8 Helpful Tips for Long Car Rides with Kids

Family road trips aren’t easy, but having snacks, entertainment, and enough rest can help. Keep your sanity intact with these tips for long car rides with kids.
Written by Bryce Emly
Reviewed by Carrie Adkins
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Long road trips with kids can be stressful—but they don’t have to be. With enough snacks, entertainment, and rest breaks, they can also be a ton of fun for everyone in the car!
The car insurance comparison and broker app
wants to make sure your driving experience isn’t just safe, but also stress-free. These tips should help you make sure the pressures of driving long distances with kids don’t keep you from having a blast on your next family road trip.
And to save a little extra cash for the road, why not shop around for
cheap car insurance
before you head out? You can spend the savings on snacks, gas, or even earplugs.
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Snacks, snacks, and more snacks

Pack lots of snacks—and then pack some more. There’s nothing worse than being hungry, bored, and stuck when you’re smack in the middle of nowhere with no end in sight. And when you’re a kid, it feels 100 times worse.
Even if you plan on hitting drive-throughs for meals, you’ll want to make sure you can fill the space in between. Be sure to keep everybody satisfied with a mix of foods: savory and sweet, healthy and junky, hearty and starchy, and everything in between.
Pro Tip Bring a cooler for things like drinks, fruits, veggies, dressing, and snackable meats.

Make sure you’ve got enough chargers, cables, and headphones

According to
Pew Research
, nearly one in every five parents say they have a child under 12 who owns a smartphone. What’s more, the same study shows that over two-thirds of children use tablets and/or smartphones in general.
For better or worse, smart devices are digital pacifiers—which can be valuable during long car rides. If you’ve got multiple kids, make sure you have enough to go around or create a plan for sharing so you can keep the family car a fight-free zone.
And don’t forget the charging cables—the battery in a tablet is only good for a few episodes of Paw Patrol!

Take a little time to unwind

When you get locked into a schedule, it can be hard to take a break. But sometimes you have to toss the timelines out the window. With kids, schedules are more like guidelines, anyway.
Taking little moments of R&R to stretch every couple of hours can make a big difference. If the kids start getting restless or if the miles of open road are starting to get to you, don’t be afraid to pull off. A short walk around can get everyone refreshed and ready for the rest of the trip.

Download podcasts and audiobooks for the adult riders

Any parent knows the most peaceful time in the world is when the kids are asleep—and there’s no easier way to do it than with an hour-long talk show about the latest celebrity gossip, hot takes on the stock market, or a deep dive into the history of sourdough bread.
Find podcasts or audiobooks on a range of topics to break up the drive. Saving them on your phone will help ensure you’ve got enough content to get through those long stretches where cell service is hard to come by.
And make sure the content is of interest to you and any adult driving partners, too. The last thing you want is 10 hours of podcasts so boring they risk putting the driver to sleep!
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Don’t be afraid to call it a night

Here’s a wake-up call: According to the
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
, drowsy driving causes around 100,000 car crashes every year in the US.
Driving when you’re tired is never a good idea. And if you’re both sleepy, switching drivers late at night to try to make good time might not be much better.
Driving long distances with kids is always a little more tiring than going solo, so don’t push it! Get a restful sleep and wake up the next morning ready to take on the world (or maybe just the endless drive through Kansas).

Don’t forget their favorite toys

We’ve all seen the meltdown before. You know, the one where the child forgot that blanket they can’t sleep without, the beloved action figure, the stuffed llama that’s been "loved" to shreds.
Don’t just double-check that you brought it. Triple-check, and then make sure it’s still in their hands when you leave the driveway. It can save a lot of headaches (and tears) once you’re on the road.

Take advantage of power naps

reports that 20-minute catnaps boost memory, alertness, and both mental and physical performance. And they’re great for parents and kids alike.
If you’re sharing the driving duties, you can get your z’s in when you alternate. But if you’re the lone driver, don’t be afraid to pull off and rest your eyes. Just make sure it’s somewhere safe, open, and well-trafficked, like a rest area or travel center.
Pro Tip Download the app USA Rest Stops to easily locate rest areas, welcome centers, and service plazas.

Be prepared for anything

Even the best-prepared parent who’s followed all the tips for long car rides with kids can meet some unexpected roadblocks along the way. That’s where the
roadside assistance program comes in clutch.
For only $6.99, you can be ready for flat tires, empty gas tanks, lock-outs, and much more. Need a service that’ll keep your kids from screaming Disney songs at the top of their lungs? It can’t help with that—but for just about every other roadside emergency, you’ll be covered!
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