The Ultimate Tips for Road Tripping With Kids of Any Age

Tips for a successful family road trip

Road tripping with Teen


So, yeah. I’m driving to Florida with my teenagers next week. That’s 24 hrs in the car. Each way. With three teenagers. Oh, and my best friend. And her tiny dog. And my husband is not a good traveller. He’s already nervous about random things that have nothing to do with our trip. No, this is not a joke. Or a sequel to National Lampoon’s Family Vacation.

It’s my life.

I have a lot to manage. And to organize. And to plan. It always seems to fall on the mother. The Dad takes care of the big picture, like what time the cleaning lady is coming while we’re away (micromanage much?) and everything else falls on me, from hotels, to shore excursions, to designing the route (but everyone told me this way is the best way. I’m not following your triptics that you took the time to order from CAA. And..later….Where are WE?)

We’ve never driven 24 hrs, but we have driven 14. It’s been a while since we’ve ridden the highways. Then, there was only one of the three who could get into PG-13 movies on her own. That means they were a more manipulatable, easily entertained group.

From those experiences, I developed a strategy for travelling with children. It is time proven and ensures they do not fight. I developed this tool after I went, unprepared, on our first long trip without blankets, pillows or other essential ingredients for happy travels. That first trip was horrible-crying, whining, and more. And that was just my husband.

Are you ready? Here is is. My valuable tool is called a Road Trip Basket.

A Road Trip Basket contains everything your child or teen needs to be happy for an extended period of time. What? You say that your 17-year old isn’t a baby and can entertain himself?

Don’t live in a dreamworld. Your teenager is still a child. Maybe he’s taller than you. Maybe she outgrew your bras 2 years ago. Still. Children. Still capable of making every minute of that 24-hours cooped up in what will very quickly feel like a bicycle built for two, a living nightmare.

How many times can you sing ’99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall’ without giving them an actual beer to shut them up?

You need the Road Trip Basket more than you know. Or care to admit. Because no matter how good of a parent you are, there is no way you can, or should want to, entertain a teenager for hours on end.

Key Points for road-tripping with teens (or really kids of any age):

  • One basket per child to be placed next to them or at their feet for easy access. If they have to ask you to pass them stuff, then you’re defeating the purpose.
  • Items are to be chosen by the kid. Whatever they want. This is not the time to urge them to eat more fibre. Sweets keep them busy. They can always brush their teeth later.
  • Do not encourage sharing. This is not a time for community-building. But, don’t be surprised if you look back and see some gummy worms making their way around the back two rows.
  • If you have space, do not put two kids next to each other. We have three kids and a six-seater car. Therefore, there is plenty of space between them, which makes poking, jabbing, and otherwise being annoying, difficult.
  • If you are using a built-in video screen, make a schedule for movie choices. You won’t be sorry. My kids watch on their own individual screens with earphones now, but we did have a built-in one before, and this strategy was invaluable.
  • Keep a cooler handy with fruit, cheese, pepperoni sticks, more cold drinks, and other healthy items. They will get sick of their junk and will want real food. Right after you’ve stopped. Also, do you see a trend? Easy-to-eat items with no fork or napkin required.
  • Don’t bring anything with little pieces that can drop on the floor and need to be found RIGHT NOW, or that can be used as weapons.
  • The car radio belongs to the grownups. Kids use earphones. Never ever will everyone agree on the song. You will have plenty of time to sing family Karaoke on the vacation.

This Life-Saving Basket contains:

Food. Who cares if it’s healthy. Actually, things like caramels that keep their mouths busy for longer . Take them to the store and let them choose their own treats. I always did one savoury (like a giant bag of chips) and one sweet (17 lbs of sour gummy worms? Who cares if they’re quiet…)

Drink. They will have to pee anyways, so they may as well be hydrated. Avoid energy drinks. Trust me. Gatorade, Powerade, water, juices. At least a litre’s worth.

Activities. Books, music, laptop, movies, games without pieces, a tablet, a deck of cards. Whatever tickles that particular child’s fancy.

Accessories. A pillow and small, lightweight blanket (one per child. Do not expect them to share, even if it’s a bench seat.)

Extra socks.  Kids like to take their shoes off (and so do moms), but the floor of the car may be wet if travelling in winter. Wet feet = whiny people.

To tell you the truth, I’m not sure if the basket will work with my teenagers. But, I’m willing to give it a try. The alternative is too much to bear. Of course, I can totally put wine and prozac in mine. And then, I won’t care what they’re doing.



  1. I love the road trip basket idea! There are some great items in there that I would never have thought of. I know when we traveling my kids get very restless, so I always like to make sure we make stops along the way. Just to get out and stretch our legs and let the kids run around a little bit. I have two small kids still so my iPad works great to keep them busy. A co-worker of mine from DISH gave me this idea, because of how many options they have on the iPad. They can play games, read, watch movies, and even watch TV. With the Sling Adapter hooked up to my receiver and the DISH Remote Access app on my iPad, the kids can stream live TV from anywhere we go. They love to be able to watch their shows on the road, and it keeps them quiet for hours.


  1. […] just had the dubious pleasure of spending about 55 hours in a car plus 13 fun-ish-filled days of vacation with my three teenagers. I learned a lot about […]

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