Ready to take a road trip with your kids? It shouldn’t come as a surprise that a road trip with kids can be a hefty undertaking. These helpful road trip tips with kids make your vacation easy and enjoyable.
Our family has been on an 8-year road trip! Even before we moved into our RV in 2015, we would take dozens of road trips all over the western US.
We then started flying abroad on road trips, covering thousands of miles in the process. So it’s safe to say we’ve had some experience.
And over the years, we come to learn many things about how to make road trips easier, more enjoyable, and most importantly, how to get to our destinations promptly.
While we have lived full-time in our RV and traveled, we often leave the RV behind and do road trips in our truck, staying at hotels, Airbnb, or camping. We’ve even flown to Hawaii, Europe, and New Zealand and taken road trips there. The 21 tips will make your road trip with kids a success for all types of travel.
1. Charge Their Electronics For The Driving
One of the most obvious things you should do is have your and every one of your family member’s devices fully charged before you leave. Most cars & RVs indeed have chargers you can use while driving, but chances are, they won’t be able to keep up with everyone’s battery loss.
While I’m sure you detest your kids spending all day on their devices, there’s just no way of getting around this during a long drive. You don’t want your kids to get bored out of their minds and start fighting with one another. The same goes for you too. Have your devices charged as well.
2. Have Kids Download Movies and TV shows
While yes, your kids may be able to stream their movies and shows from their devices, you should be prepared for spotty service, and that means downloading beforehand. Now keep in mind, because you’re driving, you don’t want them staring at their screen for too long, otherwise, they might end up getting motion sickness.
3. Music is Your Best Friend
The number one thing you and your kids’ devices should be used for, at least as far as entertainment goes, is to listen to music. This is better than movies and shows because your kids will avoid getting motion sickness, and it’ll allow them to take in the sights during your drive.
4. Audiobooks & Podcasts Are a Close Second
As an alternative for when you get sick of music, you can also put on an audiobook or a podcast to listen to. This may also help prompt some discussion if you’re at the part in your drive where you’ve run out of things to talk about.
5. Be Professional About Bathroom Stops
It’s best to try and be proactive when it comes to bathroom breaks. Instead of waiting until someone has to go, plan when you think you’ll have to stop. And never try to ignore full bladders to save on travel time. It just isn’t worth it. Instead, make sure your kids tell you that they’ll have to go soon, instead of what kids will typically do, which is wait until they’ve been holding it for half an hour before speaking up.
6. On Long Road Trips, Have Parents Take Turns
I know that in some couples, there’s one person who is the default driver. This is either due to one person hating to drive or maybe one spouse isn’t willing to let go of the wheel (both figuratively and metaphorically). Either way, things will go much smoother if you each take turns. It doesn’t have to be exactly 50/50, but on those all-day drives, at some point, your main driver needs a break.
7. The Co-Pilot Should Always Be On Navigation
Whoever is serving as copilot should understand that that doesn’t mean you get to just take a nap and not do anything. As a copilot, your #1 job is being your driver’s navigator. Don’t let them try to drive the RV while fiddling with directions on their phone. That’s your department, and you are responsible for giving them clear instructions of what needs to be done to get to your destination.
8. Consider the Size of Your Vehicle Wherever You Drive
Any time you park, or take a residential street, the size of your vehicle relative to its surroundings needs to be considered, and that’s because oftentimes there are places with large vehicles not in mind. So use your phone’s navigation and your own eyes to decipher where is safe and where things could get a little dicey.
Of course, this mostly only applies to big rigs. If your RV is under 30 feet, you should be able to fit just about anywhere that a large van can, assuming you feel comfortable behind the wheel.
9. Don’t Take Google Map Shortcuts (Most of The Time)
Continuing on with navigation, it’s important to look ahead on whatever app you’re using and notice at what points down the road it’s trying to lead you on a shortcut. It’s only natural that these apps would want to save you time on your journey, but in the case of RVs, these apps won’t know that you’re driving such a large vehicle, so skip out on shortcuts if you feel that the intended path isn’t worth the inconvenience.
You can deduce this if the shortcut, in trying to save you a handful of minutes, is directing you to go through a city or town instead of sticking to the main highway. For more tips about Google Maps, check out this great article.
10. Avoid Going Through Downtown
While you’re driving and making sure to avoid unnecessary shortcuts, you should also be cautious about taking any route that has you going through a downtown area, particularly if it’s one in a big city. Downtown areas might not accommodate your large vehicle, so for certain places, it might be worth taking a long way, even if it does add considerable time to your drive.
11. Have Meals and Snacks Ready
While yes, you can get fast food and buy snacks off of gas station shelves, it will certainly be healthier for you and your family to eat your own snacks and precooked meals. If you’re in an RV, then ideally you can cook food beforehand and then warm it up in the middle of your road trip when you’re parked at a rest stop. An instant pot can make this incredibly easy.
Pro Tip: When we take road trips with our kids in the truck and stay at hotels, we use the Instant Pot to cook organic chicken or a roast and add it to our salad.
Here are some great ideas for simple and fast Instant Pot recipes.
- Family Friendly Instant Pot Recipes
- 10 Easy Instant Pot Dinners That Require 6 Ingredients or Less
- 10 Never-Fail Instant Pot Family Favorites
12. Look Ahead For Where Cheaper Gas Will Be
Going back to navigation for a moment, it can save you a few easy bucks if your copilot looks ahead for the cheaper gas stations, as opposed to pulling into the first you see after dropping below a quarter tank. One way you can do this is through Google Maps, or you can use a separate app like GasBuddy.
13. Ask Kids to Help Get The RV Ready To Leave
Before you hit the road, you’ll have to make sure your RV is stocked and that all loose items have been secured. This is one thing you should recruit the kids to help with. They might not be able to help with planning the road trip as a whole, but this is one task kids of most ages will be able to help with.
14. Long Driving Days Are Better Than Many Short Ones
If you are taking an RV or camping road trip with kids, once you get comfy at a campground it can be hard to go through the hassle of packing up and leaving. This is why it’s better to cover large stretches of distance and then allow yourself several days at a campground, as opposed to one night at each place, followed by a few hours of driving the following day.
15. Unless It’s More Than 8-10 Hours
The exception to the previous advice is if the long drive in question is longer than 8-10 hours (I add this variable because, for some people, driving is more taxing than it is for others). If it is longer than this, I highly recommend you choose a place to rest, and then finish the drive tomorrow. This is because driving longer than this will put you in the hole tremendously, which will likely take you a full day to recover from.
16. Prepare To Be Exhausted
And yes, no matter what way you slice it, long amounts of driving will leave you exhausted. Accept this, listen to your body, and plan for some period of recovery.
17. Choose Campgrounds With Pull Through Sites
Again, for RVers, especially first-time RVers, it may help you to choose sites at your desired campground that are pull-through, as opposed to back-in sites. Backing in an RV, especially if it’s a big one, can be very tricky, doubly so if it’s at a more densely packed campground, with vehicles on all sides of you. If your campground has no pull-through sites available, consider getting a rear RV camera, so that can have better awareness of your surroundings.
Speaking of campgrounds, always consider these things before deciding what campground you want to stay at.
18. Plan For Plenty of Time at Your Destination
When it comes to road-tripping with kids, it should be quality over quantity. If you’re excited about a particular destination, plan to stay there for at least a few days. If you try to only spend a few hours at each of your attractions, you won’t get as much enjoyment as you could’ve, and you’ll be left more exhausted in the process.
Going on an RV road trip with the kids can feel intimidating, and some people, come back not feeling like it was worth it, however, I believe that with the right mindset, some healthy expectations, and a positive attitude, you can make your road trip a very memorable experience. Also, if you’re worried about fitting your entire family in an RV, be sure to check out our blog post about it right here.
19. Check the Weather
One thing we’ve noticed in all our years of travel is that weather predictions seem to be at the last minute. Be sure to double-check the weather along your travel path each day and have a backup plan just in case.
20. Have Your Insurance Information Handy
We have experienced many flat tires throughout our travels and often they happen in places with poor cell service. Have your roadside insurance phone number and policy information handy in case you need it.
21. Capture It All
I regret so much that I rarely filmed the temper tantrums, flat tires, and all the other mishaps that have occurred. Hopefully, they don’t happen to you, but if they do, put someone in charge of filming it.
Sometimes this means just giving an old camcorder to a kid and asking them to capture it.
We hope these road trip tips with kids help you have a wonderful time traveling. If you have any tips of your own that you think I should add, leave a reply below.
Looking to rent an RV for your next family road trip? Check out Outdoorsy for great deals and get inspired with our blog, Best Road Trips with Kids (coming soon).