How to survive the family road trip

Image: Inspiring Women

Gentle sunshine, the wind in your hair, happy children engaging in thoughtful and informed discussions about the beautiful monument they just saw…

Are your family road trips anything like this? If so, stop reading now. You don’t need us.

For the rest of us mere mortals battling backseat squabbles, boredom, and multiple unscheduled toilet stops, here are some of our top tips for a smooth family road trip.

Family road trip - girl in car

Pick a good time to travel

Not all travel times are created equal. Timing can be the different between cruising and chaos.

When determining the best time to travel, you need to balance the following factors:

  1. Your children’s body clocks, e.g. when do they tend to be sleepy/energetic/cranky?
  2. The driver’s body clock, e.g. when do you/the driver tend to be sleepy/energetic/cranky?
  3. How to avoid heavy traffic, e.g. during peak times
  4. Safety issues, e.g. are you likely to be travelling on a country road at a time when the local wildlife tends to be out and about?

Take plenty of breaks

There is a safety imperative here of course. Driver fatigue is a leading cause of road deaths, so you need to take a break every two hours.

However, breaks are also good for the soul and provide opportunities for unexpected family fun. On the road, you have opportunities to be more spontaneous and see things you wouldn’t normally see.

If you’re feeling generous, get the kids to pick a road stop idea each (excluding the inevitable votes for McDonald’s or a toilet of course). This will give them something to look forward to.

Family road trip - eating

Stacks of snacks

Snacks are an absolutely a must. The healthier they are, the better. Hyped up sugar demons are not much fun in a confined space, so keep sugary stuff at a minimum (unless absolutely desperate).

Pre-prepared snacks from home are ideal as they are healthier, more convenient (once you’re on the road, that is), cheaper, plus a great weapon against the lure of the big yellow M sign.

Tip: Pack your children’s snacks in their very own Stuck On You Bento Box. The compartments keep food separate (especially useful for kids who don’t want their food to ‘touch’ – you know who you are) and the silicon seal covers each individual compartment and keeps food nice and fresh when you’re on the road.

Family road trip - Bento

For some healthy and easy road snack ideas, see our previous blog here.

Make a ‘fun’ pack

Put together a bag full of toys and games that are new or haven’t been played with in a while. The novelty value will keep the kiddies occupied for a good portion of the trip. To keep costs down for new toys, raid your dollar shop or go to a charity store.

For other awesome ideas to keep the kiddies occupied, check out Stuck On You’s  Game Pad or these fun car trip games printables.

Pack a ‘hotel’ bag

If your road trip includes some overnight stays in a hotel, motel or caravan park, pack one bag with everything that your whole family needs for that night. This saves you time and energy having to unpack and repack all your bags from the car.

What can’t duct tape do?

Overwhelmed by the messy post-road-trip car? The solution is simple. Place some duct tape under your children’s shoes so they can pick up rubbish with their feet. Not only do you get a clean car, but the kids will think it’s a blast.

Tip: This is one thing you CAN try at home. Let the kids go wild picking up rubbish and other fluff off their bedroom floors. Set it to music so you can play Disco Duct (geddit?)

Macgyver would be so proud.

Family road trip - duct tape

Shoe holder hack

You can get shoe holders cheap from bargain stores. To use them in the car, simply hang the hooks on the back of the front seats and fill each pocket with games, snacks, water bottles and whatever else you desire.

Bin it!

Grab some plastic bags or lidded containers and keep them on the floor of the back seat so that the kids can throw their rubbish in there.

Tip: These double as good sick bags/buckets.

Get back! 

The parent who is not currently driving can spend some time riding in the back with the kids. The novelty will please the children, help break up fights or ease loneliness for a kid who’s there on their own.

Family road trip - feet

Snap it!

Give your kids a camera so they can take pictures of the trip, keeping them both occupied and invested in the journey. Old unused phones are great for this purpose.

OK, so realistically you’ll probably end up with multiple pictures of blurry livestock, the car floor and their thumbs. But within this noise, there could be a prize-winning shot, or a photo that inadvertently catches a criminal in the act (or have I been watching too much Diagnosis Murder?)

Family road trip - photo

The art of boredom aka doing nothing

Fed up with trying to entertain your little angels? A dose of boredom will do them good. Let the car trip be an opportunity for self-reflection and growth – preferably quiet self-reflection and growth.


A caravan and a plan – How a family of five packed up, bought a van and went travelling around Australia.

In 2015, Bec and Justin Lorrimer packed up, sold their house, bought a caravan, and hit the road to see Australia with their three young children. They haven’t looked back since.

In this podcast, Bec provides tips on how to organise a family road trip,  regardless of length of time. We discuss planning your trip, the essentials, the pitfalls and great destination ideas.


Trip in a van

To celebrate the launch of this podcast, we’re offering you the opportunity to win a Stuck On You Travel Pack worth $99.85 and 1 hour of time  (on the phone) with Bec from Trip in a Van, where you can pick her brains about caravanning with a family, preparing for your own short road trip and anything in between! To enter the competition, click here.

Note: Open to Australian residents only. Competition closes 11.59PM, 16th March.