Cragmama "Not all who wander are lost…" JRR Tolkien

5 Essentials for Eas(ier) Family Road-Trippin’

The following piece was adapted from a piece I wrote for another site several weeks ago, but with those last fleeting weeks of summer on the horizon, it seemed relevant to post here for families looking to do one more trip before school starts!  Not to mention, Diono has offered to sponsor a giveaway of not one, but TWO of the items featured on the gear list!  So get comfortable and read on…

Ah, the family road trip.  There’s nothing like an 8 hour car ride to get your family vacation started on the right (or wrong) foot!  If your adventuring family is anything like ours (ie you don’t have an unlimited supply of cash, frequent flyer miles, or world-class destinations in your backyard) you are probably racking up more mileage on your bumper-sticker laden SUV than you’d like to admit.  And all that mileage adds up to a lot of hours in the car together…very close together, maybe even touching, since your tent, camp stove, and backpacks are taking up the majority of the backseat.  So how do you make all those long cramped, hours in the car manageable?  The following items won’t get you there any sooner, but hopefully will help the time fly by faster.


C is settled in for the long drive to the Red River Gorge, KY

While ordinarily our family tries to minimize our TV time by maximizing our outdoor time, road trips are a rare exception.  A long car ride is the one time that our son is allowed to watch TV for hours on end.  Therefore, he’s the first to start packing when we say the words “road trip!”  There are a wide range of sizes, specs, and prices to choose from, but a portable DVD player with a 7-9 inch screen should fit perfectly in a child’s lap.  One essential feature to look for is a power adapter for the car, allowing the player to stay fully charged even on long trips. 

This piece of gear goes hand in hand with the previous one, because after the 5th round of Thomas the Train, you’ll be thankful you bought these!  And for families with multiple kiddos, headphones are a great way to keep the peace when musical tastes vary.  These headphones may be designed for little ears, but they boast the same high quality components found in most standard adult headphones. This can be interfaced with a premium 13 inch gaming laptop perfectly built for kids, who then would find less reasons to be finicky on the roadtrip. A built-in volume control knob featuring the proprietary KidzControl Volume Limit Technology is a comforting safety spec for new users! 

C groovin' with his new phones...

C groovin’ with his new phones…

When your kids need a break from their handheld gaming devices, take this oldie-but-goodie out for some educational family fun!  This is not your grandma’s license plate game.  Well, actually it is…just wrapped up in a sturdy, colorful, reusable package!  Kids of all ages will enjoy scanning the roads searching for more license plates to flip over – and the best part is that there are no loose pieces to keep track of when you’re all done!

license plate gme

Do you ever wish your child had a table top built into their car seat for snacks, writing, drawing, or even reading?  Your budding artist will have a perfectly flat space in which to color with the Star Kids Snack n Play, and other riders won’t have to constantly pick up rolling crayons!  Secured by straps that buckle around your child’s car seat, this brilliant product also features two side mesh pockets – perfect for storing a host of entertainment options!

snack and play

DIONO CAR ORGANIZERS:  If your family is anything like ours, car clutter can easily get out of control…especially on family vacations!  Luckily, Diono offers several mess-free storage options that will keep everything you and your child needs on the road at your fingertips.  Our family was lucky enough to try two – the Baby Organizer and Stow ‘n Go.  Both provide an array of mesh and zippered pockets, and both fit securely to the back of the passenger seat.  The Baby Organizer is a little more versatile – it can conveniently zip together to carry as a bag, as well as attach to a stroller.  But both products get the thumbs up from us!


Diono Organizer



Diono Stow n Go

Many thanks to Kidz Gear and Diono for supplying some of the products tested in this piece – as always, however, the opinions expressed are my own, and cannot be bought!  And speaking of Diono, they’ve offered up a Baby Organizer AND Stow ‘n Tow as prizes for two lucky readers!  To enter, all you have to do is leave your best road trip advice/gear/strategies in a comment below. (Contestt will run through Friday, August 15).   Give Diono and/or Cragmama a like on facebook to get yourself more chances to win (just be sure to let me know so I can give you extra entries!)  Happy road-tripping!  (And good luck…)


34 Responses to “5 Essentials for Eas(ier) Family Road-Trippin’”

  1. Luke

    We do several 6+hr road trips per year and typically one over 12hrs. Having a notebook and crayons gives the kids tons of entertainment and bringing along a music maker toy to let them play along to the radio keeps them happy, you just have to be tone deaf!

    Both pages liked.


  2. Addy

    Those organizers look like a great solution for our yearly road trips to Canada! I like both pages on FB too! We’d love to win one!


  3. Addy

    We always play “let’s find a…” and there person who finds that thing gets the next turn. Keeps my little one occupied for hours looking outside!


  4. Laurissa

    The munchie mug! A total must have to keep the cheerios IN the bowl for self-feeding-toddlers. And we really like camelbak sippy cups with the flip top, absolutely spill proof for milk and water. Great ideas on your post. I like the travel organizers! (Liked Cragmama and Diono pages). Cheers!


  5. Amy

    Hope they sleep. We have avoided being in the car unless we are desperate. My son has hated his car seat since he was born. We once did a week camp trip to Telluride about a 7 hour car ride and he slept for most of it. We were amazed and so happy to have been able to enjoy our drive. Now we are moving back to the east coast and anticipate more driving for trips. He’s 16 months and I would be lying if I didn’t admit to trying to get him hooked on some sort of TV show or movie, I think we might discover our magic bullet soon. We also bring lots of snacks and true not to do longer drives alone so someone can jump in back to entertain. I liked both pages 😉


  6. betsy

    Wow! Just in time for our next adventure with our little one! Thanks so much for sharing these! In fact, I have ordered the kidz headphones already! We are flying to CO and road tripping to Crested Butte over Labor Day and I had been thinking of what I could add to our travel essentials. In the past she was young enough that all we needed were snacks, some milk and a lovie for her to cuddle up with. Now that we have a fully active toddler on our hands this latest family trip could be an interesting one! I love the snack and play idea and tried to order one of those but they are out of stock 🙁
    Aside from snacks and drinks, our travel essentials include an iPad for cartoons and games. A few smaller easily packable toys and books seems to have also kept our kiddo happy in the past. I am thinking about adding a coloring book and crayons to the mix. Hopefully all these tricks will still work!
    My only advice that I would throw out there with traveling is, if possible when flying, we try to pick and evening flight to encourage sleeping. Since we mostly fly to Colorado we pick the last direct flight out of our hometown to CO at the near bedtime hours for our little one and that seems to help us. Not sure it works for everyone but it does seem to help us!


  7. Bronny

    We play classic road trip games!

    both pages liked


  8. When the kids get older, check out letterboxing. It’s been a great way for our family to break up long trips by car.


  9. Diana

    We go on lots of long road trips and snacks are totally essential! My kids also really like music and audiobooks.


  10. We always bring a windshield reflector on any summer trip. Helps make getting in the car a little easier when it’s hot out. Also, another tip for cooling hot cars is opening two opposite doors asap to get a cross-breeze!


  11. Rebecca Brewer

    Fortunately our family lives close enough that we can drive, but far enough that it’s a little hard on the kiddos. We try to go at night, at least partly, so they can sleep and be ready to play in the morning. It also makes for fewer potty stops when they are sleeping. I also try to take the training potty along since they are still small enough that they fit the potty but not big enough to hold it to the next stop.


  12. Rebecca Brewer

    Already like Cragmama on facebook:)


  13. Erica

    Luke – I like the music maker toy idea!

    Addy – The “Let’s Find a….” is another great idea. We do that in restaurants a lot too!

    Laurissa – It’s amazing how much entertainment a bowl of Cheerios can provide, especially for the younger toddler set!

    Amy and Betsy – Naptime/bedtime are definitely the most peaceful driving scenarios!

    Bronny – you can’t go wrong with the classics! 🙂

    John – I had to google letterboxing, since I’d actually never heard the term before. Definitely looks like good (and educational) entertainment for older children, thanks for sharing the idea!

    Diana – Amen to snacks.

    Sarah – The windshield reflector is definitely a good idea, especially if you make a lot of stops where the car is turned off and starts baking.

    Rebecca – Yup, potty issues add a whole ‘nother dimension when it comes to road trips 🙂


  14. AmyK

    I buy a few new (cheap) toys/books to surprise my daughter with on the trip. Makes a great reward for a well behaved girl 🙂 Also, I always download a new movie and game app on the ipad.


  15. AmyK

    like Diono on FB


  16. AmyK

    like Cragmama on FB


  17. Keri

    My best tip is to be over prepared. I travel alone a lot this summer with my 2 and 3yo boys while hubby was working and I found that if I had more than enough snacks, more than enough games/movies, and a bunch of toys for them to play with (coloring, a few blocks, etc) that the ride went smoother. My 2yo would sleep most of the time and my 3yo would play by himself. If my 3yo was not entertained, he would wake the 2yo and it was all down hill from there.
    I liked both pages.


  18. Andrea Masterson

    Before a road trip I stock up on a few small toys or crafty items that won’t make a mess in the car. The greatest “toy” on our last trip was a package of pipe cleaners. My daughter spent hours bending them into all kinds of things. By the time we got to our destination she had made herself a bracelet, a necklace, and eyeglasses. Lol. Even my husband got into and took requests from it younger daughter for butterflies, flowers, etc. Cheap and entertaining!


  19. Andrea Masterson

    I like both pages on Facebook.


  20. Jessica Fletcher

    Lots of snacks and surprise/new toys!

    And I like both on Facebook!!


  21. Tara

    My girls (5 & 2) love mini characters, whether they are Disney, fairies or dinosaurs, they can play for hours with them. Coloring/drawing is another big road trip must for us.
    My oldest loves to play eye spy and her own version of 20 questions and her sister is slowly beginning to play these as well.
    We took a cross country trip last year (CT – CO), and the “Road Trip Fairy” stopped by every so often and dropped off new little trinkets to occupy the time in the car. The dollar store was great for these things. From pipe cleaners, more mini character, matchbox cars and of course more crayons and paper! At the end of the trip the fairy left a special gift for being such great travelers!


  22. Elyssa

    I like to bring a cooler with healthy snacks to avoid the junk in gas stations. Everything sliced and in small individual serving containers for easy access. Also bubble water especially when driving thru various altitudes as it seems to help with ear popping.Growing up my grade school (all 30 or so of us) would go on road trips. The lead teacher would pass around lemon drops every hour or so. It seemed to settle stomachs – I don’t remember a single kid getting sick and we were not doing much freeway driving. 🙂

    Liked both pages 🙂


  23. Mi Webber

    Always have wetwipes and extra diapers handy. Take lots of breaks on long road trips and bring a ball to throw around.

    P.S. I gave Diono and Cragmama a like on facebook.


  24. Jenny

    Thanks! We take a lot of snacks and movies. We also keep a magma doodle for drawing. Would love to be a winner!


  25. Amie

    Taking our ipad is a must. We are in the car every week going to and from the doctor for my son. Headphones are on my must have list now!


  26. Amie

    Liking both pages on facebook!


  27. Erica

    Amy K – We don’t have an iPad, but I’m all about adding educational apps to my iPhone!

    Keri – With toddlers, I don’t think you can ever be TOO prepared 🙂 Good on you for doing so much traveling with 2 young ones!

    Andrea – It’s amazing how creative kids can be, isn’t it!

    Jessica – Amen for the never-ending car snacks 🙂

    Jenny – The Magma Doodle sounds cool – might have to put it on C’s wish list!

    Amie – The headphones are a must for our sanity 😉

    Tara – I love the road trip fairy idea 🙂

    Elyssa – I’d never heard the lemon drop trick, I’ll have to try it next time we’re winding through those horrible mountain roads at night!

    Mi – Even though we’re out of the diaper stage, we still can’t seem to ever have enough wet wipes!


  28. Erica

    And thanks to all for the extra facebook likes!


  29. Trudy

    We always did things similar to the license plate game as kids. I have 2 kids and most of our travel is through the prairies in Canada, so we sometimes have contests for who spots cows or horses etc first. When it’s dark out, the kids like to make up their own constellation names in the stars.

    Your little guy is very cute, perhaps a piece on car seat safety would be a great addition to summer tips. Things like adjusting the harness to the right height (straps should be at or above the shoulders where they come out of the seat for a forward-facing child,) and tightening the harness are just as important as finding activities to keep our little ones busy.

    Thanks for the ideas and happy travels.


    • Erica

      Trudy – I was always a fan of the cows/horses game myself growing up whenever road trips involved lots of farm country. As far as the carseat goes, the straps are incorrect as pictured and I realize that now (after being berated and attacked publicly on the internet). Thank you for sharing your knowledge in a kind and encouraging way rather than making judgmental assumptions.

  30. You’d think we’d already have one of those nifty organizers with as many road trips as we do. We do have the iPad, headphones and that exact snack and play tray. 🙂


  31. Like Cragmama on FB. 🙂


  32. Anabel Escorcia

    I liked both pages


  33. Juneko

    Mostly following for ideas since my little man is only 7 months and can’t play long by himself. But we definitely bring his favorite car toys and try to time a nap into the drive.

    Already liked cragmama!


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“Not all who wander are lost.” —JRR TOLKIEN