Ten Tips for Traveling with Children

It’s vacation time again! Hooray!


With three small children at home, traveling by airplane is cost prohibitive for us. We’ll be loading up our beloved minivan and hitting the road to sunny Florida this summer. After surviving this trip three times, I feel somewhat qualified to offer my tips for traveling by car with children.

1. Get Them Involved
While you’re getting everything together, ask your children’s opinion. Let them help pick favorite outfits or toys to bring along.

2. Get Started Early

Maybe I’m a giant geek, but I like to get started packing early. If I do that, I’m much less likely not to forget important things like sunscreen.

My only problem with this? Keeping my children out of the suitcase.

3. Familiar is Fun!

Vacation is not the time to forget your child’s favorite lovey. If your kids have blankets, stuffed animals or books they simply can’t live without, you’d better bring them along. I limit my children to things they can comfortably carry themselves.

4. Check out the Car
Before leaving on vacation, make sure your tires are in good shape,and that it hasn’t been six months since your last oil change. Breaking down on the road with a car full of children = miserable.


5. Create a Time Line for Kids
My dear friend Daune travels frequently with her tribe of five. She creates a paper chain for the predicted hours of the trip, giving her children a visual reminder of how long is left.

6. Be Realistic
Remember the days of hitting the beach for Spring Break? You and your friends would load up the car and drive ‘straight through’. Not such an awesome idea with children. My general rule of thumb is to add one hour of travel time for each child into your estimated travel time. So, my 13 hour trip turns into 15 or more with my crew. Not fun, but realistic.

7. Snack Smart

Even though we have to stop for gas along the way, I don’t want to pay the mark up on chips, drinks, gum, etc. We pack a cooler (or two) with our favorite drinks, as well as individual portions of snacks. Depending on the time of day we are traveling, we may add sandwiches, too. Non perishable items are best, since lugging ice along isn’t always fun.

8. Potty Patience
This will be the first year I will have all three children’s bathroom schedules to contend with. Gas Station bathrooms can be the pits at times, so I’m planning on lugging one of our potty seats along for those times when the bathroom conditions are less than stellar. Another good idea would be keeping hand sanitizer and wipes close at hand.

9. Crafts on the Go

My children love to color and draw, but I’d be a crazy woman if I turned them loose with conventional markers and crayons in the car. I’m a giant fan of Crayola Color Wonder markers – mess free, and my children are big fans, too. Other options would be a Doodle Sketch

10. Electronic Entertainment

If I didn’t use at least one electronic device on the trip, I would quickly lose my mind. We’ll be putting the following items to the test:

DVD player:
Each of my children will get to choose two movies to bring along. One friend of mine even suggested stopping by Redbox as you leave your city, since you’d be able to easily return the new movie along the way.

iPad/iPod touch:
I’m running into a bit of a dilemma here. I plan to get some writing done on the way, using the iPad, so I’m not planning on sharing it very much. I’m also on the hunt for a charger that will be able to juice up the iPad in the car as I use it. If you have a smaller family, passing the iPad around might work. There are even straps to attach your iPad to the headrest for easier viewing of movies.

Nintendo DS:
We limit this one to the 5 and older crowd in my house. Rachel has a Tangled Game, a Dora Puppy Game, and a Zhu Zhu Pet game. She’s all set with a car charger, carrying case, and headphones, too!

My crew, even the boys, LOVE Magic Tree House stories. We’ve learned about the African safari, the Amazon, Ancient Greece and more. We’ve also listened to Charlotte’s Web, and some Junie B Jones books.

Let’s hear from you! What tips have worked for you while traveling with children?

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When she’s not traveling around the country with her family, you can find Dianna writing at The Kennedy Adventures. She’ll keep you up to date on training for a half marathon, teach you about her faith, and keep you entertained with stories about her ex-boyfriends. You can also find her on Twitter.

Dianna Kennedy
Dianna Kennedy is the mother of six, writing at The Kennedy Adventures. She shares resources for Catholic homeschooling, including printable Rosary cards for children and Saint Fun Fact Cards. Connect with her on G+, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.


  1. says

    Travel Bingo! Even the little ones can play along as the older kids point out what they see. We don’t make it a contest, just have them try to find everything on the card.

    Stickers and small homemade books to put them in or make their own picture with. I keep them with me in a folder and dole them out to the kids as boredom strikes.

    I keep both of these things to myself so the kids are in for a surprise when I give them something new and they aren’t aloud to ask me for them!

  2. says

    What great tips! I love #5 (paper chain for hours in drive). We use a paper chain to countdown the days until we leave, but I’ve never thought to have one in the car. Brilliant! My best tip (not really my own idea) for traveling in airplanes with little ones is a Smile! It puts people (strangers and your own kids) at ease, when they see Mommy smiling.

  3. Katie says

    We found that investing in one of those devices that has an outlet and plugs into the regular charging spot in the car (forget the name) was incredibly useful. This way, we can bring along pretty much any electronic device and can plug it in, just like you would plug it into the wall. No need to limit it to just the battery-operated devices.

  4. says

    I’m a huge geek when it comes to audiobooks, so I’m thrilled to see them mentioned here. :)

    When it comes to road trips, I think the key is to make sure each kid has something to do that’s quiet and unobtrusive–that way there’s no squabbling and ‘turn it down!’ or ‘get it off my side of the seat!’ :) Headphones for movies and games are a definite must.

  5. Barbie Fisher says

    Thanks for your great post. My husband and I went just traveled over 500 miles, 11 hours, with 15 children. I tried your paper chain idea and the children really liked it.