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6 tricks for an awesome road trip with kids

Child sleeps in child car seat in car on a road tripListening to the same Peppa Pig episode over and over again.

Stopping by the side of the road for an urgent pee just five minutes after you last stopped by the side of the road for an urgent pee.

Spending the entire trip twisting around to face the backseat to perform an off-the-cuff puppet show or to sing every single nursery rhyme song you know … twice!

These are just some of the joys of long-distance car travel with kids!

Even the best car journey with kids is a lot more effort than a car journey without kids.

Here are some tips from Bub Hub forum members to help the drive go smoothly …

6 tricks for an awesome road trip with kids

1. Pick the best time to drive …

“The jury is out on when is the best time to drive. It depends on how long you plan to drive for and how old your children are.”

“We have friends/family travel about 7-9 hours to visit. They usually leave about 4am so their young ones are asleep for half of it!”

“Try not to be travelling at twilight, mine always decide they’ve had enough then, no matter how long or short the trip has been by that point.”

“I’ve been told to start travelling when they are due for bedtime ie 7.30pm or very early in morning ie 4am so then they are sleep for lots of it.”

“We leave early (about 4am). This gives us time to get a lot of km done before brekkie and younger kids are still sleepy. Aim to stop driving by 3pm. This gives plenty of time to explore, walk, play and get kids tired. Otherwise you will need to sleep and kids will want to party.”

Best advice we got was NOT to travel at night. Because the kids sleep all the way while you are awake and then the next day when you want to rest the kids are wide awake and full of energy!”

“I find it best to leave an hour or two before naptime, that way when the novelty of the new toys, things to look at, etc starts to wear off, they’re sleepy. Mine always sleep much earlier than their normal nap time on a drive. Although if it’s an all-day drive, we leave immediately upon them waking, and sometimes, we will wake them at 5am to get an early start.”

“We found it easier to start really early in the morning at 7am. Then if we were done driving for the day by 4pm the kids had plenty of time to play before dinner and bed!”

2. Stop for breaks …

“Stopping for a break is an important part of any road trip – for the driver as well as the kids! Everyone needs some fresh air and to stretch their legs.”

“We stop for a big play and lunch.”

“Have a good brekkie stop. Truck stops are much better value than Maccas and the meals are so big that kids are full until lunchtime. Stop for morning tea and lunch at playgrounds or parks. This is much easier if you have packed food for both breaks.”

“Definitely frequent stops! We always stop somewhere for lunch where my daughter can run around and use up some energy.”

3. Tips for travelling with a baby

“Luckily small babies are often lulled to sleep by the car’s movement. You might have a easy trip … but be prepared to pull over anywhere for a feed!”

“My daughter is 9 months and needs very little. I bring her favourite Lamaze toy, and a spare for if she gets bored. But pretty much, give her one of my son’s toys and she thinks she’s found the greatest thing in the world!”

“Our first road trip with our daughter was when she was 9 months old. I took her Bumbo seat to use as a highchair at rest stops, I hid toys in the front so when she became restless I had something ‘new’ for her to play with and we drove as much as we could during nap-times.”

“My DS is 8 months and we’re taking a road trip to Vegas next week from LA – it’s about a 4-5hr drive. We’ll be taking: four made-up bottles; multiple toys to entertain him; little snacks that he can eat ie: teething biscuits that keep him entertained for a while and his favourite bedtime teddy and blanket”

4. Tips for travelling with young children.

“For the toddlers and older get a few cheap toys or old toys they haven’t seen before, wrap them like presents and you have very effective tools for those ‘OMG moments’ that you can just hand over while driving. Make sure they are within reach of you.”

“What works for us is prepping our son (2.5yrs). Like, the day before, we start saying, ‘tomorrow we are going on a big long drive to see Grandad Mike!’ Helps that we have done it a few times, so he knows what to expect.”

“Also take some new toys and when they get bored and agitated pull out the new exciting stuff for them!”

“If you have children aged 2-4 years old pack a potty! Ours were a bit modest to go behind a tree and, let’s face it, on highways that’s not always an option. It meant that when they needed to go NOW they could and not get upset.”

“The best thing to pack are snacks (preferably ones that won’t make a mess) and entertainment (preferably those that won’t disturb the driver).”

“I pack a clear, plastic container of toys that goes between my kids’ chairs. I make sure they are toys from the bottom of the toybox, preferably new ones or long forgotten ones. A couple of books, and I also have some Yo Gabba Gabba on my phone (as well as some awesome kids apps) for when he is really getting stir crazy.”

“I drove from 50kms south-east of Melbourne to Wagga Wagga last year with my two sons who were 8 months and 2 years at the time. We had a portable DVD player, Wiggles CDs, and a Magna Doodle. I also packed lots of snacks and drinks, and made sure we made a lot of stops.”

5. The best snacks to pack for a drive …

  • sandwiches
  • grapes
  • grain chips/popcorn/puffed corn
  • muesli bars
  • hard fruit
  • rice crackers

6. The best toys to pack for a drive …

  • Magnadoodle
  • Favourite soft toy
  • colouring in pencils
  • iPads/tablets
  • Portable DVD players
  • magnetic board games
 READ: Don’t forget to play games in the car – for rules and ideas see our article on Car Games for Kids

Thanks to all the Bub Hub members who helped compile this guide: tormy,
hakuna matata, sweetpeamummy, mummykitty, Chelleylane, mudpiecake, TinyStar, EliG, Leisam, 2darlingboys, mylittlefamily and our Facebook friends!

More useful links:

Read our tips on Flying with Babies and Young Children

Chat to parents on our forum about travelling with babies and young children

Image credit: pekour/123RF Stock Photo

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3 comments so far -

  1. Good advice about Truckstops. I personally know some truck drivers. If there is trucks parked there you can be sure the food is good and reasonably priced. If the food standard drops word soon gets around and gradually the truckies find other suitable places.

  2. I always bring with me ipad and chips when we travel and long drive, that’s the only way they can be pleased and can keep them stay seated.

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