40+ Tips for Trips with Toddlers and Preschoolers

Road trip ideas including activities to entertain your kids, crafts that are car-friendly, snack suggestions, and random other tidbits that might help you in your road-trip this summer.


road trip



  • Get a bunch of Dollar Store toys (stickers, figurines/dolls, felt boards, trinkets, magnifying glass, noise makers, etc). Individually wrap them before hand so part of the fun is unwrapping them.
  • Make a map of your journey and track it with the kids “ as you reach certain points they can get a toy/snack.   This teaches them map skills while also occupying them with toys and the anticipation of the destination.   You can laminate it and write on the laminated map with a wipeable marker/crayon.
  • Mini-white board “ Color with dry erase markers (these can stain your carseat cover or kids clothes) or with the new Crayola wipeable crayons (these don’t stain).     Take a CD case and replace the cover with white paper.   You can store a tissue, or better yet, a dried out diaper wipe “ they are more sturdy “ to wipe with inside the case.   It is an instant mini-white board.   Another adaptation, use a hand held mirror to color on.   Magnadoodles are great too!
  • Books on CD “ or better yet, read to the kids aloud, but then,   CDs take up less space.
  • Let them take pictures of what you are driving by with a disposable or better yet, a digital camera (if you trust them with it).
  • A Box of Bandaids = let them play Dr. 
  • I spy  Jar: Make a jar of tiny treasures (paper clips, candy, hairbow, button, penny, ring, key, etc.).   Fill the jar with rice, wheat, dried lentils, whatever, and glue the lid onto the jar.   Have the kids find the items by turning the jar.
  • Blow bubbles out the window or at the kids “ you don’t want to do this too often as things can get sticky, but it is all washable.
  • Flashlight “ the kind with different colored lights is best.       A great way to entertain them once it is dark out “ assuming you couldn’t get them to go to sleep.
  • Toy magazines “ these keep my kids entertained for hours.   You can even let them cut out pictures of the things they want and make a wish list  collage if you are feeling adventurous.
  • DVD and a portable player for when you are desperate.
  • Other Random Games like I spy ,   the alphabet game or license plates, etc.   This site has a list of a dozen or so.

Art in the car:

  • Body art = those washable tattos are always fun, but the kids can also draw on themselves with washable markers.   It is a great way to entertain them and sure to get lots of laughs!   Light colored markers wash off the carseat covers easily (like yellow, light blue, pink, etc.).   We had some stains with the black and dark blue markers.
  • Aluminum Foil “ use it to bunch and mold into shapes.
  • Make paperbag puppets.   Tie the crayons/markers to their carseats with string so they can’t loose them if they are dropped.
  • Pipecleaners.   Make into jewelry, animals, springs, braid, etc.
  • Ink Pad “ finger print creations.   Inspired by Draw Thumb People.   Let your kids make finger prints and transform them into a variety of creatures.
  • Board Game Bag “ If your kids enjoy board games, here is a site that explains how to make your own board game bag.   They use it for checkers and Tic-Tac-Toe, but it can be adapted to use for Make a Match  or Bingo.

Snack Ideas for your trip:

  • Boxes of raisins, string cheese, crackers, grapes, apple slices, juice boxes,
  • Surprise  Mix: Nuts, M&Ms, dried fruit, granola, goldfish crackers, pretzels, gummy fruit snacks.   They get a scoop of the mix and it is different each time.   Half the fun is picking out what they want to eat out of the mix first!
  • Fruit roll-ups or fruit leather.
  • Pepperoni slices “ not super healthy, but my kids enjoy them and they are a source of protein on a long carb-packed trip.

Must pack items:

  • Bring LOTS of ziplock baggies.   They are great for everything!
  • diaper wipes (even if your kids are potty trained!)
  • a first aid kit with tylenol (for both kids and adults)
  • a few dishtowels for spills and with a clothespin they become bibs
  • bottle bungees can be used to contain toys too
  • sippy cups “ even if your kids have grown out of them
  • Painter tape “ the kids can play with it, you can use it to label things and it can be used to cover outlets in hotels.   Painter tape is better than masking tape as it is removable without harming the surfaces it was on.

Things to play with at your destination “ assuming you are not at home but don’t have toys when you get there and have limited space in the car:

  • Box = tunnel, house, decorate it, etc.
  • Beach ball or other inflatable ball
  • Balloons
  • Shaving Cream
  • Sheet = tent, dress up, bouncing things, etc.

Random Tips:

  • Cover your seats with a sheet “ this means all you have to do is unhook the car seats, shake the sheet out and you suddenly have a clean car again!
  • If your kids are potty trained, put a disposable diaper into the bottom of your portable or toddler potty.   This will save you from having to use the nasty gas station bathrooms.   The diaper in the potty will soak up the urine and limit spills till you can find a place to dispose of the waste.
  • Pack the night before and leave as early as you can.   Hopefully, the kids will sleep through most of the morning!
  • Try to limit your stops, but when you do stop plan on stopping for at least an hour so the kids can burn some energy.

This article was written by Rachel, mom to three under three.   Check out her blog, Quirky Momma, for lots of other tips to keep your sanity, learning activities and messy games to fill your day with fun.

One Comment

  1. Rachel…these are such excellent tips/advice! We travel a lot with our children to visit the grandparents and I am always looking for some sanity savers!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *