13 Road Trip Hacks for Traveling with Kids

Heading out on the road with your kids? Read these travel hacks first!

By Kristin Fouts, publisher of Macaroni KID Hendricks, Ind. June 6, 2022

Hitting the road just for a short ride with kids takes a decent amount of preparation, so planning a lengthy family road trip? That requires focus, planning ... and lots and lots of snacks. 

I asked moms for their best travel hacks. Here are just a few of their tried-and-true tactics to survive road trips with the family:

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Keep the car clean

Give kids a place for all their stuff.
Use plastic tray tables with pockets/side storage to make a "desk" for their snacks, crafts, books, or tablets.

Bring a trashcan.
Put a small trash can or plastic bag between the seats and regularly remind the kids to use it!

Baby wipes.
Baby wipes can be magical cleaners for many messes, no matter your child's age!

Don't forget the potty.
Traveling with little ones? Pack a portable potty for side-of-the-road needs. Bring zip-up plastic bags to contain the smell of dirty diapers when a trash can isn't convenient.

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Take the snacks

Pack extra.
Because no matter what, you won't have enough.

Prepackage snacks.
If you don't buy prepackaged snacks, DIY single servings before getting in the car. For instance, put chips in a plastic container or bag rather than handing your kids a full-sized container. If you do that, they'll either eat it all or spill at all — either way, you're better off portioning out for them!

Bring cutlery and a roll of paper towels.
Even if you don't pack food that needs to be cut or peeled, you might wish at some point for a knife or fork — so bring one along, just in case! And bring a roll of paper towels too. Do we need to explain why?

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Keep the kids entertained

Prepare your gadgets.
Fully charge tablets and headphones. Download movies in advance, and make sure plenty of offline content is available.

Don't forget the hotspot.
Keep the kids occupied on their tablets or phones by enabling a WiFi hotspot on your phone for them to use. Or bring a portable hotspot (some libraries even allow you to borrow mobile hotspots!). Not taking a hotspot? Download books, movies, and offline content before you leave home.

Prepare a travel tote for each child.
Put together a plastic bin for each child that includes everything they'll need on the road, plus a few surprises that they can keep within reach in the car.

Play a family-friendly audiobook.
Find a book or podcast you will all enjoy to while away the hours.

Get a travel app.
We love the RoadTrippers app, which identifies quirky roadside attractions, scenic points, national parks, and more on your route.

Play games.
Check out this list of 9 family road trip games for the best car trip ever!

The most important thing to pack? Patience. Give yourself  — and your kids —  some grace, and don't expect things to go entirely smoothly, no matter how much you've planned. Remember, the best family road trip memories can happen when the unexpected occurs!