Family Road trip tips 2023

It’s about that time ya’ll – warmer weather and school breaks mean family vacations are near! Many of us will be prepping for long road-trips, so I thought I’d take a moment and share my favorite road trip tips for this year. 

It’s no secret that family road trips come with so much fun… but also with a side of headache. Depending on the size of your family, it can really require a lot of forethought and plan-b’s in case things don’t go your way [flat tire, motion sickness, etc]. In my experience, if you’re willing to take just a few more hours for prep it really pays off on the road.

For us, we are on the road nearly every week. My family and I live full-time in our RV, and our goal is to seek out adventure in every state possible. After a year of travel we are still going strong. I am well acquainted with the “I’m bored” and “are-we-there-yet” commentary from the back seat. Trust me when I say I’ve done everything I can to keep those at bay. Here’s a list of some family-friendly road trip tips to make your vacation a little more smooth this year.

Start early with planning your route. We like to use RVTripWizard, TripAdvisor , and good ole’ google maps. I like to break up the trips into 3 or 4 hour sections because that’s about all my kiddos can handle at one time in the car. It’s also pretty unhealthy to not take breaks: be kind to your body! We also use GasBuddy and iExit along the way – definitely check them out. Atlas Obscura is a new website I’ve been using and it’s a fun way to find hidden gems along your route as well. 

– If you’re like me and don’t want to eat fast food for every meal on the road, take a few hours to plug in some interesting food stops along your route. I love to see if there are any Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives restaurants along the way. We are also big on supporting small businesses in small towns so any chance I get to stop at a mom-and-pop cafe with good reviews on Yelp I take it. I also take a few moments to make a list of easy on the road meals and snacks. If you can prepare beforehand [and don’t mind packing along a cooler], you won’t get stuck using your fun-money for food money along the way. Here’s a quick list of my favorites for your inspiration:

  • Homemade Chex-mix and assorted chips
  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches – pick up a large cookie cutter and make your own uncrustables. 
  • Deli meat and cheese sandwiches
  • Pre-sliced summer sausage
  • Fruit salad cups
  • Apple sauce in reusable packets
  • Trail mix : my favorite combination includes pretzels, raisins, peanuts, and Reece’s Pieces. 
  • Pre-sliced carrots and celery with ranch dip

Load up on screen-free activities. I think we all know by now that we need to be careful with how much screen-time our babies are consuming these days, but man is it hard to find something that will keep them quiet just as long! Here’s a short list of what I like to pack for my 5 and 7 year old. 

  • Yoto Box and cards – these have been a lifesaver for us! We love that our kids can have a sense of independence in choosing their books, but also not have to be the reading voice all the time. Our kids just LOVE using the Yoto. You can get 10% off your first order with this link : https://prz.io/xNq4LvxC0
  • Hoopla App – typically free through any public library and it gives you access to hundreds of audiobooks and movies. 
  • Coloring Pages and worksheets – I print off a handful and clip them into clipboards with a box of markers taped to the back: easy access. We love the website TeachersPayTeachers for homeschooling materials! 
  • Sticker Books
  • Legos – okay so you might have to clean up a bit after this one but a small box of legos often keeps my kids distracted for a long time! Purchasing a few of the large sheets to build on is great for laps. 
  • Sensory Bins – another possibly messy solution, but one I’m willing to clean up for a few more minutes of silence. 
  • Window Clings
  • Fidget toys 
  • Crazy Aarons Thinking Putty – these are tremendously fun to collect, and fun for adults too! We bring putty out when we’re waiting for our food to arrive at restaurants. This brand is very easy to clean up in my opinion. 
  • Cross-stitch or sewing projects (easily found at craft stores like Joann Fabrics and Hobby Lobby). 

Restock your first aid kit. It’s probably getting low by now isn’t it? You just never know when you’ll need a bandaid! Triple-antibiotic cream, sports wrap, a mini cold compress, sunscreen, bug spray, gauze and antiseptic spray are great additions to your kit. 

Pack emergency outfits : While you’re restocking, how about putting an extra outfit per person into a basket and throwing that in the trunk too? I’m always so grateful to my past self when I have an extra shirt or pair of pants for those unexpected accidents or we find mud puddles that *must* be jumped in. Starting off knowing you have an extra set for every person is really stress relieving! Don’t forget to put in a water-safe bag or put each outfit in a zip-lock bag for the dirties.

– Go ahead and put a small trash bin with extra bags in the car. You’ll thank me later! When kids know exactly where they should toss their trash, you won’t be doing so much trash pick up later. Each gas station stop is an opportunity to rid yourself of the build up. 

Hour by Hour Surprises: have you heard of this concept? I’ve seen it on Pinterest before but didn’t enact it until we did a long haul to Walt Disney World last year. We found some fun toys and snacks, and put one in a bag for every hour we were on the road. At the top of the hour, the kids got to pick a surprise bag and have a little more distraction along the way. This is fun until you run out of surprises haha. I still recommend it because you can really tweak it to your trip. Like for Disney you could do mouse ears, t-shirts, bubble wands… anything really! Or if you’re visiting the beach you could do a swimsuit, a beach towel, sand toys, snorkel sets, or sunglasses. 

Lastly : consider using a travel advisor – yes even for your road trip! If mapping out your route seems like a huge task, why not delegate? It’s always handy to have an extra set of eyes on things like: hotel recommendations, tours and excursions in your destination city, construction delays on your route, or nearest hospitals. I highly recommend using a travel advisor if you have a child or loved one who has food allergies or medical conditions so that they can help you thoroughly vet your stops and sleeps. In my own personal business here in the United States, I find joy in helping families enjoy their vacations to full capacity – whatever it may take. Need gluten-free options along the way? Let’s make a list! Curious where you could rent a motorized scooter or travel wheelchair? Let’s call around.  Even if I haven’t personally visited your requested destination, I love doing the research and teaching myself about the area as well. You never know, it might even be a bucket list destination of mine [this is very likely as my list is constantly growing]. 

So that’s all for now: I’ll be adding more as we go along with this camper lifestyle. If you’re considering any National Parks this year, be sure to check out my blog post about them too. 

What would you add to this road-trip list? Comment below and I’ll update when I get some good suggestions! 

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