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How To Plan A Car Trip With Kids In California

How To Plan A Car Trip With Kids In California

Use these tips and tricks to plan a car trip that’s less stressful and more fun for everyone involved—yes, that includes you.


5 min read

July 12, 2021

As you know, we’re big fans of summer road trips. But when kids are involved, the situation gets a little more complicated. You won’t have to hear the otherwise constant “are we there yet?” or have to deal with fights picked over small inconveniences—grumpy moods prompted by boredom and hunger don't have to be a part of planning a car trip at all.

Use these tips and tricks to plan a car trip that’s less stressful and more fun for everyone involved—yes, that includes you. After all, family road trips don’t really deserve the bad rap they get. If done right, you’ll make some of your favorite memories as a family en route to California’s coolest landmarks

Planning a Car Trip 101

Whether you’re traveling to the beach, national park, or to visit family in another state, a road trip’s journey is as important as its destination.

1. Involve the Kids from the Start

When kids are involved in the planning process from the start, they’re more likely to be excited about the trip. But then again, you don’t want to overwhelm them and then turn down their suggestions either. Make your role as the car road trip planner known and offer them a few parent-approved options to choose from. If the final destination is already decided, ask the little ones to choose a dining stop, games to play, and songs to listen to on the road. 

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2. Make Note of the Interesting Sites Along the Way

A day before hitting the road, map out the interesting landmarks and spots you think the kids would like to check out along the way. This not only makes your duties as the car travel planner easier and more organized, but it also gives your kids things to look forward to throughout the trip. Let them know about the cool sights they get to see along the way and they’ll be more focused on that instead of how long they've been sitting in the car.

You're going to get bored. Your partner is going to get bored. And your kids are going to get bored. Avoid the nagging and plan a roadside picnic.

3. Put Aside Enough Time to Stretch your Legs

Rest stops are crucial to avoid grumpy moods on long road trips. Pack a picnic to stop and enjoy along the way, choose a family-friendly beach to cool off at, or hike a trail to stretch your legs. Depending on the route you’re taking, California has a lot of cool attractions you can incorporate while planning your car trip. Stepping out of the car will not only offer a breath of fresh air and a change of scenery, but it’ll also likely tire your kids out and help them drift off to sleep once they’re back in the car.

4. Pack Healthy and Not-so-Messy Snacks

Pack a small cooler with plenty of water and on-the-road snacks that won’t make too much of a mess. Fresh and dried fruits, organic gummies, and nuts are great healthy treats to bring along, as well as homemade sandwiches for a more filling option. But don’t forget to pack a few cheat snacks and guilty pleasures as well. You don’t have to tell your kids you’re packing the unhealthy options, but you can use it to deescalate a meltdown if they start getting restless on the road.

Sure, you already know to have snacks, books, and toys to keep your kids fed and occupied. But did you pack a travel pillow for them?

5. Don’t Forget Blankets and pillows

It can get hard to pursue the little ones to go to sleep in an unfamiliar setting. Therefore, a blanket, pillow, or stuffed animal from home can prompt a naptime session indirectly. Not to mention the fact that these soft toys and pillows can help prop little heads in place and deal with head-nodding on rougher roads. 

6. Be Prepared for Emergencies

We don’t want to put a damper on your getaway mood, but preparing for unfortunate emergencies of any kind is a crucial part of planning a car trip. To stay on the safer side, pack a roadside emergency kit with extra water, food, clothes, and a first aid kit. Always have a list of emergency contact numbers on a sheet of paper in the car. While we hope you won’t need to use it, in case of an accident, having a list of contact numbers for pediatricians, doctors, roadside emergency hotlines, and relatives can prove to be invaluable.

Fun Games to Play on a Road Trip

1. I Spy

Road trip games are an absolute must when you’re traveling with kids. And what’s the most classic game to play in the car? I Spy, hands down. In case you’re not already familiar with the game, this is how it goes. Someone selects something either in the car or on the road without revealing what it is to the rest of the players. Then, they must repeat the phrase, “I spy with my little eye something that…” and relate it to the answer. Whoever guesses the correct answer first gets to pick an item to describe.

2. The Alphabet Game

Another simple car ride game that gets the job done is the Alphabet Game. The objective here is to look out for signs along the road and find a word that begins with each letter of the alphabet, starting from A to Z. Whoever finds words with all the letters of the alphabet first wins. A game that entertains the kids and improves their spelling? Jackpot.

3. Triple Threat

Triple Threat is a silly game to play on a road trip that’ll get everyone’s creative juices flowing. The adults choose three seemingly unrelated nouns—surfboard, poppy, and handbag, for example—and the kids must take turns crafting a story that includes all three nouns. This simple game will warrant a few laughs for sure. 

4. Name the Artist or Song

This road trip game is pretty straightforward, and you can continue playing it all the way to your destination. The premise is that the first person to name the artist or group when a song comes on gets a point. Whoever has the most points on arrival wins the game. Need a few feel-good songs to make a road trip playlist? We have you covered.

If your kids find everything on the scavenger hunt, they win a prize, perhaps some candy at the next rest stop?

5. Road Trip Scavenger Hunt

This fun game to play in a car requires the most planning of them all, but the good thing is it’s not much of a hassle at all. Make a list of the things you anticipate seeing along the way and write them down on separate sheets for each kid. The objective is to check off as many items on the list as you can. Whoever has more checks by the end of the road trip is the winner. You can include more general and easy-to-spot items such as a motorcycle and an airplane, as well as more specific things like the Route 66 sign if it’s along your way.

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