7 Tips For Staying Sane on Family Road Trips

Three kids sit in the back of the car, two sleep while the third reads, great ways for Staying Sane Family Road Trips.
Photo Courtesy: Jason Carlton

Staying sane on family road trips takes a little bit of practice — and a whole lot of determination! Avid family travelers worldwide dream of taking a long road trip to really immerse their children in a different culture. For many parents, however, the thought of being in a car with young children for hours can make them reconsider. Luckily, there are other alternatives to make memories together! Families Love Travel is here to tell you that staying sane on family road trips is a possible feat. Plus, since so many other families are doing it (and having fun!), why shouldn’t you? Next time you’re looking to plan a vacation with kids, we’ve compiled this article to give you a helping hand. Check out our 7 Tips For Staying Sane On Family Road Trips!

AAA. Coverage You Can Trust On A Road Trip!

Stay Calm and Composed

Mom and two daughters prepare for a road trip. All are wearing matching sunglasses.
Photo Courtesy: Moriah Schade Meisenheimer

Your mindset can make or break a family road trip! If you want to truly have fun, then you’ll need to stay calm throughout the trip. For some, this means making sure everything is completely organized, pre-prepared prior to when you hit the road. Others may prefer a more active approach, like planning out games and doling out new toys during the ride. This is key to staying sane on family road trips with young kids! Whatever it is you need to do, spend some thinking about your strategy in advance. That way, you can also easily find your happy place when your toddler starts complaining (probably for the tenth time!)  

Arrange Your Car

7 kids stand in front of 2 packed vans in preparation of a road trip. Setting up your car is the next step to staying sane on family road trips.
Photo Courtesy: Noelle Stockman MacGregor

Setting up your car is the next step to staying sane on family road trips. Of course, all parents have cars set up in a certain way best for pick-ups, dropoffs, and everyday errands. But you should also consider the best way to arrange seats for a long trip too! Maybe separate kids so they feel like they have more personal space. Or, install an extra seat to place essentials like snacks and wipes in an easily reachable spot. Remember, kids will be eating, napping, and playing in the car. Do what you can to maximize their comfort level (including packing a blanket or favorite stuffed animal!) We all know the car will be trashed at the end of the trip. Don’t let that stop you from getting a car wash before you leave!

Keep It Clean and Safe

Keeping clean will make every family member content during your family road trip! Obviously, the last thing you want is your car to smell like fast food for hours on end. To avoid this, keep a garbage bag readily accessible instead, and empty it at every stop. Make a separate box to also pack paper towels, wipes, and tissues to quickly clean up any mess. (Trust us — there WILL be a mess!) Avoid sticky food in particular. Pack a small hand vacuum if you plan on giving toddlers crackers. Most of all, put a backup plan in place for any emergencies. Make sure you’re safe and have a first aid kit as well as essentials!

Pack Snacks. Lots of Snacks.

Who doesn’t love some snacks? Though you’ll naturally stop for meals, remember kids get extra hungry while sitting in the car for a long time. Pack some treats from home to ease this process! To make the experience more interactive, also have each kid pack their lunchbox with favorite snacks they can grab. Then, parents can pack a family cooler with veggies, fruits, and tasty drinks. (Stay hydrated, but avoid guzzling down liquid during the drive to minimize unnecessary bathroom breaks!) Also, as much as we know kids will be thrilled to savor sugary sweets, avoid them as much as possible. The last thing you want is hyper children on a long drive!

Don’t Rush the Journey

Young girl in rainbow skirt points to river along a road. Taking breaks is a great way for staying sane on family road trips.
Photo Courtesy: Jen Grzenia

Enjoy your family road trip at your own pace! Though you may have once completed this trip while single, don’t expect it to pan out similarly with little kids. For one, definitely anticipate stopping often (every 2-3 hours) for bathroom breaks, food breaks, or just to stretch your legs. Take advantage of the stops to throw a ball around or let the kids run free! Or, use an app to find scenic stops along the way and kill two birds with one stone. Most of all: don’t panic! Even if everything seems to be falling apart, be flexible, and don’t worry about changing your plans. Sometimes, you’ll have to call it an early day, find the nearest hotel pool, and let the kids jump in!

Plan Some Entertainment

Entertainment is key to keeping kids at bay during a family road trip. While we’re not suggesting entertaining kids during every second, at least think about how to keep them happy overall. Consider packing bags of coloring books, word searches, and mad libs, for example. If you’re more of a digital family, also come packed with all your technology! iPads with individual headphones are a great option to stay occupied during long road trips. Above all, remember to give yourself lots of options, and use them accordingly based on the time of day. (Or what you need from your children, like having your older ones stay quiet while the younger one naps.) Don’t forget chargers!

Enjoy the Adult Time

3 adults and 1 child ride in a car. Enjoying adult time while kids are distracted is perfert for staying sane on family road trips.
Photo Courtesy: Antonia Grant

Adults enjoy a little unwinding as well! Though this entire article focuses on keeping the kids happy, don’t forget about you and your partner during your family road trip! When the kids are busy or asleep, also contemplate how to make your family road trip memorable for you too. In fact, there are plenty of ways to make the experience more romantic for you and your special someone! Turn the road trip into a date while the kids nap or watch a movie, for example. Or, listen to a great playlist, sip on some coffee, and take a rare opportunity to simply talk. For some self-care, you can also sneak in a short nap, or read a book while your partner drives!

Thank You To Our Community

Mother and son wear superhero masks as they embark on a road trip.
Photo Courtesy: Jennifer Solomon

No matter where your next adventure will lead you, we hope you’ve enjoyed these 7 Tips For Staying Sane On Family Road Trips! We also hope you’re now convinced that you can master staying sane on family road trips, regardless of how young your children are.

A special thank you to the Families Who Love to Travel Facebook community who also submitted photographs and tips to help to compile this list of 7 Tips For Staying Sane On Family Road Trips! Families Who Love To Travel is a group of amazing families who love adventure and exploring through travel. Join the Facebook community and also the Instagram community to connect with other families who love the unique experiences travel has to offer!

Please note: We use some affiliate links. So we may receive a small percentage of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. All prices listed are accurate at the time of publication.


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The Families Love Travel Team has a zest for life and an even bigger passion for globetrotting! Comprised of real-life travel professionals, we work hard behind the scenes to provide dynamic solutions for adventuring with children. Our enthusiastic team understands the challenges that often accompany traveling with kids and is committed to making Families Love Travel an inclusive space to convey these experiences.