Planning a family road trip can lead to a fun-filled adventure! Being stuck in the car for a long drive doesn’t have to be stressful, you can do plenty along the way to make it fun and exciting.
Follow these 15 tips and you’ll be surprised at how happy the kids are, how calm the car journey is, and how relaxed you feel! Include the whole family in the preparing and planning stages, so everybody has a sense of ownership of the vacation!
This article explains how to make a family road trip fun!
You’re going to be spending a lot of time together in the car and so having tricks up your sleeve is well worth the extra effort. You won’t regret seeing the kid’s faces when you surprise them with an unexpected activity in the car, or when they are playing in the grass at a scenic rest stop.
Read on where I will cover 15 tips for planning a family road trip. The tips include the before you go stages, during the drive, and even when it comes to car cleaning chores! Let’s get started!
Research fun family stop-offs, and ask the kids to choose which you visit
In the route planning stages of your family road trip, find a selection of interesting stop-offs that you would be happy for the family to visit. Collect your ideas in a folder on your computer or phone with some interesting facts and images, then present them to the kids.
Ask the children to choose the ones that they would like to visit on the drive. You could allow them a couple of choices each depending on how many stops you’re taking. This gives the children ownership of their family vacation and gets them excited for the stop-off that they chose for you all.
A theme park
A water park
A beach day
A hike up a mountain
A forest trek
A tour of a famous landmark
A dining experience
A play barn
Plan picnics at scenic rest stops, and include energetic games for physical activity
On a long car ride, you will need to stop every few hours to stretch your legs, top-up gas, and use the toilet. When planning your route, spend plenty of time locating scenic rest-stops that have play parks, grassy areas, or forests.
Take a picnic set and blanket, and make the breaks fun by adding in ball games, hula hooping, frisbee, etc. Not only does it add little adventures and excitement along the way, but the physical activity will get the family feeling energized and fresh to get back on the road.
Research fun and historical facts about each place you are going to visit
If you’re really organized, you could research and write down interesting facts about your upcoming locations, before you set off on the road trip. Alternatively, use your phone along the route to find historical and fun facts that you can surprise your family with.
This gives the family a lot to talk about and get excited about along the route, adding a quirky dimension to the road trip. On the way home, you could make the facts into a quiz to see what everybody remembers about the road trip!
Print off paper maps for each child, to keep track of the journey as you drive
Printing off paper maps is handy anyway, in case you have an electrical fault on your sat nav or something goes wrong with your phones. Each child could have a paper version of your route, so they can see where you’re going, mark it as you drive along, and get excited about the destinations.
Using the map, the children will be able to see how far they have left until your next stop, so it also prevents too many ‘are we there yet?’ questions!
Have you seen our Road Trip Bingo printable game?
Plan for spontaneity and surprise
Planning for spontaneity sounds really strange, but kids always have fun when they can be flexible and go with the flow sometimes. It is no doubt that you’ll drive past something of excitement, such as a theme park you didn’t know existed on the route, or a special hike.
Have a plan, have time frames, but also plan to be flexible as much as you can on your family road trip. That way, if something special appears, you won’t be panicked if you go off the beaten track a little, and the kids will appreciate the adventure.
Plan family-friendly accommodation that the kids will love
Planning accommodation is so important when you’re on a road trip, whether this is a hotel, motel, or campsite. Whatever your choice is, always have in mind each person’s preferences and needs, and be weighing up the reality of your budget. You might think you’re saving to go with the cheapest, but sometimes it just isn’t that way!
For instance, is it worth spending a few dollars more to have that hotel on the beachfront, rather than that cheaper place up the road where the kids are likely to get bored. It seems more cost-effective, yet the boredom is likely to result in you having to pay for an extra day trip? Always look at the surroundings and facilities, and weigh it up in the reality of how the family will find it!
Budget daily pocket money for each child
Adding pocket money to your budget when planning your family road trip is a great idea for the family. That way, when the children see something they like, they have an allocated amount, and they will be encouraged to choose carefully and spend wisely.
You could incorporate extra pocket money into good behaviour, game-winners, and who is the most helpful at keeping the car nice and tidy. This keeps the children engaged, and allows you to not overspend when they want different things at each stop.
Print road trip games, and put them in a binder for each child
Having a binder full of printed games and activities will keep the children entertained and excited throughout the road trip. Example games are scavenger hunts, road trip bingo and conversation starters.
In addition to games, you could even include some of their school holiday homework. Doing it in the car can actually feel less of a task when they don’t feel pressured and can sit with it at their own leisure.
Luckily, we have some printable activities ready-made for you. All you need to do is download them, print them out, and get a binder for each person.
Download our 8 Free Printable Activities For Kids
Give each child their own disposable camera and scrapbook to collect memories on the trip
Your children might already have phones or a digital camera. But either way, disposable cameras are cheap and have the element of surprise when you get them developed back home. Give each family member a camera and a new scrapbook to collect memories.
In each place you visit, you can get tickets, leaflets, special memories, and photographs to stick into the scrapbook when they get home. They can also add journal entries about the best parts of the places you visit. This is a special family souvenir to keep forever and remember the road trip vacation.
Prepare and pack the car with the children’s favourite things, using a back seat organiser
You can get the most amazing car seat organizers online, or even create one out of a material shoe storage that you’d normally have in a closet. On the road, your family’s personal items need to be in easy reach, with everybody’s favorite things.
Include books, toys, coloring sheets, games, tablets, charging leads, and even snacks. Being able to reach what they need without your permission or help, will keep them occupied for hours whilst you relax.
Prepare lots of healthy, nutritious, and delicious road trip snacks
Hunger and thirst on the family road trip is something you need to have planned and prepared for. Save yourself time, money and frustration by packing lots of healthy snacks, meals, and yummy foods to take with you.
Filling the family up with sugary candies and drinks is only going to lead to agitation and exhaustion, so make sure that most of what you take has health in mind. Pack plenty of freshly made recipes in a cooler such as sandwiches, salads, fresh fruit, hummus, and veggie sticks.
In addition, take lots of packet dried foods that last the distance; such as crackers, homemade trail mix, flapjacks, chips, and dried fruit! Give everyone their own reusable water bottle, and keep plenty of spare water in the car!
Check and clean the car before you depart to save your family from being stuck at the roadside
Before you leave, get your car repaired, maintained, and up to date with all the health checks it needs. Fluid levels need to be topped up, tire pressures sorted, and most importantly, a tank full of gas! Make sure you have roadside recovery, and all your important documents to hand!
Give the car a good clean too and you can get the kids involved with this! A few days before you go, why not spend a few hours washing the car with the kids, dishing out duties for them. Or if they’re old enough, maybe they can clean it on their own for some vacation spending money!
Pack emergency essentials and other items, as outlines in Family Road Trip Packing List.
Give young children walkie talkies for the road trip
Not that you’ll ever lose track of where they are (although these are handy if that ever happened!), but walky-talkies for young children feel really exciting. When you’re at rest stops, you can keep in touch with one another, and when you go on days out or camping, you can incorporate these into fun games.
If you’re traveling in convoy with other families, children can communicate from car to car, which makes it feel like an adventure for them. If they are at a stage where they’ve been asking for a mobile phone, this might feel like a special treat.
Check out our Road Trip Scavenger Hunt for Kids; it is free to download and printable!
Give each child a car duty, make cleaning and clearing the car fun by giving responsibilities
You can make a family road trip rota, or just simply assign (or let everyone choose) their own preferred car cleaning duty for the road trip. Giving the kids their own responsibilities gives them ownership and keeps the car clean and tidy too! This could be from removing the trash to re-packing the bags, to handing out the food, to hoovering the car at a gas station.
If you’re feeling generous, you could allow extra special stop-offs if the duties are tended to well, or make an in-car reward system which can you use for quizzes and games too. We love the idea of car tokens, which you could design and print yourself!
Create and download a singalong playlist before you leave, with the help of your kids
You might be sick of hearing Disney songs in the house, but the kids will love having their own songs they can sing along to in the car. Make a compromise and build a family playlist, where you add your favorite songs.
That way, on the road, there is no arguing about who listens to what, you just know that at some point, you’ll all be able to have a singalong and there will be no arguments!
Check out Road Trip Playlists
Thank you for taking the time to read this, and enjoy your Family Road Trip Adventures! We’d love to hear some of your tips, so feel free to leave a comment!