By Jaime Mathews

How to Do Family Road Trips Like a Pro

Mamahood + Homeschool

The Sweet Life

October 12, 2021

Family road trips can be a hectic endeavor, but I have a few tricks up my sleeve to make road trips a little easier on us mamas!

This Sagittarian mama loves to travel. I always thought I just had a serious case of the travel bug but when I learned about my astrological sign, it made perfect sense. It’s not that I follow the stars or run my life based on my Saggitarius tendencies, but I found it quite interesting to learn that people born under this sign are typically always up for a little change and a lot of travel. When my twins were born, five days before my birthday, I knew our family was in for a lot of adventures together. But as any of you with young(ish) children know, road tripping with kids is not for the faint of heart. However, with a little preparation and a lot of fun in mind, you can family road trip like a pro.

Why You Should Opt for the Carpool Lane Instead of an Airplane

Family road trips can be a fun and memorable time. Unlike the hecticness of airport security lines, pre-boarding paperwork, and crazy carry-on luggage stipulations, getting in the family car and putting tires to the pavement is a relatively stress-free mode of transportation. Once the car is packed and you are on your way, you can just sit back, relax and drive. You can enjoy fresh air if you want to, unlike the recycled air in an airplane, which always smells somewhat old and stale. You don’t have to worry about who is sitting next to you in the car, unlike the unfavorable stranger who falls asleep on your shoulder or snores in your ear on the airline seat next to you. There are just so many unknowns with air travel. When travelling by car, you can control much of your environment, minus the traffic and number of times your kids need to pee. 

What Is a Good Age to Start Road Tripping With the Fam?

To properly answer this question, let me start with this: the younger you get your babies used to the car, the better. When my twins were born, it felt so overwhelming to take them anywhere at first, that I really didn’t. Big mistake (although my sanity probably disagrees). When my son was born, he was forced to be in the car all the time, so he has always been a trooper when it came to travel. My girls took a little getting used to long stints in their carseats. 

That being said, I have road tripped with twins when they were as young as six months old. Although I would not say this is the easiest time to be traveling (especially with two youngsters), it can be achieved. At this stage, you want to make sure to leave around naptime. Make sure babies are fed, changed, and ready for a little siesta. That is always your golden hour. 

I also took my twins for a girl’s weekend with my friends when they were eleven months old. That was a little interesting because it was the first time I was away from my husband with them for an extended period of time. What I learned the most about that weekend is that life is so much easier when there are two people raising twin babies. I could not wait to get home and get some help from my husband! 

But my rule of thumb is that the best time to start really road tripping with littles is when their car seat is forward-facing, which is around age two. There are several reasons for this: a) when littles are facing forward, it is so much easier to see how they are doing (those seat mirrors just don’t do the trick). You can hand them their water or snack bags and you can better gauge when they might need a break from the drive. The other, more important reason that road tripping is easier (and better) when kiddos are forward-facing is that the chances of them getting carsick greatly decreases. Take it from me who has learned how to disassemble, wash, and reassemble several car seats like a professional due to kids getting car sick: when they can look straight ahead, it is so much better. On that note, if you were ever given those barf bags from the hospital and didn’t use them, do not dispose of them! I promise you they will come in handy. 

How to Be a Rockstar of the Road With 3 Simple Tips

Making your family road trip a success is all about preparation. Here are 3 tips to prepare like a pro:

1. Pack snacks

I don’t know about you mamas, but my kids are snack masters. I could literally have just fed them Thanksgiving dinner and within the hour, they are asking me for a snack. I mean, how does so much food go in such small little bodies?! But if you want to keep your cool, save money, and avoid having to stop every hour on your trip, pack a boatload of snacks. 

  1. The cool stuff: I always travel with a cooler bag full of healthier snacks: pre-washed and pre-cut fruits and veggies, organic, individually-wrapped cheese, organic deli meats, and low-sugar, easy-to-open-and-eat yogurt. That way, the kids fill their bellies with something more than Goldfish and Clif Z Bars. Giving them some healthy protein and fats will be your best friend, as consuming nothing but carbs will create hyper little humans—not conducive for a long car ride!
  2. The non-perishables: I am the first to admit that I try to buy most everything organic. Yes, I’ve even tried a healthier version of marshmallows for S’Mores (by the way, they don’t roast nearly as well as the good old Jet-Puffed brand). But I know that kids love those weird little fish-shaped crackers, fruit snacks that stay stuck in your teeth, and of course, the chips that leave their little hands—and my car—stamped with that orange powdery substance. Okay, I admit, I draw the line with Cheetos in the car. Way too messy! But I always have a huge bag of goodies to choose from: pretzels, Z Bars, Veggie Straws, fruit snacks, SkinnyPop, and Pirate’s Booty are always a go-to in my home, so I make sure to have all of those on-hand in the car. My kids also love roasted seaweed and as much as I love that they choose this healthy snack, I cannot, under any circumstances, have our road tripping vehicle smell like a fishery. So those usually stay at home. 
  3. The fun stuff: I can let my hair down a little when it comes to road tripping goodies, so I do allow each kiddo to pick out one favorite junk food to bring. In my home, the fan favorite is Sour Patch Kids and salt and vinegar chips, so along with the cucumbers comes the candy. I don’t let them go overboard, but a little treat here and there goes a long way, especially in the bribery department. 

2. Pack necessities

There are five things that I have learned to never leave at home during a road trip: 

  1. Paper towels or napkins
  2. Baby wipes 
  3. Grocery bag for garbage
  4. Reusable bowls for snacks
  5. Reusable water bottles

All of these items come in so handy when you are on the road. Baby wipes are great for wiping down messy hands that might have eaten said Cheetos or seaweed in the car (again, I don’t recommend those). The reusable bowls are fantastic because they allow for you to buy a larger bag of snacks and then divide it up so that your littles don’t gorge themselves with Goldfish crackers. And of course, it’s easy to become dehydrated on the road, so make sure everyone has their own reusable water bottles. This is a must for the entire trip (as well as the environment) so you don’t have to keep buying single-use plastic water bottles.

I also highly recommend anyone traveling with not-quite-potty-trained kiddos to bring a portable toddler toilet. Trust me on this one: it is a lifesaver!

3. Make it fun

I am the mama who can be a little militant about technology usage in my home—and the car! In fact, my kiddos would probably say I’m downright annoying about it. But  I want my kids to experience the world when we are venturing to a new place or even returning to an old one. I want them to recognize places and scenery that they have been to before. And that does not happen when they are head down on their iPads. So although I make sure to charge up the batteries and pack the LeapFrog Tablets, I also make sure I pack them for other activities. This includes coloring books, crayons or markers (the washable ones, always!), reading books, activity books, and a few toys they can play with. That way they have a mix of technology, learning, and sightseeing along the way. 

One of my most proud moments as a mama happens when my girls and I drive a specific stretch of road. We live near an enormously majestic wind farm, which also happens to be on the way to one of their favorite places: Disneyland. So even if we are headed to the feed store and not to the Happiest Place on Earth, they see these windmills and immediately their little Rand McNally brains go back to the Disneyland road trips they have had. That would never have happened if I allowed them to veg out on movies and kid games non-stop in the car.

Family road trips can be some of the most bonding and memorable times for kids and us parents. So pack wisely, gas up the tank, and get on the road!


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Jaime Mathews      Author

Jaime is a woman of many hats: follower of Jesus, wife, mama of three, homeschooler, business owner, blogger, writer and aspiring homesteader. Follow her on instagram @jaimeleemathews.

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