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This Memorial Day, our family decided to take a long road trip! I was a bit nervous about traveling with the two girls (Lori, 4 years and Julie, 18 months). We don’t have a mini-van or fancy backseat DVD players; we just have our trusty sedan. But with some advance planning, clever packing, and a few tricks up my sleeve, we happily made it to our destination. You can too!

Sometimes if Julie is feeling restless in the car, Lori sings to her to cheer her up. It is so sweet! This time, Lori and I sat down the day before our trip and made a “play list” of songs that she could sing to Julie. We made sure to draw little pictures with ALEX crayons and My Scribble Pad to reference the songs; this way Lori could “read” them herself.

how to prepare for a long car ride with kids

I figured the Car Valet would be the perfect item to bring with us on the road, especially since Lori is a coloring fanatic! A few days before our trip, I packed up all the pockets and pouches with coloring pads, crayons, markers and some printables that were ready to color and glue together.

The morning of our trip, I attached it to the back of the front seat of my car. Lori was so excited to find it in front of her seat when she got in the car!

ALEX Car Valet

ALEX Car Valet


The Car Valet worked perfectly and gave Lori a steady surface to color on during the ride. Her song “playlist” even fit into the front sleeve so she could look at it while the car valet was zipped closed.
ALEX Car Valet


Here are a few pointers to keep in mind while preparing for a successful road trip with your family:

1. Involve your kids in the planning: Have them think about what would be fun to bring in the car and do together while buckled in.

2. Little Surprises: A little positive reinforcement of good behavior goes a long way (like, a couple hundred miles!). My girls behaved nicely for the first few hours of the trip, so I told them I was very proud of them and gave them a little dress-up necklace from the dollar store, it worked like a charm!

3. Quiet Play: Stock your car with lots of quiet activities so you can have some quiet playtime. Crayons and paper, stickers and travel games are all great options.

4. Snacks, snacks and more snacks: Did I mention snacks? Not just for the kids – the driver and the front seat passenger have to be happy too!

5. Playlist: Before your trip, sit down with your little ones and come up with a list of songs that make them happy (Wheels on the bus, ABCs, Old McDonald, etc.); we add little picture references so my girls, who can’t read yet, can still identify the songs on the list.

6. Library Time: Let your kids each select a bunch of books, CDs or DVDs (if you have a portable or installed DVD player) that they are excited to bring on the trip.

7. Comfy & Cozy: Encourage your little ones to bring something soft and cozy from home with them on the ride like a small blanket, pillow or stuffed animal, and let them take off their shoes once they’re buckled in. If you’re lucky, maybe they will doze off for a bit in the back seat.

8. Trash Talk: To help keep your car from getting trashed, set up little garbage bags that are accessible from any seat in the car before you head out.

9. Spontaneous Detour: Unless you are on a really tight schedule, if you spot something on the way that you think could be fun, take the opportunity to stretch your legs and check it out. You never know what unique things you might find! (Our girls spotted an alpaca farm on our trip!)

10. Oldies But Goodies: These classic car trip games can be fun and help pass the time for passengers of all ages: Twenty Questions, License Plate Game, I Spy, Counting Cows, even keeping an eye out for fun colored cars!

For more travel activities for kids and creative ideas on how to keep kids occupied and happy on car trips, visit our Travel with Kids pinterest board.

Do you have any family tricks for road trip success?