With the Kids

Traveling with Kids in the Car

If we weren’t headed to the beach or on our way to Disneyland, I probably would never travel far with kids. It can be stressful and overwhelming, but with a little planning, car rides can be fun. Here’s a few tips to ease your traveling woes.

Snacks – In the past we’ve hit the gas station right before and loaded up on junk food. Although it’s yummy and delicious, I now try to pack some snacks made at home instead. This also saves on time so we don’t make an extra food stops in between meals. Also, have a garbage sack at the ready for wrappers and fruit peels to keep the car fairly clean. I like to have a garbage bag reachable for each child.

  • PB&J’s are great to make ahead of time and store in plastic bags. Avoid sandwiches with mayonnaise unless you plan to bring a cooler.
  • Wash & dry fruit and veggies ready to eat
  • Drinks – I like to give each child their own water bottle that I freeze before we leave. Then it melts on the way there, giving them just enough to drink every hour or so. Try to avoid juice boxes as their straws tend to leak and spill even after it’s gone. Sippy cups are great too as they’ve got lids.
  • Treats – It’s cheaper to buy candy from a grocery store than it is on the road at the gas station. Try to get your snacks early to save money. We love licorice.

Toys – I have a tub of toys within reach of the kids. It has a lid so it can be stored some place else when we aren’t using it. Here’s what’s inside:

  • Magna doodles
  • Travel Aqua Doodle – love this! But have a water bottle close by to refill the pen.
  • 5-6 picture books, we love Where’s Waldo and I Spy books.
  • Sticker books – the large Costco ones are great
  • Action Figures
  • Stuffed animal & Blankey

Travel 'N Doodle Mat

Music – Bring tapes or CDs of your kids favorite music. It’s ideal if you have a portable CD player, then the whole car doesn’t have to hear the latest Disney sensation playing over and over again. But if not, try to give the kids a turn with their music in between the chapters of your book on tape!

– We’ve also love Satellite radio. We have XM radio and it’s fun for us as well as the kids. They have a children’s station that plays great kids songs and stories all day and all night.

Bathroom Breaks – We’re in the middle of potty training and I know my daughter can’t hold it for 12 hours! We had to go back to pull-ups for the road trip. It’s not this easy for a girl!

– I’ve also heard it suggested to bring a large plastic container to have the child sit and “go” in. You can even line it with a plastic sack first for easy disposal. I haven’t tried this but it sounds like a good idea. Just have Hand Sanitizer and wet wipes at the ready.

Extras –  If your car doesn’t come with a DVD player, I highly suggest purchasing/borrowing a portable DVD player. This makes the trip fly by, keeping the kiddies entertained. I wish I’d had this when I was growing up. It would have saved my Mom from always hearing, “Are we there yet?” I really would say that about every 10 minutes.

Here’s a few links with great information about traveling with kids:

What have you done to make your car rides fly by with ease?


  1. My two daughters are 15 and 13 and they normally wear a disposable diaper and rubber pants under their clothes for long car trips.i have done this ever since they were little girls and it works out great.I normally carry a diaper bag for them with at least a dozen diapers for each of them and an extra pair of rubber pants for each.they are changed at gas stops and then when we get to our destination,they are taken out of their diaper and rubber pants and waer their normal under wear.

  2. Love the post Marie. I know just what you mean about the potential horror of travelling with kids in a confined space! I have two kids myself. But a car trip can also be a great opportunity for a family to bond and have fun together. We’ve had some great sing songs and games on road trips. You’re absolutely right – it’s all about preparation. Some good tips – especially food – there’s nothing worse than a hungry child!

    Appreciate your feature!

  3. To Jessica: Thanks for sharing that story. Yeah, taking care of one’s bodily needs, either child or adult, can be embarrassing at times. I had a similar situation, being stuck in traffic. I was visiting relatives who live a few hours away. It was me driving and my niece, Jill; she was 10 at the time. On the return trip home, was stuck in traffic for about an hour and Jill with a full bladder. She was worried she would pee her pants, so I had her relieve herself in a wide-mouth cup I had in the car. Then there was me: had to #2 quite badly and didn’t want to stop anywhere, even if I could; just wanted to get home. Well, wouldn’t you know it, I pull into the driveway and don’t even have the seatbelt off when my bowels move uncontrollably and end up with a big solid load in my pants…moaning and everything in front of Jill. Gosh, talk about embarrassing. Sorry if TMI.

  4. Jessica – Wow, what a crazy story, but I love that diapers saved the day. As I was reading this story I too was thinking to myself that I should put some adult diapers in my car for an emergency!! Love it, thanks for sharing.

  5. This is a funny story, one of those embarrassing moments actually. I am 20 years old, and my whole family, went on a trip last year. My parents, grandparents and aunt and uncle went. I was riding in my aunt and uncles car along with their daughter, my cousin, who is 8. She has some trouble holding pee for long moments and her mom always keeps a pack of Goodnites Diapers in the car just in case of extreme emergencies so Kayla can slip one on and pee without getting off on the side of the road or peeing the car accidentally. This is in no way punishment, and it is to kayla’s complete content. Anyway, this is not about her, its about me. We got in a huge backup on the highway, one that stopped us for two hours right there in the middle of nowhere. I had drank loads of pop and water earlier and not peed yet, in thinking we were going to be stopping for gas soon. Anyway that did not come around since we were sitting there with the engine turned off even for hours. So I was really starting to get disparate and of course everyone in the car was laughing at me, but I was in bad shape. I eventually said that I would have to hop out and go on the side of the road, but then thought about it and figured I would not be able to get out of sight of the hundreds of other people stuck there on the highway. A little while later my aunt told me of the Goodnites for Kayla, and half jokingly told me I could use one if I needed to. Well I was not about to play around, so I crawled to the back of the van and got a diaper out and put it on. It actually fit which I was surprised about, but anyway as soon as I got it on, I peed like a race horse and never felt so good! I was so thankful for Kayla’s parents preparedness, even for adults there are those times when the circumstances are all against you while in the need for a toilet. I actually took this idea and copied it in my own car. Now I keep a few adult diapers in my car just in case of another one of those circumstances. I chose the diaper route because girls really have a hard time aiming for the tip of the bottle. Every other option is too messy and can lead to spills. With a diaper, all the pee is neatly contained and no messes. Just a tip, yes scary, but true.

  6. Linda P – My parents did the same thing to me, but I had forgotten about it! I loved getting that roll of quarters, it was like having $100 to spend. And my sister and I would make a deal to not fight the whole way!

  7. Kids always like to have money to spend on a trip. So we would give each of our children a roll of quaters. Each time they asked “Are we there yet?” it would cost them a quater. The first time was a pass, but after that it cost them. They caught on real quick they wouldn’t have much money to spend. Works like a charm!

  8. Thanks for all the potty break ideas! I had some occasional accidents when I was younger (I would wait too long to go potty), and I remember on our trip to Disneyland for my 6th birthday my mom just putting me in a diaper for the 10 hour drive. I didn’t mind so much since I wore them at night for bedwetting anyway, but it was embarrassing when we stopped for meals or gas (you can imagine I got some stares). Given the choice, I think having a kids potty in the back is the better option.

  9. On the potty note, my sister has an actual children’s potty in the back of her car. I can not tell you how many times we have pulled over for her kids to go potty.

    She also keeps a cookie sheet in the car for each kid… it is a great surface for eating, reading, or whatever… but to make it even better, she has a ton of toys… (pencils, dolls, animals, books, etc.) with magnets on the back, so they stay attached to the cookie sheet, and not get dropped out of reach of the car seats!

  10. Hi,
    I was just reading through these wonderful ideas and thought I would add a variation that we have tried a few times: Long before the trip I begin to collect little things from garage sales, dollar stores, free stickers that come in the mail, Target’s dollar section (especially when they are on clearance). Anyway, I also pick up an inexpensive backpack or bag, usually from the dollar store. When we get ready to leave, I give each child their bag with only one of the items in it and I keep the rest hidden up front with me. The first itemin the bag keeps them occupied for a while,then when the appropriate amount of time has passed, I dole out another surprise from my bag of goodies. The element of surprise makes everything seem exciting, even the free stickers that came in the mail. One thing I always try to include in the bag is those removable stickers that you can play with on the car windows (Colorforms?). Hope this works for you.

  11. I JUST got brave enough to fly with my kiddos (my little girl just turned 3 and my baby boy just turned 1.) I found this great website that sends travel packs for the car or plane. The cost is very reasonable and the kiddos LOVED it. Plus, mommy loved not having to hunt the new toys, wrap, and pack them! It’s great for a special something on a long trip. http://www.eswak.com

  12. My husband is a good sport about posting the “photo” – thanks Jor!

    Lisalou – Thanks for sharing that site. I see they have some great games to download. I love the idea for Bingo in the car!

  13. That is an ambitious undertaking! We’re planning a trip to visit my family in Oregon next summer, and we’re going to drive. We have only flown since Joel was born, so these tips will definitely come in handy. The trip is almost a full year away and it’s already making me anxious! Thanks for the great ideas.

  14. When we traveled with our two potty training girls we used a potty that had a removable center. We just set the potty on the ground and the girls were able to sit and their pee went to the ground. Digging a little hole helped to keep it from running. This also prevented the urine smell in the vehicle.

  15. What a great post! I love it and will pull it up again before the next roady! What a hoot that you took a picture of the “bathroom break”! When we had a new toilet user, we brought the little potty (the one she toilet trained in) with us and used it as needed (not US, just the kids – hee hee). Love the DVD player as well. The older kids especially love to hook the game cube up to it! Although, gone are the days of car rides playing the alphabet game and singing songs such as “Bill Grogans Goat” and “I Love The Mountains”…. Thanks for the post!

  16. My advice, prior to this post, as to how to make car trips go faster with kids is to not bring the kids. : ) Either that, or don’t take car trips! Thanks for the great advice. My sister in law wraps up, in wrapping paper, her kids toys and doles one out every hour or half hour.

  17. That’s such a good idea to freeze a water bottle. That way, the kids can’t drink so much that they have to take a million potty breaks. You are a genius.

  18. My husbands family had a mayonaise jar for the boys to go to the bathroom in.

    I have forbidden my husband from getting a myonaise jar for us. We’ll be making potty breaks!

  19. Oh, my gosh. Your husband is a good sport for allowing you to post that picture. The potty pic is too funny…..seriously. Anyman that would allow this is ok in my book. :) Smiles….thanks for all the blogging fun.

  20. I love the potty idea. Easier to sit on than the container.

    Giving them little bags or wrapping up gifts for every hour or so is great. I’ll have to do that next time. I like they just get one or two things at a time, keeping things fresh.

  21. The portable DVD playes have been a God-send for us! We picked up one from Sam’s that came with the dual monitors that sit over the headrests. Now the only fights are over which movie we watch!

  22. oh.. I’m a bad mom… but benadryl! a little nap never hurt anyone! (just half of a single dose)

    I wrap up little gifts.. and give them out along the way.

  23. Funny you should post about travelling with kids … we just returned from evacuation for Gustav. And, now are watching Ike closely to see if we have to do it again. I needed some fresh ideas for the car … if we have to make another unexpected trip, I think the boys will need something new. ;)

  24. When we went to Santa Cruz a month ago we drove through the night! Dad took a long nap before and after and the kids just slept through everything! I am not as brave as you to do it through the day!

  25. Love your new banner, by the way…it’s been a while since I’ve clicked through to comment!

    I just wanted to add one idea to your great list. (I can’t wait until my BBJ is old enough to use this list. Right now, it’s still a toss up when she’s in the car. Usually she can last about two hours before she starts to get cranky…but she’s not two yet.)

    I was sitting in a parking lot the other day when I saw a woman and her granddaughter pull up in their large suburban. The suburban was packed so that it looked like they were on their own road trip. The grandmother pulled her granddaughter out of the car, opened the trunk…and put her on one of those little kid potties! It fit fine in the trunk, and was probably more comfortable for the young toddler to use! (She was MAYBE three?) I thought it was so clever. I imagine the smell might get oppressive, but you can dump out the can and clean it as soon as you find a suitable spot.

    Just an idea! Then, of course, there’s always the McMommy Diaper Urinal…(she just keeps a pack of diapers in the car and lets her kids use them in emergencies. :-))

  26. We recently took a long car ride (with a 4 year old and two 3 year olds), and with a little planning ahead, it went amazingly well! We had the DVD player, and CD’s (some with music, some with stories). I also went to the craft store and bought a little bag for each of them which we decorated at home before we left.

    Then when we traveled, every 20 min or so, they would pass me their bags, and I would put something new in it- a small snack, and something ‘new’- I did pipe cleaners, stickers, paper and crayons, action figures, new toy trucks, that sort of thing. I alternated this with occasional movies and CD’s and books. It broke up the monotony, because they get bored with any one activity, so it kept their attention and we had a great car ride!

  27. Great bathroom break picture!!! There is almost nothing my son loves more than going to the bathroom outside…ah, boys! :)

    We traveled with a DVD player for the first time this year…on our 15 hour drive to Disney. I felt a little guilty, but, boy did it keep our son happy. He could recite all of Star Wars when we arrived.

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