When I was a little girl back in the 70s and the seatbelt laws were not in place, several members of my family would pile into the old brown station wagon with wood side paneling. We would make the trip from St. John’s, Newfoundland to my grandparent’s tiny fishing community of Lamaline on the Burin Peninsula. It was a 4.5 hour drive, a good chunk on dusty dirt roads.  My mom always cooked a couple of chickens the day before so we could stop for a picnic on the way. A good cost savings for a large family as opposed to a restaurant. Also, mother’s thoughtful picnics stuck with me.

Depending on the age of your children, long car journeys can cause frustration and agitation as a parent. I’m going to provide you with some tips that could make that journey much more enjoyable for everyone.

1. Build the Excitement

Generally, children are excited to go somewhere different, whether it is visiting grandparents, a vacation or even if you need to get somewhere for a business appointment, you can still turn it into a great adventure.

2. Be Prepared

I am all about creating a list whenever I travel. Although this task seems to often fall on Mom, it would be nice to it together to ensure nothing is missed.  Aside from the usual snacks, drinks, games, toys, clothes consider the following:

  • Vehicle has recently been provided with any necessary maintenance (gas, oil, tires, windshield fluid)
  • Both parents have their drivers license and insurance on hand
  • Medical cards are brought on the trip
  • Pillows/blankets if the trip is long

3. Making Stops

Give yourself lots of time to allow for stops and if you can perhaps make them points of interest or fun for the kids. Kids do indeed get restless, so don’t just plan enough time for the travel, allow for stops; bathroom breaks, a bit of play or visit a spot you know the kids would find a welcomed treat.

Here are a few great apps that will help with stops of various sorts:

  • iExit – lets you know the restaurants, gas stations grocery stores, hospitals, hotels on your route
  • Gas Buddy – Allows you to find the cheapest gas station nearest to your location.
  • Road Trippers Simply place your starting point and point of arrival in the app and it will let you know all the cool things to do on your journey; attractions, historical landmarks, places to hike, sporting adventures etc. This is a great way to add more excitement to your family trip.

4. Games to Play

Even without a board, there are fun games to play in the car with your kids. Yes, you grownups must participate as well. This is, after all, a family trip.  Here are a few ideas for your next trip.

  • Pick your Color – each family member will pick a color of a car. Each car that passes your vehicle in your chosen color gives you a point. First person to 25 points, WINS!
  • Story Telling – One family member starts a story. Each family member will then add a sentence to the story to help fill in the details. You will see just how great of an imagination kids can have through this game.
  • Kids Trivia – Have some thought out trivia ready for your kids. Specifics about animals, their favorite movies, superheroes etc. This is also a great confidence builder for kids as well as a great travel activity.
  • Name the Song – Have some favorites downloaded on your phone or tablet to play snippets from to see if any of the family can name a tune quickly. Have a point system in place, dependant on how quickly a song is identified.

5. Don’t Sweat the Time

Unless you are really on a strict timeline, don’t sweat arriving a couple of hours late. Hotels will generally hold reservations, but you should check with individual establishments and their policies. If planning to stay with friends or family, send a text or call if you know you will be a lot later than anticipated so they don’t worry.  Putting yourself on an extremely tight schedule, will take from the enjoyment of the trip.

Have a backup plan in the event your reservation is lost or someone ends up sick and your planned stops have to change. With the use of the internet and apps it is much easier now to make other arrangements if needed or locate any necessary amenities you may require. Again, don’t stress over it, just make the adjustments and move forward.

6. Hotel Stays

If you have a trip that involves 12 or more hours of driving in a day, book a hotel if you can. It is dangerous to drive for long periods of time without breaks and certainly no fun for the kids. If you are in a financial position and can afford the time, break up the time and plan a hotel stop for everyone to get a good night’s rest. It will help with the mood of the kids and provides safe driving mom and dad.

My last piece of advice is, lighten up. It’s a road trip and as long as you arrive safely at your destination, that’s all that matters. Don’t worry if you have to wait a few miles to change a dirty diaper or if the kids argue for a few minutes over opening the window. These are small things and no road trip is without its minor speed bumps. Do a little planning and you will create some fun and lasting memories for the whole family.



Catherine is soft spoken and kind hearted. She has over 30 years experience as a nanny and has 3 kids of her own. She brings loads of fun to family outings and specializes in car games to make any journey a breeze. Her side project is to get kids to eat healthy without screaming or threatening.