

Though your trip might take a little longer, it is helpful to make frequent stops during the day to allow your child to burn off their energy. I keep a soccer ball and a blanket in the back of the car for just these occasions.

When the boys were babies, I discovered that stopping often just to give them snuggles and hugs was very important. They became lonely strapped in their car-seats and needed human interaction. 

Pack healthy snacks.

Long car trips are often associated with fast food, gas station snacks, and candy. This type of junk food can destroy a child’s mood and even make him feel sick (yes, I’ve learned this the hard way!). Cheese sticks, sandwiches, apple slices, cereals, crackers and peanut butter, raisins, and squeezable yogurt are great alternatives that will save you money and help everyone feel their best. I let the boys keep a water bottle in the cup holders near their seats. 

Traveling with kids by car doesn’t have to be a dreaded experience. With some thoughtful preparation and some special activities, it can actually be fun!

What are your tips for traveling by car with kids?



  1. We love mini sensory bins that fit on the lap, cookie sheets for magnets and busy bags and of course lots of fun books. I always like to put some new books aside if I know it is going to be a long trip!

  2. Kiely Piers says

    In next month I am planning to travel to Florida State of USA and I am very excited about the trip because I am traveling with my five years old son. I will definitely visit the theme park capital of the world “Orlando city” to enjoy various rides and games. It is really a great place to travel with kids.

    I was looking for some best tips about traveling with kids. Your article is much informative and I will definitely follow your instructions. Thanks for posting.

  3. Patricia says

    I follow my family tradition. I minimally wrap a care package of small, inexpensive gifts that each child gets to open every hour (some gifts are combined if super special) in the car. The gifts include new coloring books or fun pads, I Spy books, special snacks (animal crackers, lollipop, fruit snacks, chocolate covered pretzels), new DVD for the car, stickers for a sticker book, small crafts, and whatever else I find at the dollar store or yard sales. This activity keeps my kids excited about what each hour will bring and gives them something to do until the next item.

  4. We frequently take 3-4 hour trips (weekly in the summer) with our two boys, and we heavily use a large Magna-Doodle. We also let the kids take turns with our electronics in 20 minute chunks. We always insist on electronics-free time in national parks or other scenic areas. Also, we talk and talk and talk about our destinations, what we are seeing out the windows, local history, and whatever is on their minds. Even cornfields can spawn conversations about environmental concerns (where are the ducks? Where are the pollinators? What happens to the soil in a heavy rain? Why is it important to have grassy areas?) Don’t forget to count radio towers, cell phone towers, flagpoles, or tornado sirens! And sometimes I make them listen to Puccini, since they are trapped.