This week our family loaded up in the car to drive down to South Padre Island for a week-long vacation. I’m so excited to unplug and spend quality time with the boys and my family at the beach. It’s almost a six hour drive from Houston, which means we had to plan ahead to make sure the boys would be entertained!

With my family spread out across Texas (from the valley to north Texas), we don’t think much about hoping in the car for a weekend road trip so the boys can spend time with my parents and their cousins. As the boys have gone through different ages and stages over the years, I have had to expand my tricks for keeping them both from going stir crazy.  I wanted to share some of my recent favorite tips that don’t involve screen time.

For full transparency, I am certainly not above a good movie on a road trip.  In fact, I think it’s the perfect time for one!  But a lot of times your destination (like our drive to SPI) is longer than a movie. Plus, if your kids are like mine, you have to mix it up to keep everyone happily distracted from asking “are we there yet” one more time.  Read on below for how I’ve been keeping the boys entertained on the road, which of course helps keeps us driving parents sane and focused! 😉

Photo courtesy of Sunshine & Hurricanes

1. Kid-Friendly Podcasts

I love listening to podcasts in the car, and there are actually some amazing ones for kids. There are so many podcast topics that kids will love — from princesses and fairy tales to science and music. And I think it really helps with their imagination to have to visualize the story instead of seeing it on a screen! One of our personal favorites is the Disney Story Central Podcast, which reads of all of your kids favorite Disney stories.

2. Sneak in a Bonding Game

Time in the car with your kids is the perfect opportunity to hear about their day or to ask them general questions about their thoughts and feelings. I recently found a list of intentional questions to ask the boys that is so helpful in getting the conversation started. I love hearing Knox and Andrew’s  imaginative and sweet thoughts and opinions at their current ages and will always treasure these car conversations as the years go by.

3. Designated Car “Toy Kit”

Round-up some of your kids’ favorite toys and designate them only for the car. This way, they have some fun things to play with that they know are only for “car time”. Some of our favorites include coloring and sticker books and interactive pop-up books.

car entertainment

Photo courtesy of KC Edventures

4. Healthy Snack Basket

Snacks are an essential for any road trip, but planning ahead and packing your own snacks makes it easier to chow down on healthier options instead of the usual road trip junk food staples like chips and candy. Some of our road trip snacks include fresh fruit, carrot and celery sticks, jerky and a favorite protein bar (our personal favorite are Kind Bars). This also helps avoid any overly cranky moments because of hungry stomachs (for both kids and parents!). 🙂

Photo courtesy of Magnolia Market

5. Exciting Pit Stops

Planning a few pit stops along your route in advance allows you to break up the trip and gives the kids something to look forward to. It can be something as simple as Buc-ee’s or as grand as a major landmark like the Alamo or the Goats on the Roof stop in Georgia. I like picking places that are a nice break for me too, like the Magnolia Market in Waco, TX!

6. Strategic Departure Time

Timing is everything when planning a major road trip with little ones! I’ve found things go a lot smoother when we hit the road right after mealtime so the kids are more likely to sleep through the bulk of the trip. Leaving after lunch should buy you a few hours of afternoon nap bliss, but if you’re going a longer distance and are up for the challenge, leaving after dinner and driving through the night ensures a silent trip as your kids sleep through the night.

Do you have any tips for keeping kids entertained on the road? Please share them in the comments below!