5 Family Road Trip Tips To Save Your Sanity

May 17, 2017

Summer is quickly approaching which means VACATION time is coming! Is your family planning a road trip? Whether it is a short road trip or a long road trip, this post will have you covered!

We are a road tripping family!  I actually grew up taking long road trips and we have carried on the tradition with our kids.  As a child I loved the adventure of a good road trip, as a result it was never dreaded.  My favorite road trip was when I was 8 years old.

My parents, brothers and I left Texas for a major adventure. We went north to Michigan, ventured into Canada, over to Niagra Falls, down to New York, Washington DC and then down the East Coast and back to Texas. It was suppose to be a 2 week trip which we turned into 3 weeks. What I loved most, (and still love) about road trips is all the unexpected adventures you find while driving.  I remember my dad seeing a helicopter tour billboard and the next thing we knew we were in a helicopter on our own tour of Niagara Falls.  So fun and completely spur of the moment!

What is super fun and exciting to me, is that we have been able to take our own kids back to some of the places I visited as a child.  A few summers ago we loaded up our kids and headed out on our first LONG road trip.  We went to Hershey, PA and nearby Washington D.C.  Below are  few photos of my trip to Hershey, PA as a nine year old and then our trip with our own kids.

Here I am at Hershey Park in the early 90’s.  Excuse the horrible hair style.  I hated that hair style but my mom thought it was adorable and so easy.


Above are my kids at Hershey Park in 2015.  Clearly the character’s have had a facelift as well as the clothing choices of the people.  Ha!

Look at us in the 90’s!  Outside the entrance to the Park.

Here’s my little stud at the entrance.  Wow, has the area grown and changed.

The comparisons of photos could go on for days, but I will save you from my personal trip down memory lane and get right to the point of this post!  I have such vivid memories of our road trips as a child.  They were such special times!  Honestly, I am so thankful my husband loves the experience as much as I do. He loves the randomness and adventure that each turn brings.  Actually, I think he likes being more “spur of the moment” more than I do, and he often reminds me to just be in the moment.  Don’t think about the next meal, the next rest stop, or the next hotel.  Just think about the unexpected adventure that awaits with each passing mile.


As much as we LOVE our trips, I am to the first to admit they can get stressful in a hurry.  Extended periods of time in the car with two children causes emotions to run high.  While our road trips are not completely full of glamour, I do feel we have finally found what works best.  The best part is, I am going to let you in on our 5 Road Trip Secrets to make your travels a success!

Step 1: Limit Technology

Yes, you read that correctly, LIMIT TECHNOLOGY.  What?  Karis, have you lost your mind?!  Maybe just a little.  However, we learned early on that road trips are a great time to limit technology.  Traveling in a car is very different than flying to your destination.  When flying, you have others around and you are in survival mode with your children to make sure they don’t run down the isle to the nearest exit.  In the car, they’re contained and free to grip, complain, yell and scream.  The best part is, we have the ability to crank up the music to drown out those moments.

Each time we start a drive, whether it is 3 hours or 10 hours, we give our kids technology guidelines. For instance, a 3 hour trip might only warrant an hour of iPad games.  A ten hour trip we might allow 2 full movies, plus an hour of games or equivelent.  What has worked for us is having a technology plan and spelling it out for our kids.  When the expectations are laid out plain and clear we find there isn’t a lot of room for complaining.

After years of road trips we have also found it’s best that our kids must as for permission to get on their electronics.  Often times they will ask after we have only been in the car 30 minutes.  We usually respond with a town or other destination at which they can start using their technology.  Sometimes this destination is 30 minutes away, and sometimes it’s 2 hours.  The point is, you’re giving them either a set time, or physical destination they can look forward to.

Yes, I know it sounds crazy to limit technology in a time where technology is king, but I am the first to admit that it actually works and has saved our sanity.

Step 2: Stop Often

As I mentioned before, my dad stopped randomly and often on road trips.  Of course, that was before smartphones where we have continuous information at our hands and we even had to ask for directions.  Today, some of our favorite stops are completely spur of the moment roadside attractions and unplanned detours.  We budget extra money into our vacation fund for these types of stops.  For instance, a few years ago on our way to Hershey PA. we ended up stopping for the night very close to the Natural Bridge in Natural Bridge, VA.  It wasn’t even on our agenda but we decided it was a stop for the next day.  It was absolutely stunning and such a fun surprise to to add on our trip.

A bonus to help pass the time is our kids often enjoy keeping an eye out for billboards to help plan our next unexpected stop.  Sometimes it’s just a fun restaurant, and other times it’s a drive thru safari.


Step 3: Interact as a Family

Without a doubt, road trips are a time that you have your kids complete attention for hours at a time.  Why not spend time visiting with each other or playing interactive games.

One road trip, our family went through all our teachers from pre-k to current and said their name and a memory about them.  The activity for my kids took 5-10 minutes but for my husband and I, it took much longer.  It was so much fun remembering all of our teachers and talking about the things we liked most about each.  My kids though it was amazing that my husband actually had his Aunt as his teacher in 4th grade.  They asked tons of questions which led to multiple conversations about the things we learned in each grade, science fair projects, books we read, and sports we played.   Honestly, I think it makes our children realize, we were once kids just like them.

We also will talk about our dreams, (vacations, cars, jobs, etc), what-ifs, would you rather, and the list goes on.  There is always something to talk about and being stuck in a car for hours is a great time to learn more about each other.

Step 4: Play Games

We play lots of interactive games as a family.  Im sure you know the quirky little games each family plays while in the car.

  • Mustangs & Herbies – Mustangs (correct color called) are 1 point while Herbie (correct color called) are 2 points.  First person or team to 15 wins.  We have lots of rules we had added as the kids have gotten older to make it more competitive.
  • The Alphabet Game- Make it through the alphabet using only signs and license plates you see.
  • License Plate Game- Just as it sounds.  Find all different plates.
  • The Game of Concentration – Decide on a category like colors, animals, restaurants etc. Go around naming them but you can’t repeat whats already been said, or you are out.

My kids also make up tons of little crazy games that we play.  Count the red cars, I spy, Rock, Paper, Scissors.  Another favorite is trying to see who can come up with the most clever, and original Knock Knock joke.  Oh, the list goes on.  Sometimes it takes a lot a of patience to play some of these games but the kids do love them.

Step 5: Ultimate Box of Road Trip Fun

My kids are 11 and 8, and we have been road tripping since they were little.  For the last 8 years our family has lived over 6 and 9 hours away from family, so even a weekend trip “home” felt long.  Each year our road trip box changes.  I add to it and take things out, but most importantly our road trip supplies stay at the top of a closet, which means they aren’t played with except when we are on a road trip.  Personally I have found this keeps traveling exciting.

The key is excitement!  When we go on long road trip I often have two or three small boxes filled with travel games, books, and activities.  I change the boxes out daily.  It gives the kids new opportunities and the trip isn’t as complacent.

At the bottom of this post I have included a complete road trip store of products that we have enjoyed.  Yes, I also include in our vacation fund, and road trip activities.  Many of them last several road trips so to me it’s worth my time to just purchase items rather than scouring for free printables and printing pages.

Our Favorite Road Trip Finds

I do want to share with you a few of our favorite road trip items. While the bottom list is huge list of items we love, this is a look at our road trip box that we used at Easter.  It contained some of our all time favorites.  Easter weekend we met my in-laws in Branson, Mo.  Branson is about a 9 hour trip from our home.  Yes, most people wouldn’t take 9 hour weekend trip but as you have been reading, we love road trips!


  • Number one item always, is HEADPHONES.  I love my kids but I don’t want to hear the background music of their games.  Ha!
  • BOOGIE BOARDS , these things are life savers!  We see who can color the whole page in 2 minutes, we compete on who can draw the best picture, and the kids love to write us notes back and forth from the front seat to the back seat.  I think we have had ours almost 3 years.  They have held up well.  
  • We have a tween girl so she loves this ADVENTURES IN LETTERING book.  She honestly can spend about an hour working on lettering on a scratch pad.
  • On the other hand our son can spend an hour drawing in this BOYS DOODLE BOOK.
  • There are tons of drawing books for kids.  We have this DRAWING BOOK OF ANIMALS which both kids enjoy.
  • HIGHLIGHTS HIDDEN PICTURE BOOKS  are a hit!  Honestly, my husband and I like to still hunt for the items too.  
  • These WHERE’S WALDO books remind me of my own childhood.  The great thing is, my kids love them and not just for 10 minutes.  I’m talking 30 minutes or more.  Score!



As promised, here is a complete list of items we have grow to love during our family road trips.  I hope this post will help save your sanity during your next family adventure.  Let me know where you are going.  I would love to hear.


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