6 Secrets for Easier Road Trips with a Baby (or Kids!)

Jenna Kutcher 

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October 22, 2020


The name of the game for travel in 2020 is: ROAD TRIPS. And let’s be completely honest, road tripping is likely the way of the foreseeable future (or at least the next year or three). It’s safe yet fulfills that adventure-seeking side we all have. And if you’re anything like me and every other parent on planet Earth, sometimes the best thing for your family’s collective mental health is a change in scenery. Can. I. Get. An. Amen?!

Getting out of your own space, soaking up a new environment, and experiencing a new place is one way to both relax and explore together, yet air travel is looking, well, a little different these days. And as easy as it once was to hop on a plane and jet across the country, it may make more sense to road trip for non-essential travel these days, for families especially.

However, a few hours in the car with little ones can be an “adventure” in and of itself… Let me tell you! Between potty breaks, snack crises, the dreaded “I’m BORED,” and arguments between multiple kiddos, packing up the car for a little R&R can sometimes be enough to send you into a tailspin when littles are involved. The other day we had a 2.5 hour drive and we had to pull over 3 times and take out Coco’s potty in parking lots to keep up with her potty training, so trust me, we’re not flawless over here.

Now that our baby girl is full-on entering toddler-hood, we’ve picked up a few tricks that literally save us on any longer drives or road trips we take. This year especially, we’ve been heading up to our lake house for extended trips and have attempted to become pros at nailing everything we need for a successful commute. Here are a few of our secret weapons for easier road trips with a baby or kids.

01. Snacks, snacks, snacks!

Lots of snacks — and a variety of ’em — go a longggg way in an extended drive! We don’t use them as a “quick fix” for meltdowns, but they’re sure handy between meals and when the hours are dragging on. I firmly believe good road trip has good snacks, regardless of whether you’re a child or an adult. Our go-tos are veggie and fruit pouches, Mum Mums, yogurt melts (but watch out — these can get sticky!), and puffs. Simple, healthy, and a variety are the key. For older kiddos, try letting each of them pick one road trip snack to pack and let them choose when to have it along the drive!

02. A mirror on the backseat.

For babies still in carseats, a mirror to keep an eye on them is a lifesaver for longer drives. And, they can see you, too! It’s a lot more stimulating than looking at a headrest, don’t ya think? If things are starting to go sideways, that eye contact can make all the difference in the world and help them feel connected to you when they are facing backward.

03. A special road trip playlist.

I know, I know… You swore you’d never listen to The Wheels on the Bus on repeat, yet here we are. There is something infectiously happy about those classic kid’s songs, so create a playlist of your child’s favorites (plus some of yours, too) that’s special just for long road trips! As a kid, I LOVED Raffi and we have his cassette in the car. Music and memories are totally tied together, and I still remember the fun adventure feeling of listening to the Raffi in the car going somewhere special. We have a “Coco Jams” playlist that we crank up if or when she gets fussy.

04. Books and toys galore.

Just like snacks, you want a variety of entertainment to keep your kids occupied, and to help them forget they’re stuck in the same seat for hours on end. We bring a few “special” toys that are only for the car, and we only pull them out one by one to keep Coco distracted and excited as we drive. For older kids, try road trip games like the license plate game (looking for different states), I Spy, or the alphabet game (spot things along the way that start with A, B, C, and so on until you get to Z).

05. Earbuds for you!

The true #blessing of road trips is that the car and its motion *can* be like a white noise machine and rocker all in one. If your babe falls asleep but you still want to catch up on a podcast, don’t forget to pack your earbuds. It sounds silly, but we’ve literally played white noise through our speakers and listened to podcasts in our ears on the long road trips to see Drew’s parents… And it works like a charm.

06. (For true emergencies…) An iPad and iPad holder.

Trust me when I say this was the LAST thing I wanted to rely on, but going back and forth to the lake was getting a little stressful for all of us. So, we finally gave in and now for any drives longer than two hours, Coco gets to watch a movie. We downloaded Finding Nemo and Moana on the Disney+ app, and it’s literally been a lifesaver. I’m not a big fan of screens for young ones, but it makes long road trips feel like a treat for her. Sometimes, you just gotta do what you gotta do.

Got a few road trip tips of your own? We’ve found a good balance, but I know we’ll face challenges with new phases Coco hits and whenever we decide to grow our fam! Leave your best secrets to successful family road trips in a comment below so we can learn from you, too! Plus, check out my best tips for traveling with a baby here!

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A small town Minnesota photographer, podcaster, educator and puppy rescuer, my happiest days are spent behind my computer screen sharing my secrets with the world. I'm glad you're here.

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