Road Trips With Kids

Road trips with kids

Growing up, we took a bunch of epic road trips with my dad (to Florida, out west, etc.) but so far we’ve been hesitant to take long car rides with the boys. I’ve always been nervous that they’ll get restless and cranky. But, this weekend, we bit the bullet and planned a six-hour drive to visit friends in Vermont. Here are eight things we tried out, including the most important: snacks

Road trips with kids

1. You can never have too many snacks. I love how food writer and mom-of-two Jenny Rosenstrach describes family journeys as a “strategic roll-out of food.” She actually wraps treats in aluminum foil so they feel like a surprise. Our go-to snacks have always been from NatureBox, the snack subscription service. They send you five bags of delicious, high-quality snacks every month, and you choose the snacks you want (they have over 100 different kinds). On the Vermont drive, we devoured their Big Island Pineapple, Spicy Sriracha Roasted Cashews and Mini Belgian Waffles.

2. Drive during sleep times. We timed our drive so that the boys’ naps would land squarely in the middle: We’d drive for two hours, they’d nap for two hours, we’d drive for two more hours. It didn’t work out exactly as planned (does it ever?), but it helped keep them roughly on schedule. I also know night-owl parents who recommend leaving just before bedtime, so the kids will sleep throughout.

3. Make the car cozy. We brought along wipes and changes of clothes (we always end up needing one), and stashed books in the back pocket of the front seats, so they were easy for the boys to access. Another tip we’ve heard is to use a cookie sheet as a lap table for coloring and games. The outer rim helps keep crayons and puzzle pieces from falling onto the floor.

4. Bring new-to-them books. Before long flights, we try to go to the library and get a stack of fun books, and we tried this for the car, too. Next time, I’d be curious to see if they’d get into kids’ audio books, like Where the Wild Things Are and Peter Pan. (Have you had any luck with them?)

5. Play visual games. Games based around looking out the window seem to help kids get into the journey. Meaning: We’ve played I Spy one million times. Three-year-old Anton doesn’t quite get it, and will say “I spy something green — THE TREES!!!!!!!” which makes me laugh. (Auto Bingo also looks fun and old-school.)

6. Tell stories. On our drive, as soon as it got dark, we made up ghost stories. I told tales about seeing a ghost in my bedroom on Halloween night (spoiler alert: it was my brother) and getting spooked as a teenage babysitter (always a scary premise). This was my favorite part of the trip by far, and the boys were totally gripped. For music, we let them switch off choosing songs from Alex’s playlists.

7. Limit electronics (if possible!). I used to assume that an iPad would make our boys zone out and stay quiet, but screens actually wind them up. So, now we wait until the very end of a trip — after we’ve tried snacks, songs and just about everything else — before handing over electronic devices.

8. Stop and RUN. “Are we there yet?” is the most frequent (and crazy-making) question asked on family road trips, so to break things up, we stopped every couple hours to explore and stretch our legs. We’d encourage the boys to run as far as they could. We figured that the more they moved, the more they’d relax in the car.

NatureBox snacks for traveling with kids

NatureBox snacks for traveling with kids

Anton and Toby’s favorite part of the ride was, as always, the snacks. NatureBox has over 100 kinds to choose from. They’re made without artificial colors, flavors or sweeteners, and we enjoy them as much as the boys do. You can find all their snacks here. (I’d also recommend the Tart & Tangy Fruit Medley, Salt & Vinegar Veggie Chips and Whole Wheat Raspberry Figgy Bars.)

Bonus for all readers: Today, NatureBox is offering Cup of Jo readers two free snacks. Go here to order. And choose whatever sounds good; NatureBox will replace any snack for free if you decide you don’t like it.

What are your tips for road trips? I’d love to hear…

P.S. 10 tips for traveling with a baby, and riding bikes with kids.

(Photos by Christine Han for Cup of Jo. This post is sponsored by NatureBox, a beloved long-term sponsor whose snacks we love at home and on the road.)

  1. Naomi says...

    Audio books- a game changer! We accidentally ended up with the Judy bloom series “tales of a fourth grade nothing” and all the fudge books that come after that. They are really funny. It has been a life saver in carpool, long rides, traffic and cranky times.
    I can’t recommend it enough. My kids are ages 4-12 and they all love them.

  2. Meaghan says...

    Where did you find Toby’s shirt?!?!!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you for your note! it’s from winter water factory.

  3. Keely says...

    We took tons of road trips growing up. Instead of eye spy we played the Penny game. My dad would think of a random thing for us to find ( cow, school bus, horse, etc) and the first to find it & call it out got a penny. It was fun and I’ve done it with bored kids I nanny on longish drives.

  4. Christine says...

    We just did a 17 hour drive from Atlanta to Torch Lake, MI with our five kids (ages 6and under!). We make the drive every year. Sometimes we stop and spend the night halfway through and sometimes we just knock out 17 hours with minimal stops. After 6 years of doing this, we webt from carefully planned games/activities to WATCH ALL THE MOVIES YOU WANT. It’s the only time of the whole year the kids get to watch movies in the van. The in-car movie marathon is a huge hit and I don’t feel guilty at all- once we get to Michigan they don’t watch any tv for two weeks anyway!

  5. Meghan says...

    Sandra Boynton cds and books (Frog Trouble, Blue Moo, Philadelphia Chickens, Dog Train) are lifesavers on long trips and much easier on the ears than almost all other music for children. Great introduction to a variety of genres.

  6. Gina says...

    Oh boy, I wish I’d heard of the cookie sheet idea years ago! We do a 24 hr drive to Florida every February, and my 11 yr old son is a pro car traveller by now ;)
    Audio books are great – we’ve done them. I do suggest listening ahead of time to the narrator to make sure you enjoy the way they are reading the story. It does make a difference. We’ve listened to many Robert Munsch stories, and we’ve listened to James the Giant Peach in the car; it was fantastic!

  7. Love this! I personally hated road trips as a kid (thankfully my parents weren’t much for them either… I think we went on two or three total), and can’t imagine being on the adult side of a long car ride with children… but these tips sound excellent! Snacks galore!

  8. claire says...

    I recently drove solo with my then 2.5 year old from Northern California to Northern Michigan. Whoa. So much singing Mr.Sun, practicing thumbs up, snacks x a million and looking for biiiiig trucks. We used the cookie sheet with magnets and that worked for 10-15 minutes at a time. I’m really proud that he didn’t spend the entire 3,000 miles glued to my phone, but the last hour or so each day it was time for m’n’ms and Thomas the Train and the the promise of a pool, pizza, beer and Dad that got us through.

  9. Emily says...

    I highly recommend the audio books of My Father’s Dragon-and all the titles in that series. I also recommend the printed books. My son loved them from ages 4-6 and they are captivating enough for the parents as well.

  10. MH says...

    We just listened to the second in A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket on a road trip and my kids (4,6,7) are still talking about the characters and we’ve been reading the books at bedtime. The book was great and entertaining for adults too!

  11. Kristen Nelson says...

    We always pack a picnic and find a town with a park. We get to eat food that we like and explore a new town, and our daughter gets to discover a new park.

  12. Margery says...

    Dr. Seuss audiobooks are great. We have a collection and there are some great people reading and the stories are so animated. A calmer option are the Frog and Toad books. We love them and know them well, so it can be comforting to listen to while gazing out the window.

  13. HeatherSJ says...

    I grew up on audiobooks from the library for road trips. My grandparents live in Nashville, which was an 8-hour drive for us. I’ve probably clocked hundreds of audiobook hours over the years. I believe it contributed to my love for reading and definitely exposed me to more great literature than I would have had time to sit and read (though we did a lot of that, too, growing up). Even as an adult, I love audio for when I am driving or working around the house.

    And so we do a lot of audiobooks with the kids, too! My oldest is 2.5 and learned to listen attentively so quickly; he almost has Strega Nona memorized. We also like Beatrix Potter (a complete collection on CD we scored at a library book sale) and look forward to the day when we can enjoy Narnia, Lord of the Rings, and Harry Potter with our kids.

  14. SS says...

    Audiobook recommendation: Winnie-the-Pooh & House at Pooh Corner, both read by Peter Dennis. My 4 year old son is crazy about them, and has been listening to them over and over (during his afternoon rest) since April.

  15. Sarah says...

    We love long road trips and go on many, especially during summer months! We rarely use electronics, instead telling stories, listening to music and letting our 5 and 8 year old girls have run of the backseat. They help chose road snacks and picnic lunches, fill their activity bags and help pick audio books for the family to listen to. Favourites have been Goosebumps, Junie B Jones and Fancy Nancy. I always keep a stash of wipes, bandaids, lots of water and a few treats on hand. Finding parks to run around in helps too! Love the idea of Naturebox snacks! It is a great way to see the world. :)

  16. Anna says...

    I have taken 3 long trips with my step daughter.. The first one was 15 hours when she was 4, second was 15 hours when she was 6, and the third one was 12 hours when she was 7. The first two times we had her mom (other people could have a friend or relative) take her to do something REALLY fun during the day and get her exhausted.. I think they went to an exotic animal show where they should pet the animals, get her face painted, balloons, etc. Lots of excitement. Then we left a little earlier than dinnertime (4 pm ish). We would get a few solid hours under our belt, eat supper, drive another few solid hours, change into jammies, and then she fell asleep and slept through the night. The adults drove through the night. Then in the early morning hours we would stop for breakfast, change, and finish up the drive, getting to our destination around 8 or 9am. This worked well since we were going to the beach and the grown ups were able to crash on the beach for the first day.

    The second trip was a touristy trip, so we didn’t want to be exhausted upon arrival after driving all night. We left at the crack of dawn (for us, 6:50 am.. a little later than planned) and drove with only 3 stops.. THIS trip FLEW by because I had gone to the dollar store and stocked up on a bunch of goodies (candy, little car games, crafty stuff, a cute water bottle, etc.). Then every single hour in the car she got a new prize.. this helped break up the time because we’d look at the clock and just think about getting to that next hour instead of the final destination. I honestly think I will do this for all long drives for here on out!!!

    One last thing – when she was 7 we gave her a (waterproof) digital camera right before we left and she spent a lot of time learning how to use it and taking pictures of things she thought were neat on the drive.

    Good luck!

  17. Molly Sarah says...

    I just got back from a three week/three state road trip that I went on with my two boys (6 years and 1 year old); just the three of us. We had so much fun. I love your tips and had never thought of the cookie sheet as a drawing board, which is such a great idea. I would add that listening to audio books helps keep my guys entertained, at least the older one. We go to the library and pick out a bunch of audio books and listen to as many as possible. I think we listened to at least 10 books during that trip.

  18. Nicole says...

    We live in Wyoming and our 16 month old son has driven to California (16 hrs) 3 times, New Mexico (8 hrs) once, and Seattle (19 hrs) once. Getting out of the car every couple of hours to run at a park is a must. We also try to schedule the long stretches around his nap time and have plenty of snacks for him to munch on.

  19. Sara says...

    These books are so old school it’s ridiculous but I spent a great weekend looking at car badges and adding up points as we drove along- great fun and made the journey seem shorter for my little one!
    http://www.az.co.uk/?nid=468

  20. Ellen W says...

    My older son (now 10) is into geography, so he has trucker’s edition of the Rand McNally road atlas open throughout our trip. We stop at the welcome centers every time we get to a new state on the drive and keep a running tally of state license plates (we use the st8pl8 app). We’re not too strict about letting the boys play Minecraft or watch movies. I find my husband and I have some of our best, in-depth conversations when we’re stuck in the car for many hours :).

  21. Sara says...

    In Scotland,Costco have just had a great deal on Roald Dahl’s Audio books. They are new recordings by well known actors. I loved Kate Winslet reading Matilda! I bought the book too so a reading shy 8 year old could “follow” the story when he wanted to! It was a great way to get him reading along and then we followed up with the movie once we finished the book. The best thing I have bought for the car is a cheap mini whiteboard and pen. He loves it! He can draw characters as he listens and if he makes a mistake, he can quickly erase it and start again. No lost pencils in the car either!!

  22. Jenni says...

    Pipe cleaners! My four year-old tells me what to make and waits in anticipation as I craft it in the front seat. He’s delighted when I had it over and it becomes a new toy for a short time. Plus, clean up of pipe cleaners is pretty painless.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      what a brilliant idea!

    • Lisa says...

      That’s exactly the idea behind these (which we love for road trips), but pipe cleaners are likely less expensive: http://www.wikkistix.com/

      Great idea!

  23. mimi says...

    I’m the oldest of 5 and we took a lot of road trips growing up in Michigan (trips up north, trips to Illinois to visit grandparents, and occasional long trips out west or to the east coast or to Florida). My parents also rigged up a tv/vcr combo in our Suburban (before the days of built-in gvs), so we watched a lot of movies, and that was really the number one time killer for all of us. We listened to a lot of movie soundtracks (usually Disney) or classic rock. We also played the license plate game, which would be a lot harder now since so many states have a huge variety of license plates now. My daughter is 11 months, so road trips thus far have been scheduled around nap time, with toys and snacks as distractions.

  24. Jen v. says...

    When I was a kid we had cross-country drives to see the grandparents every summer- what a feat for my parents! They came up with a game that evolved every time: year 1 had a list of eye-spy type things on it (red car, a rainbow, license plates etc). Each year after that we added 5-10 things we had seen the previous year; my dad would type it up and print copies for all of us. By the end it was a crazy trip down memory lane: a bride posing under a tree, a pink convertible, an army convoy! *One note: the driver ALWAYS wins (they’re the only ones without a nap break)!*

  25. liz says...

    Singing! Fighting! Snacking! My mothers rule was $10 in snacks per person. My fathers rule was get in the car pronto after a pit stop (he would drive off if you dawdled). Making up stories about people in the other cars/trucks.

  26. Kate says...

    Hi Joanna, I love your parenting tips. I wanted to let you know that our 4 year old son had been getting some seriously date night jealously recently. Based on the time you took Toby along, I proposed that he come along with us this past Saturday (and got a sitter for his baby sister). You would have thought we invited him to the moon! He told everyone all week that he was going on date night with us and then INSISTED that he wear his suit. With tie!! We took him to an old person Italian restaurant and it was beyond perfect. Anyway, thank you for the idea. It was a family memory we won’t soon forget!

    • Theresa says...

      so sweet!

  27. Molly says...

    My kids (8 & 10) love podcasts on car trips. My daughter’s new favorite is Mystery Show (I wish they would do another season) and I select some This American Life before we leave–always a hit. They also like Brains On! Science Podcast for kids. This article about how podcasts help kids improve reading skills caught my eye recently, and made me want to dig deeper to find more good ones: http://ow.ly/svEV302QA3z I would love suggestions from you and readers. Thanks!

    • Trish O says...

      We listen to podcasts, too. My boys are middle school and “wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me” from NPR is our favorite and best! We also do audio books. On the 17 drive to the beach this year we listened to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows on the way down and Hunger Games on the way home. When I was little (before audio books. yikes) we read book aloud. I loved Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing.

  28. As a child all our relatives we visited every weekend lived 30-45 minutes away driving which seemed for.ever! we played the ABC game (where you find the alphabet on signs and license plates), did back scratches (and wrote things on each other’s backs trying to guess the words, fought over who was over whose line, lost my mother’s hat out the window playing catch with it, sang endless round robin and camp-like songs. I’ve driven with my son and our dog across the country a couple times. I stop often! I have a box of books and games next to him as well as snacks. I try to pack healthier snacks like fruits, veggies, cheese, because I know we’ll be buying bad drive up food. lots of water. limit soda. I do let him use electronics but he gets bored with em fast, AND he is now getting car sick so they don’t work too well. we haven’t done recorded books but we do have many different music CDs that are both child and adult songs and we like those. and we have a few recorded stories (and poems but shel silverstien is just freaky!) we listen to but not with a book at the same time.

  29. I love this! Definitely one that is helpful and applicable for EVERYONE. I especially love limiting electronics. I have a hard time with the thought of just putting a movie on for Shiloh whenever we jump in the car. I want her to learn patience and how to be imaginative with the time in the car! And snacks. Amen to that!
    XO
    Nicole | http://www.bynicolegeorge.com

  30. 8 is so important! We used to drive from Northern California all the way to Mexico when I was little. It’s a super long drive and walking around after sitting for hours really helps.

    xo Azu

    http://www.raven-locks.blogspot.com

  31. Constance says...

    Joanna, I am so glad you made the decision to take a car trip. I am 59 and our daughter, Alexandra, a nurse in Rhode Island, is 26, and you gave me the gift of great memories. Yes! Snacks, stops for exercise, and lots of books and games, are some of the keys to a fun trip! My niece and nephew like to tell people to this day that I loaded them up with snacks for the trip home from our home in Gardiner, Maine to theirs in Hampden, Maine….a journey of only two hours. My husband was a pillar of patience as we stopped for bathroom breaks and romps in parks, rest stops, or library lawns. I wish I’d know about the cookie sheet idea. You had wonderful road trips with your Dad, and now the boys will have those memories. Alexandra was an only child, but we always invited a niece, nephew, or little friend, and we treated them as our own. Sometimes it meant that Alexandra had a little less spending money for gift shops, etc., but you know she grew into a generous adult, and those trips were part of that process.

  32. Rbe says...

    The 1 thing that has helped with ‘are we there yet?’ Is telling my son …. when the sun goes down we’ll be there … when it’s dark outside we’ll be there … I think phrases like this make it easier for kids … it’s not a 100% cure-all, but this trick helps!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s a great tip!

  33. Erin says...

    Our family favorite for road trips is listening to Jack and Annie adventures (Magic Treehouse series by Mary Pope Osbourne). We read the books at home, but the audio books are extra engaging and special because they are read by the author. Our kids are 5.5, 4 and 2.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh how fun! thank you!

  34. LJ says...

    I do wonder if snacks are a good idea to chomp on (for kids or adults) on a road trip. Since you are sitting all the time, and most snacks tend to be dry (unless it’s fruit/juice), there is a high chance of developing bloating/gas/flatulence.

    Lakshmi

  35. These are all great ideas! Looks like a fun road trip! Have a great week!

  36. Erin Laney says...

    We LOVE audiobooks. I have a (nearly) 2 and 4 year old and they adore them. We listen to them during bath for wind down and it really passes the time on road trips too! Lily’s (4) favorite is Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, read by James Earl Jones. Cynthia Nixon reads a lot of Kevin Henkes books too! My girls love The Book with No Picures, and there’s a super silly audio book read by the author, B.J. Novak, and then a second one plays right after read by Busy Phillips. For some reason, the girls like to listen to both and compare. Some we buy on Amazon, but we mostly rent them from the library using the “overdrive” app. There are loads of rentable kid and adult audiobooks. Just ask next time you’re at the library! Bonus: you don’t have to go to the library to rent audio books. You do it from the app!

  37. india says...

    ooh Joanna, would love to hear more about your recent car purchase (I read in the comments further up). Would be interesting to hear the reasons you bought a car now vs any other time living in NYC and how you’re liking being a new car owner. Blog post maybe??

  38. Caz says...

    I’m one of four kids and we used to play I Spy and other games in the car, but I couldn’t read or I’d get motion sickness. Snacks were usually chips and lollies (candy) from the petrol (gas) station on the way – which was a huge treat for us! Inevitably there would be fights over who got more.
    Though I don’t think Dad ever worried about our entertainment too much (probably focused on all the other logistics as a single parent). We were responsible for our own entertainment. If we got agitated and acted up, a stern “I’ll stop this car right now and you can get out and walk!” was sufficient because we believed him!

  39. Ana says...

    I grew up with mobile holidays: my parents had a VW and we would go everywhere. From mountains to secluded beaches; I grew up loving to drive and loving road trips . I still do and my 3-year-old is already used to big trips. No screen time whatsoever because of motion sickness; just music (my music, not his), I spy games and general remarks trying to identify trees, birds, cars, etc. A few snacks are indispensable, of course. Not being on a tight schedule and impromptu stopping helps, too.

  40. Robin says...

    Another thought–a big hit on our last drive was 20 questions but limited to an animal. It left me and my husband on surprisingly equal footing with our six-year-old, as he could think of some really unique animals and it was quite tricky to figure out!

  41. Robin says...

    Re: audiobooks, when I tried them with my kids it was tough because even if the oldest (5 at the time) could stick with short chapters–we were listening to Pinocchio– the younger kids couldn’t pay attention long enough. One our regular 12-hr drives we’ve been doing Sparkle Stories podcasts and The Story Home podcasts, and they love them…just interesting enough and long enough but not too long. We can always decide to listen to another one if we want. The readers’ voices are so soothing! And they also love Brains On! and Tumble science podcasts. So I’d vote for podcasts!

  42. toun says...

    The cookie sheet tip is so great !

  43. Sarah Grewe says...

    We take lot’s of road trips with my 6 and 3 year-olds, and audio books are so useful in keeping them entertained: we’ve listened to “the magic treehouse” series audio books over and over (there are about a hundred of them) and my kids love the “boxcar children”, “the Lion, the witch and the wardrobe” and Shel Silverstein’s poems.
    Thanks for all the recommendations!

  44. Mel Flohr says...

    A few weeks ago my husband and I took our 3 kids under 10 years old and 100 pound labradoodle on a 3,000 mile road trip. It was EPIC! We found the must have items were: first and foremost, sense of humor because the fit will hit the shan and you have to be able to laugh about double flats or your minivan driver’s side door handle coming off in your hand, or the hatch hydraulic breaking off or… Secondly, somewhat mournfully, the i-devices. Also Snacks/Water and as a back up for no service areas: Road Atlas.

  45. Heather H says...

    We took a 20-hr drive from CO to MI this month. My kids (ages 6 and 8) both enjoyed listening to Laura Ingall’s “Little House in the Big Woods” on CD from the library. We started at dawn and made a point of staying in a hotel with a great pool after our first 10-hr day. It felt great to stretch our legs in the pool and hang out in the hot tub, then get dinner and have an early bedtime. Printouts for the kids to find license plates from every state were a big hit!

  46. Anna says...

    In July we did our first long car trip with kids (2.5 and 4.5 yrs), audiobooks were our go-to. All of Beverly Cleary”s collections, the Treasure Hunter series, and a few other random downloads from OverDrive and transferred to an Ipod were amazing. Somehow over the the 28+ hours in the car, they watched fewer shows than when at home: 4.5 was transfixed with audiobooks and the 2.5 yr old was bored to sleep!

  47. Mindy says...

    I have a 15 month old and make the 8 hour drive from Maryland to Rhode Island and back at least once a month to visit grandparents. My biggest piece of advice is to leave just before bed time and travel through the night. In doing so, the kiddo sleeps through most of it and you get to skip out on a chunk of traffic.

    My other piece of advice is, if you can’t travel at night, plan out places that you can stop and stretch your legs. I always look for cool or unusual playgrounds on the route and when we start getting cranky we pick one and get out some energy.

    • Sarah says...

      We do the same thing; leave at bedtime. It’s the only way to travel with my carsick prone (no snacks!), rambunctious toddler.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      how do you encourage your kids to sleep in the car? (or does the rhythm of the road put them to sleep?) our kids always stay up so late in the car — i guess because they’re so excited for the trip. they were up until 11 this last drive! alex and i were crooning bedtime stories for like an hour :)

    • Trish O says...

      I have always wondered, what do you do to stay awake while driving all night? I think I would be a dangerous driver if I had to do this. Tips?

  48. Liz says...

    Are you familiar with sparkle stories? An absolutely fantastic bunch of audio stories. I highly recommend for travel! My six year old girls love all the stories they’ve heard! Plus we got a great idea for a rainbow car game from them, to find something out the window in each color of the rainbow in order. Fun!

    • Caroline says...

      Yep, sparkle stories are great for long journeys??

  49. Sadie says...

    We do an eight-hour drive to visit family a few times a year. My son (3) is so into trucks & machinery that we’ve never needed any entertainment for him. To him, nothing is more thrilling than highway construction!

  50. Kristi says...

    Story Pirates is a great podcast that got us through a 9 hour drive last week. My kids love to play, “I’m thinking of a person…” Everyone asks yes or no questions to figure it out. It almost always ends up being a great-grandma, cousin, or other family member. ?

    • Mel Flohr says...

      Awesome! I love podcast recs. Thank you

  51. Melanie says...

    We just started using audio books for long drives and my kids love them (ages 5 and 8)! A 7 hour car ride and not one iPad in sight! It helps if they choose the ones they want at the library. I also use Audible.

  52. Courtney says...

    We are crazy and decided to drive toMinnesota from Tennessee when my daughter was four months old. If we hadn’t left at bedtime, we would never have made it. We stopped at about three in the morning, and getting her out of the car and into the hotel woke her up enough that we got an extra long morning nap out of her when we got back on the road around 10. I think this would throw older kids off a bit too much but with a baby it was literally the ONLY way.

  53. Meghan says...

    Did you guys get a car? I remember for a long time you didn’t have one. Any tips on owning a car in NYC? The alternate side parking is such a pain in the you-know- what.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      we actually got a car this summer! we’re so excited and have wanted one forever. it’s the first car i’ve ever had (i begged to borrow my mom’s cars in high school, then went to college, then moved to NYC where no one really has cars.) we’re so psyched and still getting the hang of it! :)

  54. Just today I was thinking that I needed to look up tips for road trips with kids. We’re going on a 6 hour drive soon with the twins and I’m getting nervous. Thank you so very much for this post!!!

    XOXO, Amy @ Jeans and a Tea
    http://www.jeansandatea.com

  55. Kate says...

    We have done lots of road trips from Los Angeles with our two boys (now 6 and 9) – Grand Canyon, San Francisco, Palm Springs in traffic. ; ) We are working up to a bigger one next summer. We LOVE audio books. We have particularly liked Henry Huggins (narrated by Neil Patrick Harris), Paddington (narrated by Stephen Fry), and Wizard of Oz (narrated by Anne Hathaway). And would love more suggestions!

    • Trish O says...

      Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing is great and I LOVE the Harry Potter audio books.

  56. This post makes me smile because every time you post about flying with your kids, I think how does she do that? Don’t they all get restless and crazy??? We are so used to long driving trips to visit family, strapping them into their carseats and relaxing next to my husband in the front seat seems so much easier to me than navigating a crowded airport and dealing with carrying carseats, etc. through an airport.

    • and entertaining them on a busy airplane with zero room to run around, very daunting!

  57. Maggie says...

    Good Grief! Years ago, every summer, my beloved parents loaded up their four kids in a Chevy Impala. We always left on a friday night (after my dad got off work) and left California for Maine and we did it in 3 days! We had a cooler, but the only thing I remember about it was that it contained a carton of milk. When we reach Arizona we stopped at a rest stop where the milk was use to put on our cereal, you know the kind that came in the small individual boxes, good times! We may have had a few books but never really read them because reading in the car made us car sick. Dad gave us maps to find the next interstate we needed to exit on to, we felt so important giving Dad directions! We never stayed in a motel (we slept in the car, Dad just snoozing for a few hours, crazy I know!) we ate at roadside stands, as long as they weren’t to far off the main road, and gosh forbid we should stop at a road side attraction we were on a schedule! We all have great bladder control thanks to Dad! But we saw America looking out the window… and wow was it great. No fancy snacks, no fancy toys just lots of time looking out the window..
    I have done a lot of traveling in my adult life but nothing could or ever would top those car trips across the country. If i could relive a part of my childhood it would be one of those crazy wonderful trips!

    • Pamela says...

      Our family did the same thing every summer in Canada. We travelled from British Columbia to Ontario and always slept in our truck which had a canopy. My dad would only pull over to nap for a few hours and we stuck to a strict schedule. We had a cooler full of goodies and wore out our Cat Stevens cassette tape. These drives are some of the best childhood memories I have.

  58. Sarah says...

    I love your shoes! Where are the from?

  59. Eliza says...

    My boys are older now (10 and 7), so road trips have gotten easier. I’ll usually pack some books and print off activity pages from the web for them to do (mazes, word puzzles, bingo sheets). We also like doing the game where we choose categories and take turns thinking of either 5 or 10 items in each category (fruits, types of vehicles, types of music, types of homes, etc.). That keeps us busy for a while. We also make sure to stop along the way to let the boys run around a bit. We do allow tech time in the car, but it usually doesn’t last too long because it makes them queasy sometimes. And food, yes!!! Boys like to eat…a lot…so I usually pack a small cooler with water, fruit strips, crackers and cheese, etc.

    Off topic (sort of), but is the blue VW yours? I have a Golf Sportwagen and LOVE it for long trips. It is so comfy and roomy. :-)

  60. This brings back so many good memories of road trips as a kid! I love that idea of wrapping up snacks and having them as a surprise, such a good way to entertain kids!

    When I was younger, my Mom would always pack the car with a few gifts. It was almost like Christmas morning, the morning we loaded up in the car, to see what she had given us. Often new books or activity books! Getting comfy and stopping pretty frequently was also key.

  61. Claire says...

    Audiobooks for the win on long and short trips- roald dahl and winnie the pooh ( with stephen fry, Judi Dench et al.) are my favourites.
    A pinwheeel wedged through a window saved many a meltdown too when my first was little.

  62. Sarah says...

    Your children are really just adorable!

  63. I drove by myself from Indiana to Utah with my five kids (at 23 weeks pregnant with #6!) earlier this summer. It actually went SO well and I wrote a nice detailed blog post about my favorite tips & the toys that kept my kids most engaged. http://theirchronicles.blogspot.com/2016/06/last-day-of-school-vacation-planning.html

    For me, the top 4 priorities are being super organized about everything possible (snacks, outfits, meals, trash, and sorting & storing everyone’s “stuff” that they want during the drive), planning in-car entertainment really carefully & paying careful attention to stops/route choice, and prepping for carsickness. I am also a HUGE fan of audiobooks so that post lists all my favorites!

  64. Christina says...

    AUIDIOBOOKS!!! I can’t recommend these enough. Right now we are traveling in Costa Rica with our kids (10 and 12) and driving around in a rental car. We have audiobooks downloaded to our phones. We just sync them to the car’s computer and voila! We’ve been doing audiobooks since the kids were 3 and 5. BEST road trip entertainment EVER!!!

  65. Emily says...

    My parents live 4 hours away. When my son was very tiny, we used to leave around his bedtime so he’d sleep the whole way. Till he was about 10 months old and ended up feeling totally rested when we arrived at 11 pm!

    Now we try to center it around nap time. He’s 1 1/2 and we just did what should have been ~ 6 hours but planned 2-3 long stops so he could run around. It took longer, but it was more relaxing. So my best advice is to take your time.

  66. usedtobebrooklynmom says...

    Game my boys (8 and 6) adore is spotting licence plates from different states. We drove from Chicago to Omaha in July and got 30 different states plus 2 from Canada. Everyone was cheering!

  67. Leah says...

    We had a few road trip with the kids and your tips are great.
    My kids love your “stop and run”: We make all kind of “obstacle courses” (all the way to the tree, around the rock, jump 3 times and come back…) and time them. Works so well.
    My addition – podcasts! My kids LOVE Brains On, and I am sure there are many other great ones out there!

  68. Love this! I hope when I have kids I can spend plenty of quality time showing them the world like this!

  69. Anton with his entire STACK of pineapple rings…hahaha <3

  70. Alissa says...

    My boys are now six and eight and we used to spend weekends going back and forth to grandma’s house on 8-10 hour drives.

    For hours after dark, I’d recommend glow sticks. Usually you can get 10 for $1 and my kids loved waving them around until they fell asleep. For daytime, I always kept some of those old school punch balloons – the kind on a string that you get in the birthday aisle – in the glove box. Always fun for them if a little distracting to the driver. But what’s more distracting than an unhappy whining bored child?

  71. Kate says...

    I can’t begin to tell you the impact your site has had on me. After the birth of my daughter I was home alone just the two of us and felt very lonely at times, and reading your posts helped me feel connected! Thank you! ❤️

    • That was exactly how I felt when my babies were born about this blog… We love you Joanna and Cup of Jo!

  72. Kathryn says...

    I’m taking my daughter on our longest road trip yet, 8 hours, next month. I’ve never been brave enough to attempt a long car ride with her because she gets terrible motion sickness. I can’t feed her in the car and books, and even the iPad is off limits as she will get sick quickly. Anyone else deal with this and have any recommendations for me? I will going solo with her which stresses me out even more!

    • Chrissie says...

      We started giving my son dramamine and hasn’t gotten car sick since!! (we also give him headphones and he listens to an audio book. Still to scared to let him try a tablet!)

    • Emma says...

      I had extreme motion sickness as a child – I still do! I always wear Sea Bands (motion sickness bracelets) as soon as I get in the car. Have meclizine ready. If she always throws up go to her pediatrician and get a script for Zofran, even.

      Get some audiobooks or podcasts to listen to – Harry Potter is always a favorite because Jim Dale (the reader) is amazing.

      Keep the window rolled down if you can. Have a barf bucket handy. Have cool bottled water in a mini cooler. Take breaks every couple hours.

      Good luck!

    • MAR says...

      Talk to your pediatrician, but we ended up needing to use children’s Dramamine after one too many car throw-up sessions. It makes her drowsy enough to sleep a bit and definitely lessens the nausea enough to allow for reading, using a tablet, etc. I almost never medicate my kids, but it got to the point where she had developed so much anxiety around travel. We haven’t looked back

    • Suzanne says...

      I also have kids very prone to car sickness. We’ve found audio books to be a huge help.

    • LS LaSalle says...

      Would audiobooks work? My sons would put up with a longer drive if we stopped frequently for snacks (not eating in the car), and had engaging books on tape from the library. Sometimes we even sat in the car after we arrived to finish a chapter.

    • June2 says...

      Try candied ginger chews first (Chimes brand are great!) then ginger ale. Dramamine as a last resort.

    • When we were kids my sister suffered from car sickness… Dad would pull the car over she would throw up and walk around for a bit… then back in the car and off we would go! She did out grow it but boy it must have been rough!

    • Oja says...

      Hi Kathryn,
      My 4 year old daughter’s motion sickness has made almost any car ride longer than 40 minutes absolutely miserable for everyone in the car. Poor baby. Loud moaning, constant whining, and inevitable vomiting. I bought these acupressure bands out of desperation, and didn’t really think they would work, but they’re incredible! http://www.psibands.com
      We can go anywhere now! Curvy, switchback roads out to the coast are a non issue for her now. I can’t say enough about them. Good luck on your journey!

    • Joanna says...

      I’m not sure how old she is, but try podcasts or audiobooks! You may also be able to manage having her use a road map to track your journey of that doesn’t make her sick, depending on her age. I used to get sick from reading but not from the old AAA trip guides! We loved that as a kid and it helped us pay attention to our surroundings and look out the windows. Highlight your planned route in a paper map book.

    • Kathryn says...

      Thank you all for your replies and suggestions! She is almost 4 and I think she will really enjoy audiobooks. And this way she can listen and keep her eyes looking up and out. I also think having some Dramamine handy will be a game changer for us. I wouldn’t complain if it makes her a little drowsy too.

    • mimi says...

      I also get motion sickness. Looking straight ahead or out the window, and fresh air, is what helps me. I also use seabands, and they do make kids’ sizes. Hope the audiobooks help!

  73. Kate says...

    We drove from the midwest to the northeast every summer of my childhood – 20-30 hour drives. One year we drove to two dozen Civil War battlefields. I don’t know how my parents survived, but I loved it. I remember so vividly blasting down the highway, imagining I was in a ship on the sea. My brother and I would set up our spots in the car beforehand with our toys and things, which also kept us busy as my parents were packing. I would bring a pillow and blanket and a few stuffed animals, and make myself a nest in the seat. We always listened to audiobooks – Hank the Cowdog was a CLASSIC that we all still talk about to this day, and Lord of the Rings as we got older. We had traditions like having a GIANT bag of carrots, celery, and radishes to snack on and eating “road food” (fast food) which we only did on trips. Depending on where we were driving, we stopped at interesting landmarks or got out to stretch our legs. Once we were older, it was great undivided family time and we had some deep talks at times. I’m sure it can be stressful as parents, but those are some of my greatest memories as a kid.

  74. Kim says...

    The alphabet game! Like I Spy but just searching for letters. Q and Z were always the hardest to find!

  75. Elizabeth says...

    Sparkle Stories, original audio stories for children, so, so good, has been a game changer for us in so many ways – great for road trips.

  76. Sasha says...

    We always bought the big bin of jelly belly jelly beans and every so often I’d break it out (mom got to be in charge of the bin, for obvious reasons). And we’d all take turns making yummy or silly flavor combinations and then giving the candy to someone else to taste test. Mango banana watermelon anyone? This is a ridiculously fun game (IF you allow sugar).

    We also survived many long trips (living in Montana everywhere is a couple days of driving at least) listening to audio book stories. Harry Potter, Charlie Bone, Roald Dahl stories, Ramona by Beverly Cleary are a few I can remember off the top of my head. Sometimes my girls would be so enthralled they wouldn’t want to get out when we finally got there!

  77. Colleen says...

    Grandma is 3 hours away. We banned bringing library books because they almost always get lost and I have to pay for them! So we visit Barnes and noble and little free libraries. Audio books are great for at home too. Meryl Streep voiced the velveteen rabbit which my kids loved. While they’re listening you can do the dishes ?

  78. Sasha says...

    My girls loved the “guess the animal game”. Sort of a zoological 20 questions. Someone would say “I’m thinking of an animal that begins with letter M” and the rest of us would take turns asking yes or no questions to figure it out. My kids learned so much from this game, what makes a mammal a mammal, where animals live, what they eat….so much fun for animal lovers.

    Here’s a few questions, does it eat veggies? Does it have spots? Does it hibernate? Does it fly?

    We didn’t limit to 20 questions, just kept guessing til someone got it.

  79. Joanna, where is your tank from? Love the pattern and fabric!

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Hi Julia! It’s from Madewell: http://bit.ly/2av3x3N

      Stella xx

  80. I get really car sick when looking down/focusing so any kind of drawing or reading would have been a big problem for me! What worked for me and my brother as kids were audio books (or cassette tapes…) of the Greek myths – I still know all of them – and games like I Spy. And whenever we were in the US, the licence plate game! That was SO MUCH FUN, but maybe if you’ve grown up with licence plate slogans (I grew up in the UK where you don’t get them) not as much. Oh, and fruit pastilles.

  81. Kristian says...

    For long trips (it was a multi-day drive to Grandma’s), my parents would take a tote bag and wrap small toys we already owned (like McDonald’s toy size) up. At set intervals those could be opened for a “new” surprise.

    There are also a lot of road trip game books for slightly older kids- just for those future road trips!

  82. Jennie says...

    We travelled from north Scotland to Windsor at the start of July but broke it up by staying overnight a few times, it made it manageable but drawn out. We took along the Roald Dahl audio books which were great, my boys are similar ages to yours. We also tried to time it with naps but got the inevitable ‘are we there yet’ quite a few times!

  83. Ellen says...

    We looooved audio books as kids. Listening to the same few over and over even, because we knew all the punchlines and plot twists and would speak along. Mum always had a new book/game/special treat for the end of the trip too, so we knew what would happen when we well behaved the whole time :)

  84. Erin says...

    When I was about 8 and my brother was 4, my family took a 16-hour road trip (in a small car) to visit my grandparents. In a genius move, my mom bought and wrapped 16, $1 presents from the dollar store for each of us. Every hour that we were well-behaved, we were rewarded with a new present to open. That meant for the first half hour or so we were thrilled to play with a new toy, and were incentivized to behave for the second half hour. It worked brilliantly.

    As a post script to this idea, I recently shared this story with friends as we were about to take an 8 hour road trip together, and we decided to replicate it, buying rounds of 8 presents for each other from the dollar store and eagerly opening a new one on the hour. Equally entertaining as adults :)

  85. jean says...

    These snacks look great! Also, love that Anton says, “I spy something green – TREES!” Little kids are so adorable. Same thing playing hide and go seek when they cover their eyes think you can’t see them although their body is in plain view!

  86. Anne Kea says...

    When I was small my parents measured the time until we would arrive in episode of sesame streets. My brother and I could much better measure the time through that because 6 sesame street episodes were far more relatable and concrete for us than 3 hours. We also loved to go to McDonalds because we only went there while traveling, but when my parents wanted to talk with each other up to which McDonalds we would drive (the one 20, 60 or 100km away e.g.) they would talk about the golden seagull. By that we didn’t know what they were talking about and couldn’t make a tantrum about going to the closest one.
    Another trick when we were older were of course gameboys, we played so much pokemon on our gameboys during long car drives and absolutely loved it.

    • My mom used to do the exact same thing! Trips to my grandparents were measured in Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers episodes!

    • Carol says...

      I love this. We used to answer “Are we nearly there?” questions in episodes of The Simpsons’. ?

  87. Lena says...

    This is going to be irrelevant to this post but your nails are looking fantastic Joanna!