Are We There Yet? How to Survive a Family Car Trip!


car trip with kids

Every weekend I look forward to spending quality time with my family. I am always on the hunt for something to do together, whether it’s a trip to the grocery store or grabbing a bite to eat after enjoying a little retail therapy. Now that I have expressed the joy these precious moments give me, let me take the gloves off! The truth of the matter is that the family car trip struggle is real!

Whether it is a quick car trip to the local mall or a road trip for a well-thought-out and perfectly planned family-friendly weekend getaway, we all know that there is absolutely no guarantee of a smooth ride!

Before having children, I used to get a good laugh watching the commercials with the children in the back seat repeating, “Are we there yet?” every two minutes. The reality is that children are simply voicing the question that is on repeat in our heads as we navigate through the chaos happening in the back seat!

Sorry ladies, you will have to wait for the post on surviving your spouse as a “co-pilot.” However, in the meantime, check out these car trip survival tips based on age group!

Infant ( 0-12 months)

Not big enough to self-soothe just yet. Still looking and listening for mama.

  • Make sure the baby has a travel buddy! There’s nothing like a familiar face—trade off sitting in the back seat with your spouse. Big brothers and sisters will also do the trick. If it’s just you and your little one, a security blanket or favorite plush toy makes a great runner up to someone physically keeping them company back there.
  • If the baby is of the teething age, you will not want to hit the road without a toy or two for gnawing! Pack a couple if one doesn’t do the trick; different textures offer different types of relief.
  • Distraction can be a great thing. Be sure to set up a couple of toys that light up and/or play music. If you don’t have any on hand, your version of Twinkle Twinkle or the ABCs should help keep the baby entertained.

Toddler (1-4 years)

These little ones want you to know they are not babies! However, they still aren’t quite big enough to keep themselves entertained for long.

  • Snacks, snacks, and more snacks! Now is not the time to be a modest mama. I know nothing gets my toddler in line like the mention of a special treat. The mission is to make it to the destination with minimal chaos.
  • Be glad that these are still semi-simple times. At this age, you can still get away with a good sing-along or a distracting game of “I spy.”
  • Travel buddies are still important at this age. Make sure that your little one has their favorite truck, doll, or whatever they are into with them for the car trip.

Little Kid (5-10)

Big enough to entertain themselves for the most part but still not mature enough to refrain from letting you know how bored they are!

  • Snacks are still a big hit for these guys! Be sure to space them out, though, and offer different snacks at different times. You do not want to make it halfway there and be out of sweet bribes!
  • Get crafty. Your kids are likely mature enough to be trusted with writing utensils unsupervised in the back seat at this age. Pack a coloring or activity book. (There are great mess-free options out there as well for those who aren’t quite ready for unsupervised drawing).
  • The radio is still a great distraction. Let them pick the tune. You may not be fond of the rhythm, but it sure beats the sound of bickering in the back seat!

Big Kid/Pre teens/teens (10 & up)

Everything you say or suggest will go in one ear and out the other! This is the go ahead and “do you” stage.

  • Snacks are still in! However, not the kind that you pack nicely in the lunchbox. Let them pick out what they want in advance. Gum and sugary treats get to make this car trip! It’s ok to let your guard down this once, mama; we cant balance out the healthy snacks all the time.
  • Electronics for the win! Let them use their tablets/iPads. If you have set screen time in your home, you may want to squeeze in this extra window.
  • This is going to hurt me to type, but I know someone else needs to hear it! Do not cue the family sing-along as soon as they buckle their seat belts. Let them be until they seem like they need a little coaching. Sometimes it is best to sit back and enjoy the ride.

You know your family better than anyone else! Remember that you have to do what works best for you at all times. Get comfortable with the idea of being a little bit late. Life happens! The mission of the car trip is to arrive at your destination safely. Sometimes, we have to adjust the timelines to make sure that everyone is happy and healthy. Real friends will understand!