Surviving a Road trip with Young Children

We just got back from a road trip to San Diego where my kids were flower girls in their uncle's wedding. San Diego is about an 8 1/2 hour drive (without traffic) from where we live. We would have flown, but airfare for the 5 of us was too pricey. So we decided to drive. This was not an easy choice for us. Our kids do not do well on long car trips. If you have ever been passed by a minivan with three screaming kids (and possibly parents) then that was probably us. 

Our original thought was to drive the entire way in one shot, stopping every few hours for a snack and to stretch our legs. This would have made the trip VERY long and our tempers very short. Then we considered driving at night so the kids would sleep most of the time. The problem with that idea was that the kids might be rested the next day but we would not be. Finally, we realized that we could drive halfway to San Diego, stay at a hotel and drive the rest of the way the next day. This was the perfect solution for us and made a car ride with 4 year old twins and a 2 year old, bearable.

Here are some things we learned along the way:

1- Stop at a halfway point.
If you are taking a long road trip and you can take a few extra vacation days, your life will be a lot easier if you pick a halfway point and stop there overnight, then continue on in the morning. The way we did our trip, my husband had to take two extra vacation days and we had to pay for a couple extra nights at a hotel, but it was well worth it to not arrive at our destination or back home, angry and stressed.    

2- Drive at night or around the kids nap schedule. 
When we left for San Diego, we did so after dinner. We got the kids ready for bed and put them in their pajamas. We ended up leaving our house at 8:00pm and they fell asleep in the car around 9:30pm. We drove until midnight when we reached the hotel at the halfway point. Then we woke up the kids, checked in and we all went to bed. They had no trouble falling right back asleep. The next day they also fell asleep on the drive.

sleeping child, carseat

3- Provide distractions in the car to pass the time. 
When my kids were awake they quickly got bored sitting in the car. There is not much to see on the drive and looking out the window gets old fast. A DVD player will be a big help, but if you don't have one there's still lots you can do to keep little hands busy. Take a trip to the dollar store before your road trip and stock up on inexpensive time fillers. I gave my kids stickers and a pad to put them in (make sure you explain that they do not go on the window) and this kept them busy for quite some time. I also brought some new softcover books to dole out at various points of the journey. Some pipe cleaners or bendable toys like Bendaroos work well and are quiet and easy to pack.

4- Take frequent breaks. 
For our kids, we try not to drive much longer than 2 -2 1/2 hours without stopping for a break. Anywhere we could stop for a quick snack, potty break and feet stretching worked for us. The kids got their energy out as I chased them around the outside of a fast food place. 

fast food, kids eating

You can also take a little longer and stop somewhere fun as we did when we passed Anaheim. We took our break at Downtown Disney (free!) and the kids got to experience a little of the Disney magic while we all enjoyed a nice lunch.

5- Keep kids healthy on the road. 
New and different food might not agree with your kids. That's where a product like Culturelle Kids! comes in. My kids are always more likely to get sick after a long trip. They are just exposed to so many germs that can wreak havoc on their little systems. Culturelle Kids! can help when you child experiences occasional digestive upset as well as building up a child's natural defenses.

When we are at home, my kids drink a probiotic smoothie every day. This is impossible when we are on the road and travelling. These Culturelle Kids! Packets are easy to bring on a road trip. Because they are tasteless and odorless you can mix an entire packet into your child's food or drink and they will be none the wiser. They won't know that it is boosting their digestive health. You can feel good about giving Culturelle Kids! to your child knowing that it's the #1 probiotic  supplement that pediatricians recommend. 

For older kids you can try Cultrelle Kids! chewables. Having a healthy digestive tract is so important since 70% of your immune system is in your digestive tract. 

So there you have it, some tips that will hopefully make your next car trip a little more fun, a little more bearable and a little more healthy.

I was compensated for this post.  All opinions expressed are my own.


  1. Great tips!

    Mrs. Delightful

  2. It was not always fun even for adults to take long trips what more for kids! I don't have kids yet but I cannot imagine us traveling that far with screaming children! I like the idea of traveling around the kid's bedtime and going to a dollar store for fun and activity! Your tips are very helpful.
    I hope you could share this at my linky party on Friday :)


  3. Boy, I remember having to think of all those things when my kids were little. Otherwise it was the default, 'Mom, he's looking out my window!'

  4. Myric, Thanks so much. We used to love long road trips...before we had kids. ;-)

  5. Myric, Could not get a link from your name. It just took me to your google + page. Thanks for stopping by.

  6. Judy, Now you have to think about it with grandkids. :-)