Tips for fun, budget-friendly car travel with kids

Tips for fun, budget-friendly car travel with kids

Parenting blogger Nicole Avery has taken numerous road trips with her kids, which has helped her work out how to make them as enjoyable and budget-friendly as possible. Here, she shares some of her ideas for fuss-free travel.

A number of times a year, we take a six-plus-hour car trip to visit family. We’ve been doing this since the kids were babies and they’re very used to the long drive now.

As the kids have grown older, the need to stop so frequently has diminished. They know it’s a long drive and are keen to get there as soon as we can. We still have at least one major stop at a park where we all run around, stretch our legs and breathe fresh air, then toilet stops as needed.

When the kids were younger, we would stop more frequently as little legs find it harder to stay still for longer periods of time. Allowing them to run around and burn off some energy meant it took more time to arrive at our destination, but we all arrived with more sanity.

For us, the most successful tip for car travel with kids has been to create individual packs for the kids.

Individual food packs

Very rarely do we buy food or drink on our road trips, preferring to take our own. Taking our own food has many benefits:

  • it is much cheaper
  • it means the kids can eat when they want, as opposed to when we reach a town
  • we can determine much easier what they eat.

Ensuring the kids are well fed has contributed greatly to more pleasant car trips. Hungry kids are rarely happy kids, and while feeding them lollies or fast food may keep them quiet for a minute or two, it tends to be short-lived.

Our approach to packing food for car trips is similar to packing the school lunches. Each child has their own food pack and drinks with them in a lunchbox near their seat. Once we start our trip, they can choose what to eat and when, knowing that is all the food they have for the trip.

Lots of the food is consumed in the first hour or two by the younger ones, but they generally save the main lunch item for when we stop at a park or the like around the halfway mark of our trip. As the kids can manage their own food and drink, there are no “I’m hungry” or “I’m thirsty” complaints from the back seats, making it easier and more peaceful for the driver to concentrate.

A typical food pack would contain:

  • frozen fruit juice (doubles as an ice brick)
  • chocolate cake
  • taco parcels (or other main lunch item)
  • cut-up veggies
  • cut-up fruit
  • apple
  • corn chips or crackers
  • water.

Individual activity packs

We listen to lots of audio books and music on our road trips. Each child is allocated a share of the trip time, for example on our six-hour journey it would be an hour block for each child, in which they can choose what they would like to listen to. While not everyone loves the choices of others, it does add to the family bonding of the trip as we all having the same shared experience.

For the younger kids we will also put together individual activity packs to help keep them entertained. They are quite simple and will include a travel puzzle, favourite toy, and a clipboard with activities such as:

  • A printout of the map of our journey. For longer journeys the mapmay need to be printed over two pages, so the kids can easily read the town names. The kids enjoy knowing where they are and what town is coming up next.
  • Hangman– the hangman tip sheet and some paper for playing.
  • Colouring pages of their latest interests, like Batman,ScoobyDoo or
  • Mazes– these are incredibly popular for the preschool and junior primary school kids.
  • Wordsearch– we like to make up our own, often using the town names on the route.
  • Math sheets– both the two younger boys are still very keen on numbers and like to test themselves. These worksheets have a travel theme to them.
  • Then there are plenty of games of car cricket and I-spy.

Car travel with kids is always more fun when you are better prepared!

This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared on https://www.

If you’re keen to explore locations near you – by car or otherwise, with or without kids ­­­­– download our ebook Your Guide to Easy Day Trips.