When you’re driving with your kids do you ever stop and think, “How on earth did my parents do this?” Growing up I have vivid road trip memories of my dad pulling over to the side of the road and whipping out the big ol’ trusty atlas. There are many modern road trip tools and apps that make traveling with your family easier than ever before and I don’t know about you, but I am eternally grateful.
Since our family is on the road often, we have learned a thing or two about how to make our drive time with kids enjoyable. Today I’m sharing our favorite resources with you so you can spend more energy creating memories and avoid wasting time searching all over Pinterest for the best tools. Ready to save time and have a more enjoyable trip? Here’s the top 12 tools I use on every family road trip.
12 TOOLS I USE ON EVERY FAMILY ROAD TRIP:
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1. The Notes App
Before we go on our trip I make a list in the notes app on my phone of places that we might like to see. I usually break them up into categories such as Restaurants, Activities, etc. I typically break up the Restaurant category into Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Treats, etc. Then I will write a short note next to the name of the place with what type of food they have and any other special things I would like to remember.
If you’re a paper person, you can also transfer these ideas into the printable travel itinerary to help plan out your trip. You can download the free printable in The Travel Treasury.
2. Google Maps
While it might seem obvious, Google Maps is such a helpful tool for getting directions from point A to point B. I especially love it because it updates in real time and helps you find the fastest route. You can also use filters to avoid toll roads, construction, accidents, etc. Google Maps has saved us so much time and I highly recommend it!
Another way I use Google Maps is to find food stops or gas stations along our route. It’s so handy that you can search along your route so you aren’t spending tons of time stopping at places that are way off the path of where you’re heading. When you’re in the middle of nowhere it’s also nice to know what restaurants are coming up so you can plan out where you’ll be stopping next.
Above all, my favorite not so obvious way to use this app is to find amazing parks to stop at while we are on the road. Making a pit stop at a park is one of the best ways to burn off energy while traveling with kids. In the search here box type ‘playground’ and it will pull up all of the playgrounds near you.
I’m all about finding a great deal while on the road, which is why I really appreciate this one. Gasbuddy helps you search for gas prices by city, state, zip code. So nifty! Your travel budget will thank you for using this helpful app.
The Hotels.com app makes it so easy to book a hotel when you’re on the road and you can usually find a discounted rate for where you want to stay. PLUS, if you login to your account in the hotels.com app, when you stay 10 nights you get 1 FREE! How amazing is that?!
In my book no road trip is complete without a rockstar playlist. With Spotify you can listen by searching by artist, album, and genre. You can even create your own playlist of your favorite songs. At home I typically have music playing from dawn to dusk, so Spotify Premium is totally worth it for our family. But, I especially love it for road trips because you can download music for offline listening. Which is really helpful when you’re in the middle of nowhere with limited cell reception.
Listening to audio books is an engaging way to beat the boredom of long days on the road. It also creates some really special memories with your family. We love to listen on Audible, but there are lots of other free options as well. Check with your local library to see if they have the option available to download audio books.
Favorite Audio Books on Audible: (Click the images below for more information on each book and to purchase on Audible)
7. Backseat Car Organizer
Who knew that you could get SO passionate about a car organizer, but goodness this has been such a game changer for our family. This is the car organizer that we have and I highly recommend it. It has the perfect amount of storage space and it gives the girls easy access to books and activities.
For safety reasons, I also really like that it can be secured using the seatbelt through the back loop so it’s not flying around the car. It also has two handles which makes carrying it in and out of the car a breeze.
8. Pit Stop Fun Box
Put a few simple items in a small bag or box in the back of your car to make pit stops extra fun! What should you include? How about bubbles, a ball, a toss and catch game, a frisbee, picnic blanket, etc. Basically anything to help your kids move and get their energy out when you take a break at a rest stop.
Roadtrippers is an amazing app that helps you find unique places to stop along the way. This is such a fun tool to find unique places to stop on your grand adventure—sometimes things you didn’t even know existed!
10. Snack Box
I think it’s pretty safe to say that having great snacks is an unwritten rule when going on a road trip. Especially if you are going on a road trip with kids, snacks are a must. But if you’re anything like me, sometimes the struggle is real and I get stuck in a snack rut and can’t for the life of me think of new ideas for what to bring along. Never fear, friend. Here’s some of our favorites to help you mix it up!
RELATED: THE BEST ROAD TRIP SNACKS FOR KIDS
11. Movies + Kid-Friendly Shows
While I love finding lots of fun screen free ways to engage our family while on the road, I’m not above letting my kids watch shows and movies while we are en route to our destination. With Netflix or Prime Video you can download shows/movies so your kids can watch them without streaming. Another tip is to rent movies along the way at Redbox.
Pinterest is my go to search for finding fun things to do in a city we are going to. I love it because you can usually find great tips and reviews from real life families who have been to a destination you are going to (or are considering).
When we are in the process of planning a trip, I like to create a secret board on Pinterest to save any ideas that I find. That way, when I’m creating our itinerary I have these ideas saved and ready to pull from. Examples of things to search for: Restaurants in [city], Kid-Friendly things to do in [city], Family Activities to do in [city].
So there you have it! The 12 tools we use on every family road trip. I’m seriously so thankful for the vast amount of resources that are out there to help make traveling with kids much easier, because we all know that when you’re traveling with kids sometimes you need all the help you can get. What tool(s) are you excited to use on your next trip? I’d love to hear! Happy traveling!