Road Trips with Kids – Easy Tips

Road trips with kids are big in other countries, but in the UK we hardly have the distance to consider our journey a road trip. However as the travel world changes with the events of 2020, road trips in the UK become more of an adventure. In this context I consider a road trip to be a day in the car with stops along the way and a new location each night. These tips have been developed over 17 years of road trips with my two boys to a well organised system.

warning signs for f910 in Iceland

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Have an early start

Going on holiday, the kids always wake up early so make the most of their early start.  The day before try to send them to holiday club or for a day with Grandparents or friends. Clean the house, load the car and do the final checks and ensure that everything that is going into the car at the last-minute is lined up.  There is no messing in the morning.  Get up and go, fruit is available for snacking but breakfast is served at the first stop after at least 2 hours on the road.

Plan the route for a road trip with kids

A sat nav tells you where to go, but it doesn’t show you where to break the journey.  That needs to be planned.  Always have the ideal stop with a traffic jam back up (essential if going around Birmingham) and a plan if we have an exceptional run and get well ahead so the times don’t work. Plan to be on the road for a maximum of 8 hours in a day.  Beyond this you will all start to wilt and it is better to stop early and happy than push on and arrive grizzly and miserable.  As well as having food breaks always pre-book the hotels or campsites if you can on the journey. This means you can plan and not have to hunt out a location at the end of a long day.  

Food

Leading on from stopping is that child essential in life of food.  Road snacks can be non-stop but rationed, never give them the whole day’s allowance at the beginning.  That would be asking for a sugar rush and starvation by mid-afternoon.  Again pre-planning means that half day snack bags are made in advance and handed out when needed.  Snacks, sweets, drinks and fruit all in one bag to be consumed as needed during the day works well especially for older children.  I have tried all sorts from one big bag for all of us, having the sweets with me and handing them out when the begging gets too much to giving them a big bag and telling them that is it for the entire trip.  Self control is not a bored kids forte, especially when sweets are involved so rations are the way to go. This method also ensures an equal share if you have more than one child with one eats the whole lot in one sitting and one who has squirrel tendencies and saves them for later in the week.  When you stop make sure there is always a proper picnic or hot food, the rations should just keep them going.

In-car Entertainment

You cannot expect a child to engage with you on a road trip for the entire duration. They need to zone out and sleep when needed, but also be encouraged to look at their surroundings from time to time. This is one time where devices should not be limited. Make sure that they have games and movies downloaded so mobile data being limited or lost is not a concern. Check before you leave that they are actually there and working. there is nothing worse than getting on the road and finding that their entertainment is not loading. Headphones are essential unless you want to listen to Disney continually for 8 hours and a means of charging through either a battery pack or USB connection. Just remember that looking down at a screen can cause travel sickness so breaks and support may be needed!
Card games like UNO are also great for the car where space is limited and unstable and observation games like iSpy and number plate alphabet can help to pass the time. If you know where you are going then having a bingo card with landmarks can be a brilliant way to get them to look out of the window and observe their surroundings.

Letting off Steam

Road trips should not be all about driving. Even without kids they should be fun. When planning a road trip aim for 3 hours driving each day unless you are on a big push to get the distance covered. The stops you make don’t have to be boring service stations. Look for places just off the motorway. This could be a beach or a castle or even a nice walk somewhere. Just something to get you all out of the car, moving and having fun. There is nothing wrong with having lots of small short stops. Every mile is a step further from home,

shoes on a river bank on a road trip with kids
Paddling – the perfect road trip stop until it goes wrong!

Hotels

Always book somewhere to stay well in advance that is on your route and in a location with something to do nearby if you arrive ahead of schedule or want something to do after dinner. This may be just a walk or a beach, just remember that tourist attractions close at 5pm in most places so won’t be open for evening exploring.  
Think about where you will stay and your plans not just for the day of arrival but the day of departure.   B&B’s seem like a good option but if you want an early breakfast to get on the road then their leisurely style may not be the best option. Camping is a good option for a road trip but you will need to factor in time to pack up each day before you are able to get on the road. This can be hard with kids unless they are at an age to help with the car loading or entertain themselves while you get packed up.

Adult Road Trip Survivial

So that is the kids sorted.  But remember this is a road trip for you as well. Have your playlist prepared and ready to and teach the kids how to read the Sat Nav so they can see ‘How much longer’ the journey will be with continually asking.
Make the stops something that you will enjoy as much as the kids but not somewhere that will result in stress, wet clothes or upset. Restaurants can be your choice, the thought of that fish supper may be what keeps you going during a long day on the road!