Road Trip ideas!

I know everyone has school on the brain right now, and actually, so do I!  But we're not actually starting until October so I'm not doing schoolish posts quite yet.

We just returned from a 10-day family road trip and it was great.  We drove from Washington to California, along the coast, into the Redwoods, and as far as Monterey Bay- and then back home through Yosemite.  We camped, stayed in vacation houses, and spent a couple of nights in hotels.  We logged over 2500 miles on our van, and the kids were amazing.  I thought I'd post some of my road trip ideas here so that I can remember and in case it's helpful for anyone else.  :)

First tip: Make your kids pack their own stuff.  :)  This is our system for any trip, and it works- even for the little kids.  Our olders can either help with the younger kids or the younger kids can pack what they see in the pictures and you can check their work.  Either way, it saves a TON of time.


(Right after I copied these, my kids pointed out that I'd forgotten to put pajamas on here!  Whoops!  I told them they could add it to the "Other items" list on the top left-hand corner.  :))

One of my favorite things is equipping our kids for all those hours in the van, and since we don't rely on technology because I'm old-fashioned that way, here is what we do instead:

Gift bag of goodies: Each of the kids gets a gift bag of goodies.  I choose a different color bag for each child and write their name on it.  AND: I keep this a secret until the morning of, so when they get to the van they it on their seats and spend the first several minutes rifling through them.  They love this.
The kids climbing into our van right before we hit the road.  Isaias has spotted his bag on his seat.
In the bag: Gum, lollipops, snacks (goldfish crackers, gummy bears, swedish fish, fruit snacks, granola bars, cookies, plus coupons for drinks from the ice chest*), packages of tissue, a couple of mechanical pencils, a pen, word search/suduko/coloring/maze books I picked up at the dollar store, a blank composition book or notebook for writing or coloring, and their Road Trip Journal (more on that later). Also, there are no rules for the treats in their bags: they are theirs to eat whenever they want.  :)

*This is the first time I've done the coupon thing, and it worked great.  Each of the kids had coupons in their bags- just slips of paper that said, "Good for one soda" or "Good for one juice box", and when they wanted a drink they got to hand in their coupon and get a drink. 

Road Trip Journal: I made a journal for each of the kids to take along.  I bought some inexpensive folders with the brads in them and three-hole punched the pages and tucked them in the folders.

In their journals:
Map of the United States.  I printed the B&W copy, because we colored them in as we saw the license plates from each state.  This was a fun activity that lasted throughout the whole trip, and kept us all looking out the window!

Journal pages (Days 1-10): I've made the first page larger for you to see and the other pages small, but if you click on them you'll be able to see them larger.

Vacation wrap-up:
Also included in the journal were these battleship pages and some blank graph paper (for their own lists or mazes or whatever games they wanted to play).

I printed off journals for Mark and myself, too, and we all spent time filling them in each day, either on the road or when we settled for the night.

Snacks: I also packed lots of general snacks up front between Mark and I (bags of chips, carrot sticks, crackers, string cheese, nuts, dried fruit, etc) and occasionally I'd pass those around. 

Games: We play lots of games while we're on the road.  Here are some of our favorites:
ABC game
License plate game (see above map)
License plate game #2: Call out the letters of a license plate and everyone races to try to think of a word with the letters in that same order.  (Example: HDG might be hedge or handbag).
Color game: Call out a color and everyone calls out what they see outside the window that is that color.
I Spy (in the van)

We also brought some trivia books and some Brain Quest flip books to quiz the kids.

Music: We made a road trip playlist and listened to it a whole lot.  :)  Mark and I sang loudly and tried to get the kids on board with all of our favorite music.  :)  

Maps: We had maps for each state and showed the kids each day where we were starting from, and where our destination was that day.  They loved this, especially our six-year old.  She kept asking us to pull the map out so that she could see our progress along the way!  

Quiet: There were a few times we called out, "Ten (or twenty!) minutes of quiet!"  And everyone had to be quiet.  We only did this two or three times but it helped for our sanity.  :)

I posted a bunch of pictures on Facebook throughout our trip but I'll try to post a few here, too, within the next couple of days.


  1. Been wondering where you were! How FUN! Those journaling pages just could not possibly be more adorable.

    1. Oh, you're so sweet. It is seriously my favorite part of a trip-- the planning stuff for the kids to do part. :) I love it.

  2. Wow, what a great experience and what wonderful planning! I particularly like the colour in map of states :-). We drove from London to Rome this summer (unusually long for us Brits!) and the most successful car entertainment was audio cassettes - we listened to the whole of the Narnia series and there was absolute silence and a few tears (from the adults!) when we reached The Last Battle. The kids also enjoyed playing a times table tape every day, I think everyone's maths improved!
    Hevs in the UK

    1. (Oh, you've reminded me that we also started a read-aloud on the trip! I'm going to have to go add that!)

      I know a LOT of people love audio books on road trips--- I love your story of listening to the whole Narnia series! (Which version did you listen to?) What a wonderful thing to all experience together while on a trip. I love that. :)

      I wish we did audio books well, but we don't. We have at least one child who interrupts constantly so I always feel like I have to stop it, rewind, answer a question and go back, and the other kids get frustrated and then we're all frustrated. :) But that is SUCH a great idea and works for so many!

      Thank you for your comment!

    2. Haha! I can imagine that being rather distracting :-). It was actually an abridged version a friend lent us (our cd player gave up many years ago so we are back on cassettes and they are surprisingly hard to find!) so the most interruptions came from me, "oh, they missed out a really important part there!!" H x

    3. ~smile~ I think my older kids would really love to sit with an audio book- especially a beloved series like Narnia! I'll have to look into it. :)

  3. You are so creative Stacy! I am definitely going to borrow some ideas for future road trips and especially love the packing list complete with pictures! I was laughing about your license plate game #2, because I am always mentally trying to think of words for the letters on license plates as I am driving along. Just always assumed it was a weird habit of mine, so I am glad to hear that I am not the only one who does this. :)

    1. Meagan~
      Oh, aren't you sweet!? I'm thrilled to know that you play that license plate game, too! :) Mark and I love it and our older kids are challenged by it. The girls can't do it, obviously, but they are good at calling out the letters on the plates so it works for all of us. :)

  4. I love the pages you did! Your hand writing is so cute, too. I would love to do the little diary pages for the next trip we will have in October. We have a lots of air travel as a family and we always have a surprise bag for the kids. You gave me some fun ideas for passing the time well. We cannot sing loudly or look out the window, but other than that, great ideas :)

    1. Oh, you are so sweet. I had so much fun doing it. :) I love it that you do surprise bags for your kids! :) And no, I don't think your fellow airline passengers would be too fond of you all singing loudly! ;)
      Blessings to you and yours,

  5. Let me try again at commenting on this ... You truly are the best roadtripper (and mama) ever. You are so much fun!!! Loving you.

    1. xo. love you, honey. you're my favorite person to road-trip WITH.

  6. this is incredible.


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