10 Ways to Survive a 12+ hour Car Ride With Small Kids

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You’re adding the last bag to the already full trunk. The kids are strapped in, you’ve got snacks and now you’re ready to hit the road. You pull out of the driveway. Head out of the neighborhood. But before you make it on the highway the kids are already getting frustrated in the back seat. You’ve made 5 minutes out of the 12+ hour trip. You begin to wonder if you’ll survive. Here are some ways to help a long road trip with young kiddos.

  1. Pack a lot of snacks. My 19-month-old daughter is all about snacks. When we go on trips we have to double up on stuff for her to eat. Otherwise she’ll be screaming in the backseat. The best thing to do is pack healthy snacks for your kids. I don’t like feeding my daughter while we’re going down the road, but sometimes I make an exception.
  2. Play music. My daughter loves music. Thankfully she doesn’t have to listen to kid style music. We put on some worship music or Christmas music to calm her down. We even play Disney songs. (Mostly for me and my husband so we can duet).
  3. Toys and activities. This is hard when you have a young one. Toddlers can only do so much in the backseat by themselves. So making sure they have a favorite toy helps. I also let her watch a movie on my cell phone. I put my phone on a selfie stick and then wedge between the seat and the car seat to where she can watch it hands-free. Of course, this is something I don’t like to do everyday, but sometimes road trips prompt you to do things out of the ordinary.
  4. Sit in the backseat. My daughter hates being in the back alone. It’s okay when we’re riding in town, but on trips sometimes we have to sit back there to keep her happy. This is a great time to read out-loud or maybe color together. Even work on words, letters and colors.
  5. Be prepared to stop every few hours. My husband and I are the type who get in the car and go. We don’t make a lot of stops. That is until we had our daughter. We’ve made several long road trips with her and have pretty much realized we need to stop every 2-3 hours. Depending on how she is doing. Every time we stop we change her diaper, give her a snack and massage her back and shoulders. This will help keep the little ones relaxed. You can only imagine what it’s like to be stuck in a car seat in one position. I would go insane too. When you stop make sure you and your spouse take care of gas and bathroom time as well.
  6. Dress the kiddos in comfy clothes. If you plan to be in the car for several hours then I would suggest to put them in pajamas or something comfortable. Also, make sure it’s easy for you to remove for diaper changes. If it’s cold outside make sure to put their coats, hats and shoes somewhere close if you take them into a gas station. Just remember to NEVER leave their coats or bulky clothes on when putting them back in the car seat. Instead bring a warm blanket.
  7. Be prepared for the unexpected. Each time we travel with Aurora it’s different. The first time she was 9 months old and slept almost 12 hours. The next time she stayed awake the full 12 hours needing LOTS of attention. So be prepared for changes. It’s never easy to go on road trips with kids but it’s possible. You know your kids the best. If you know they need lots of snacks then pack them. If you know they can’t be alone in the backseat then be prepared to switch out with your spouse. Just be patient and don’t get frustrated. Find ways to have fun.
  8. Pack the car for easy access. This is a big one. Before, I mentioned keeping coats and hats where you can grab them quickly. Make sure to do that with diapers, an extra change of clothes and whatever else the kids may need. The last thing you want to do is unload the car when it’s 30 degrees outside. The best way is to put those things in one specific bag. Maybe in the backseat.
  9. Prepare meals ahead of time. This has helped so much. If we know we’re eating dinner on the road we pack them in containers. For Aurora I make her meals like a sandwich, fruit, a cheese stick and crackers. I put all of that in a plastic container. So when it’s time to stop and eat dinner it’s ready to go. This will cut down on time spent off the road. We usually take her out of the car seat and let her eat with us holding her in our laps. We don’t like stopping at rest stops because they can be dangerous. Especially when it’s dark. We usually just pull in at a gas station. That way my husband and I can go to the bathroom and fill up on gas.
  10. Plan ahead. You can’t always be prepared for what a long road trip will bring with kiddos. But planning ahead and being organized is key. If you can do that then the trip won’t be as bad. Remember to be patient with your kids. It’s not easy for anyone to sit still in a car for hours. If the trip is taking longer…don’t worry. Enjoy the time with your family. Always look for ways to turn those frustrations into a fun time.

What’s the longest you’ve traveled with your kiddos?

Any tips on how to survive a long trip with young ones?

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