Tips for Keeping Kids Happy & Parents Sane on Road Trips

Tips to Keep Kids Happy and Parents Sane on Car Rides

We just got back from our wedding vacation and we had SO much fun.  I have so much to share with you guys!! I thought I would start this series with a tips on how to keep kids happy (and parents sane!) during long car trips.  We drove from Indiana to New Hampshire — about 17 hours!  Here are some tips that helped us ALL enjoy the trip a little more.

1. Get a lap desk!  You can get one fairly inexpensively on Amazon and they are awesome.  The bottom is filled with a bean bag filling and the top has a flat surface to use as a desk.  They are perfect for setting a lap top or DVD player on or for coloring, playing games and even eating on.  Having everything with easy access, comfortable, and easy to manage is important for kids (and parents) to keep their interest!  Honestly, it’s hard to color without a flat surface!

lap desk

This is like the one we have (the only difference is ours is a different color)  It’s only $12.27 on Amazon and that includes shipping if you are an Amazon Prime or Amazon Mom member!   If you are not an Amazon Prime or Amazon Mom member you can sign up for a free trial! It has a cup holder, a place for your pens to stay put and a small light.  For us, it has been WELL worth the $12.00!  In fact, I just ordered a second one for myself! :)

travel bags and what to fill them with2. Get some fun, new things!  For our vacation I made travel bags.  I bought bags at the Dollar Store and used scrapbook paper to label each bag with a different state.  Then, in each bag a fun, new, inexpensive something (see below for ideas) and some snacks.  Then when you cross over into a new state a new bag is opened.  It makes traveling fun and exciting!  Plus, you have snacks in the car so no need to stop and pick up junk food.  AND - just in case you need another reason to make them, they double as a trash can.  :) This was the first time we used the travel bags and they were a HUGE hit!

I started purchasing items for our bags when I found out we were going on vacation.  I kept a limit of about $10 per bag.  Amazon is a great place to find things for cheap!

Here are some ideas to fill your bags with:
- Books - For Josh I got one of the books in the series How to Train Your Dragon (this is a great series!) and a few of the books from the series NERDS (another great series for kids!)  The books cost between $3.00 - $7.00 and shipping was included!

- DVDs - We have a portable DVD player (which is a life saver for car rides!  If you don’t have one, you can get a good one for under $100!) You can get DVDs under $10 no problem!  Even movies under $5.00 are easy to find!  Another good option is stopping at gas stations with Red Boxes.  There are so many codes for free Red Box rentals out there!  Plus, the nice thing is you can rent a movie and at the next gas station drop it back off!

- Books on CD - No matter how old you are listening to a great book on CD is fun!  We have Narnia, Geronimo Stilton, and lots of Adventures in Odyssey CDs.  You can also join Audible and burn your own CD’s.  Your first 3 months are only $7.49 (which in some cases can be a cheaper option!)

reusable sticker pad

- Fun toys - New toys are fun and exciting, and well, new.  They don’t have to be expensive!  Reusable Sticker Pads (like the one above) can be moved around hundreds of times!  There are tons to choose from - for both boys and girls.  They are $5.00 - $6.00 each.  Travel games like Simon, Guess Who and other classic board games can be found for under $10 too!  Scavenger hunt cards are also a ton of fun!  We bought this set for $7.50 and it provided hours of entertainment (even for us grown ups!) Would You Rather is another great game to get conversation started!  And don’t forget the Mad Libs and Invisible Ink books! :)

3. Don’t forget the snacks!  I placed snacks in our travel bags and it was like getting another gift!  Who would have thought that getting crackers and fruit snacks would be (almost) as much fun to get as new movies and toys!

4. Get comfy!  Don’t forget to pack a travel pillow and blanket.  When Andy drives he blasts the AC so a fuzzy blanket is a must!


5. Invest in headphones!  This is probably my number one tip on keeping sane in the car!  After all, there are only so many times you can hear the same song (over and over again).  Ear Buds are uncomfortable for adults and are way to big for kids to try to fit in their little ears.  Kids are happy because they can listen to their movies, music and books.  Parents, brothers, and sisters are happy because they can listen to what they want to!  Win-win!

How do you keep sane on long car rides?

This post contains affiliate links.


  1. Erin says

    I like your idea of a bag for each state. We have done something similar in the past so that when we cross a state line, everyone gets a treat of some sort, like fruit leather or a granola bar. We also hand out something very small every 100 miles, like three pretzels or a starburst. I like to print out a map of the route we will be driving and let the kids follow along to keep track of where we are. On trips where I have forgotten to do that, we stop at the state welcome centers and pick up a copies of the state maps they have there. One per child helps avoid arguments:)


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

CommentLuv badge

 Subscribe to our newsletter for recipes, DIY projects, tips and tricks sent right to your inbox!