The ultimate family road trip survival guide

Emmy Samtani
Emmy Samtani
Emmy is the founder of Kiindred and mother to 3 little ones. Over the last 4 years, she has worked with some of the most credible experts in the parenting space and is a keen contributor on all things parenthood.
Updated on Jun 14, 2024 · 7 mins read

The idea of a family road trip is such a pleasant one… in your mind. You’ll all be singing along to classic hits, playing I-Spy and having quality family bonding time as you drive to your holiday destination (for more good wholesome family fun, right?)

Wrong. Well, wrong unless you’re prepared with these tips, that is

You see, car trips with kids can be a little tricky 😅 – enough to make you feel like you need another holiday just to recover from the drive. Or they can be bearable. (We’re not going to promise these tips can make them like the movies because we respect you too much to lie to you) but with a little preparation and planning, road trips with kids can be done – and even a little fun.

As we approach the school holidays and the Easter long weekend and with many of us planning to get out of town and have a well-deserved break (or as we call it, parenting in a different location)… we’ve teamed up with our friends at Kia Australia to bring you our ultimate tips for surviving the family road trip. A.K.A how to get from A to B with kids without losing your S-#-!-T.

Planning ahead

Seems obvious, but it’s important for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, a few weeks before your trip make sure you’ve checked the car over (either yourself or book it in for a service) to make sure it’s all in tip-top condition and not going to pull any surprises on you. Safety is key when going on a road trip so making sure the car is ready is a big priority.

Then planning your road trip out. We so often just focus on planning the holiday itself and the road trip is just a means to an end. But with kids, you really need to think of the road trip as the first leg of your holiday and plan it out.

When to hit the road?

This really will be determined by the length of your trip, if you’ve got a long way to go then an early start time is often a good idea. But if it’s only a few hours then waiting and teeing it up with nap time is a good idea. That said, if you don’t have a car sleeper then you might prefer to time the trip around awake times and plan to arrive around nap or bedtime.

If your destination is a long way away, it might be worth looking at breaking it into a couple of days, staying somewhere overnight if you can.


Packing the car

Where do we begin… There’s a lot to unpack when it comes to packing, so let’s break this one down into sections.

1. Activities

So again, depending on the length of the trip you’re going to want to have some activities/distractions up your sleeve. There’s only so much Wiggles they (or you) can tolerate.

Pack them a special backpack with things to keep them entertained along the way. Things like books, colouring-in, games and toys are all good. They can be their favourite ones from home but it can also be a good idea to throw a couple of new ones into the mix (to hope for a longer attention span).

Older kids might like to be included in packing the bag and being in charge of carrying it – but for younger ones, it might be best to pass them the things as they need them.

2. Snacks

No matter how long you are driving, snacks are essential. Try for healthy snacks where possible but throw in a couple of more exciting things to pull out in case of emergency. Just don’t go overboard with the sugary/sweet treats and a kid on a sugar high strapped into a moving vehicle is never a good idea.

Also, it goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway – make sure you’re not giving your little one anything that is a choking hazard. Make sure all snacks are age-appropriate and car-friendly.

Sanity saving tip: It’s a good idea to avoid anything you know upsets your child’s stomach – or too much dairy as this can be a recipe for car sickness.

3. Essentials

You’ve packed up all your essentials for the trip strategically in suitcases with military precision, but then there’s a roadside poo explosion and you have to unpack the entire car to get to the nappies, wipes and change of clothes. Don’t be this person. Pack a dedicated car bag full of all the essentials like nappies, wipes, spare clothes, spare dummies, bottles, panadol and bandaids. Then make sure this bag is easily accessible.

Sanity saving tip: Even if your little one is out of nappies, still pack PLENTY of baby wipes and even a roll of toilet paper for those moments where you can’t quite make it to the next service station.

Screen time

Screen time is always a hotly contested topic – but we say whatever helps you survive with a little bit of sanity intact is ok by us. So we say go for it. However, try and save it for when you’ve exhausted all the other activity/distraction options.

For older kids, you can have screen shifts to break up the time spent on there. Using a timer can be a good way to let them know when it’s time to put it away. And don’t forget to get your little ones some headphones so you don’t have to hear the sound of their shows the whole time.

You can also mix up screen time with audiobooks so they’re still being entertained but not staring at the screen (also good for little ones who get car sick).

Sanity saving tip: Kia’s come with a dedicated quiet mode, which means you can mute the back speakers so you can play your own music in the front while the kids watch their iPads in the back. Genius.

Plan your stops

If you have a little one who needs to use a toilet you might, unfortunately, have to stop more often than you’d like. But it’s worth it to avoid any accidents.

If you’ve got a long trip, allow a few stops to be longer to give your little one/s time to have a little run around to burn off some energy. You might be looking at the clock just wanting to get back in the car but it can be a game-changer for energetic backseat bandits.

Plan main meals to be out of the car where you can, stop for breakfast, lunch and dinner and factor this into your schedule.

When it comes to surviving road trips with kids, it’s about factoring their needs in and planning around naps, meals and toilet stops.

Kia is there for all your on-road needs as a busy family, from coffee runs to school drop-offs to holiday getaways. Because we know families come in all shapes and sizes, Kia’s family range has a car to suit every family. With features such as wireless smart charging, Bose sound systems and storage for days, Kia gets the parent tick of approval.

This is a paid partnership between Kiindred x Kia Australia.

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