Planning a Family Road Trip

Family Road Trip

Jump in the car, grab a coffee, put on some good tunes, and get on that open road! Ahhhhh so relaxing.  But wait, who’s that child in the backseat asking “are we theeeeeeere yet?” Whoops! I forgot,  I’m on a Family road trip. Therefore, there are children strapped in the backseat.  Oh. What. Fun!!

Seriously though, road trips have become one of our families favorite holiday experiences. We’ve always enjoyed long drives whether it be an after dinner drive around our dream neighborhood or a 24 hr drive to Disneyland.  Road trips have just become a part of our families DNA.

With a dozen long road trips under our belt, I thought I might have a few tips I could offer:)  Let me share my highs and lows and lessons we’ve learned “On Route”

Prepare your vehicle

I think it goes without saying that the vehicle is going to be a mess when you’re done with your road trip.  Go with it.  That’s all part of the adventure!

With that being said, its a GREAT idea to start with a fresh clean slate and a fully stocked vehicle ready for all the fun!  Here are my tips for preparing your vehicle for the big road trip!

Get it serviced

Nobody wants their vehicle to break down on a road trip so its super important to get into a mechanic for a basic overview before you leave.  We always book this about a week before our trip and inform the mechanic shop of the type of trip were taking and distance were travelling.  They almost always do an oil change so we start fresh in that regard, and then do a thorough check of all the other systems to ensure were good to go!

Clear the Clutter

Vacuum and remove all garbage.  Go through seat pockets, storage compartments, under the seats, behind the seats, inside the seats…you get the picture;) Remove anything that you won’t need.  Trust me, your car is going to accumulate a TON of random stuff on your getaway so a clean slate makes it less overwhelming.  Grab a clear plastic tote and load all the unnecessary items into it so you can easily load them back in when you get home. (although you might realize that these items never belonged in your car to start ha!)

Stock up on necessities

So, now that you’ve cleaned and removed your vehicle of all the “clutter”, its time to stock it up with all the items that you DO need and will want to have on hand at various times during your trip.

  1. Wipes: There are going to be sticky fingers, spilled drinks, sandy feet, you name it! Wipes are your friend!
  2. Kleenex: For the messes that don’t require a wet wipe, the snotty nose, the tears, and more!
  3. Water Bottles: I go and buy the big Kirkland pack of water bottles from Costco. 
  4. Gum: I specifically buy gum for Dion because he says chewing gum helps keep him awake on longer drives and thats fairly important;)
  5. Chargers: phone, ipad, tablet, etc.  Our vehicle is thankfully equipped with a few ways to charge these devices.  I bring a few chargers because it seems someone is always needing to “re-charge”
  6. Sunglasses: This one goes without saying.  Everyone needs a pair:)
  7. SNACKS: Food is your friend when travelling.  If you have room to bring along a small cooler I highly recommend this option.  Regardles, make sure you’ve got a variety of snacks.  I don’t purchase a ton of this beforehand because were usually stopping along the way but its still good to have an assortment on hand.  **Remember, if you’re crossing into California, you can’t bring any fruit.
  8. Music: These days most vehicles are equipped with an auxiliary function to play direct from your devices. Music is a key factor for the road trip.  It can bring the mood up, or calm it down so make sure your playlist is ready to go!
  9. Garbage Bags: I like to pack a handful of smaller garbage bags as well as a few larger black garbage bags.  Keep one in the front seat and one in the back.  We try to do a garbage empty at every stop so the end result isn’t overwhelming.
Did I forget anything?  I’d love to know!  What do you stock in your vehicle for your road trips?

Plan your route

Every road trip is different.  We’ve done road trips where we’ve had 2 weeks to take our time and we’ve done road trips where we need to drive 24 hrs each way, and only have 3 days in between.  (I don’t recommend those on a regular basis).  Our ideal length of travel in one day is between 6-8 hrs.  A 6 hr drive can be taken slowly over the day with lots of space for stops.  There will be gas stops, potty stops, and those stops where everyone just needs a stretch and some fresh air!!

We aim for a 15 min stop every 2 hrs. So, if you want to make it to a destination 6 hours away, I suggest giving yourself 8 hrs to get there.  This will allow plenty of time for all those stops you’re going to make! The key factor is to allow time. You never know what kind of detour you’ll want or need to take.  The journey is the best part, don’t rush it:)

With the above info in mind, take a look at the time frame you have for the trip. Calculate the length of time it will take you to get there and back, and how long you want to be at the final destination. From there plan out an itinerary.  For example, if were going to Disneyland in California, I know that it takes us 24 hrs to drive there, 24 hrs to drive home, and we typically like to be there for 3 full days.  With this information, I can plan out how many days we have for travel on either side of the final destination.  As I mentioned before, we’ve done that particular trip 1/2 a dozen times with various lengths of travel from only 6 days to 2 full weeks.


Do you remember when you were a child and the large travel map was spread out on the dash and mom and dad were stressed out because they were lost YET AGAIN!? Was it moms fault, dads fault, did dad take the wrong turn or did mom give the wrong directions?  Friends, we do not need to live like this anymore LOL.  Or what about driving through a town looking for a pay phone.  Just the thought makes me cringe.  Technology is your friend, embrace it!

Cell phone:

I always make sure to call my cell phone provider before we leave and set up a travel package. Rogers wireless offers a program called roam like home.  For a nominal fee you can use your phone just like you do at home.  We only pay for this on one of our phones so we have access to internet for booking last minute hotels, researching gas stops, food stops and where the next Target 🎯 store is🙌🏻🙌🏻


Download the Google maps app on your phone.  This app is a game changer! I’ve yet to find a more accurate map.  This map finds the quickest route and will detour you from major accidents or traffic that could hold you up! The app will show you when you’re nearing a traffic backup and you can follow it to see when you’ll be out of it.  This is great for letting your driver know what to expect.  You can also type in things like “closest gas station”, or “nearest Starbucks” and it will take the guesswork out of your next stop.  This app literally is like having your own personal tour guide and I can’t rave enough good things about it! If this is the only piece of advice you take from this blog post, I’d feel like I had done my part lol.


Every final destination will be different so those accomodations will vary.  While you’re travelling though,  you’ll need somewhere to stay at the end of the day (unless you’re brave enough to sleep in your vehicle at a rest stop).  We actually plan our nightly stops “on the go”.  This may feel a bit too spontaneous for some but honestly we’ve never had an issue getting a last minute hotel.  I hate to book hotels in advance because it leaves no room for spontaneity or realistic changes to the schedule.  We typically wait until about 1/2 way into our day of travel when we have a good gauge of where we will end up that night and then I’ll start making calls.  We almost always stay at a Holiday Inn Express.  These are reasonably priced, family friendly hotels that offer free breakfast and they are everywhere it seems!  We aren’t looking for anything fancy while we’re on route to our final destination.  Just a place to land for the night that’s clean and comfortable! Plus, they usually have a pool and everyone loves some fun in the pool after a day of travel!

People always ask us if we think it would just be easier to fly to our destination and as much as that would cut out the travel time, I’ve always felt like we would miss out on so much of the journey.  Being on the open road and discovering the world is such a fun part of a trip.  Sure, we’ve also done our share of trips where we fly to a destination such as Mexico, Hawaii, and Costa Rica.  Those were great family adventures as well but if we can drive without it being too far a trek, we almost always will!

Here are a few photos from our most recent road trips.  We drove to Disneyland in summer of 2017 and the Oregon Coast in March 2018.

And some photos of Disneyland Trips over the years.  For reference, our very first Disney road trip was in the summer of 2006.


I hope this post helps you plan your next Family Road trip and make it a success!!  Whatever the next destination might be, I hope you always remember to enjoy the journey!




  1. Candy
    May 23, 2018 / 2:50 pm

    Takes a ton of planning but totally worth the effort spent. All your kids dead are spot on.

    • karinuliving
      May 24, 2018 / 2:52 pm

      Thank you so much for reading!

  2. May 23, 2018 / 2:54 pm

    Taking vacations, small or large, with the kiddos is such a great thing for them!!! We don’t go as often as we would like, but we still try to do stay-cations with them too. Baseball takes up so much of our summer that we are limited on weekends.

    • karinuliving
      May 24, 2018 / 2:51 pm

      Oh! another baseball family! We have a son in ball and I totally hear you on the summer busyness it adds!

  3. May 23, 2018 / 3:04 pm

    Great tips for road trips! My family and I take them a lot and always need more tips!

    • karinuliving
      May 24, 2018 / 2:51 pm

      Oh I’m so happy this post can be helpful for you! Thanks so much for reading!

  4. May 23, 2018 / 3:49 pm

    I love the idea of garbage bags! I never think of them, and then have to shovel everything out when we stop for gas or food! Great tips!

    • karinuliving
      May 24, 2018 / 2:50 pm

      Yes they come in SO handy! There is always so much garbage!

  5. May 23, 2018 / 5:27 pm

    Yes, Yes and Yes! You can never be too prepared for a family road trip! Great list!

    • karinuliving
      May 24, 2018 / 2:50 pm

      Thanks for reading!

  6. May 23, 2018 / 9:49 pm

    Music and audio books are just as important as the food and drinks! We didn’t bring any once and it certainly had a negative impact on our mood. Our other “learn from it” mistake was the time we didn’t bring a road map because we had our GPS. It didn’t really occur to me that we may loose signal! We had to stop and buy a map. Thanks for sharing these great tips!

    • karinuliving
      May 24, 2018 / 2:50 pm

      Oh thats a good point! losing signal would be a real pain!

  7. May 23, 2018 / 10:02 pm

    Great tips! I agree with embracing technology and bringing trash bags. Baggies too.

    • karinuliving
      May 24, 2018 / 2:49 pm

      Yup! technology has its perks and its places where its needed! I don’t know how my parents did it!

  8. May 24, 2018 / 12:11 am

    This is a great list of tips! I’m going to have to try your husband’s gum chewing trick for those drives where I’m stuck in traffic and the hot sun!

    • karinuliving
      May 24, 2018 / 2:49 pm

      Yes! He just said it keeps his mind busy…I dunno LOL

  9. May 24, 2018 / 3:17 am

    So many great tips!! Having our cars serviced is always at the top of my list whenever I have a road trip coming up. I have a history of owning horrible cars and it’s so frustrating to have car problems in the middle of a trip! I’ve learned my lesson and now have a brand new Jeep and always keep it up to date on its maintenance before trips. So much less stressful! haha

    • karinuliving
      May 24, 2018 / 2:48 pm

      I totally hear you on this! The peace of mind of a brand new vehicle with warranty is truly a gift when you’re a road trip person. Its worth its weight in gold in my opinion!

  10. May 24, 2018 / 5:01 am

    This looks so fun! I took my family all 17 and up on a final family road trip through 7 states! So fun!!! I will remember it forever! This is a great list of do’s and must haves! Thanks for compiling.

    • karinuliving
      May 24, 2018 / 2:47 pm

      Oh that sounds like a great road trip! One day we want to drive across Canada. We just need to find the right timing because I’d love to take 3-4 weeks to do it:)

  11. Diana Tidswell
    May 24, 2018 / 7:13 am

    Having a large or small family trip is a great experience and memorable most especially with our kids and having this great list of necessities is a must have during a trip.

    • karinuliving
      May 24, 2018 / 2:46 pm

      Yes! we love even the shorter road trips that we will do on a weekend! Its just nice to get in the car and go!

  12. May 24, 2018 / 9:43 am

    I loved all the family trips as a kid. And i am planning one this summer with my little one. Will definitely take ideas from you to plan it!!

    • karinuliving
      May 24, 2018 / 2:46 pm

      Thanks for reading and I hope you have a fantastic trip!

  13. tif
    May 24, 2018 / 2:32 pm

    This is a great post! I hope to someday be able to plan trips with my family and kids. I will have to keep this in mind. But doing a road trip would be amazing!

    • karinuliving
      May 24, 2018 / 2:45 pm

      Its a great way to bond as a family too! Stuck in closed quarters for a few days is like forced connection LOL:)

  14. May 24, 2018 / 8:23 pm

    Music and mapping (and my dog) = road trip best friends! Great post – right on the money!

  15. May 25, 2018 / 5:28 am

    I need to plan something for the summer. If I don’t, time will just fly by and we will not have gone anywhere.

  16. Brittany
    May 25, 2018 / 1:05 pm

    Love road trips! And having the right technology ready to go is key. I wouldn’t make it out of my driveway without my GPS! LOL

  17. June 13, 2018 / 3:14 pm

    Great list you have here! As a mom of three boys under 4, I think snacks are very important. Books is their favorite too! (and last resort, tablet…to reward their good behavior lol).

  18. June 13, 2018 / 3:18 pm

    Getting your vehicle serviced right before leaving is so smart! Better to get any kinks worked out and have it running it’s best right when you leave.

  19. Autumn Murray
    June 14, 2018 / 2:57 am

    Thanks for the tips! We are going on our first family road trip next week and this is helpful!

  20. June 14, 2018 / 8:43 am

    Growing up I’ve never been on a plane but have traveled as far as Mississippi and I live in MN. I’ve been on about 8 road trips in my life and I definitely enjoyed every last one of them. I definitely look forward to the day I can take my daughters on their first road trip and this post definitely made me want to do it sooner than later!

  21. June 28, 2018 / 11:55 am

    Thanks for sharing this helpful post, As we have planned a road trip this weekend so your post is very useful to me so that we can enjoy our trip and not make any mistakes that can lead us in trouble. Keep posting such useful tips.

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