Traveling by Car With Kids? 3 Investments Worth Making

by Maurie Backman | Updated Aug. 12, 2021 - First published on June 27, 2021

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Three children rough housing in back seat of a vehicle.

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These purchases could make a road trip much easier on everyone.

This summer, a lot of people may hit the road after spending most of 2020 close to home. If you're thinking of taking a road trip rather than dealing with airports and airlines when things are still iffy on the coronavirus front, then you may be looking at a day of driving, or several days on the road.

Take it from me -- while road trips can be awesome, they can also be challenging with children. I've traveled across the country three times with school-aged kids, and I've also done trips up and down the East Coast. After that much time on the road, I've learned a thing or two about making those long driving days more bearable for everyone.

If you're hitting the road with kids, I suggest you add these items to your trip budget. They were really a lifeline for me.

1. A tablet for each child

You might think you've got entertainment handled if your car has a DVD player. But what happens when each child wants to watch something different? That's where tablets come in. You can preload tablets with content so your kids can choose what they want to watch. The result? No fighting -- a glorious thing when you're stuck in a car together.

2. A pair of headphones for each child

At some point, you might have one of those magical moments when all your children agree on the movie to watch. It still pays to invest in headphones. The reason? While your kids may be thrilled to enjoy their go-to cartoon flick, you may not want to listen to it for 90 minutes. If you buy headphones that work with your car's entertainment system, your kids can watch and listen while you enjoy the silence, engage in conversation with your partner, or play some music of your own.

3. A large cooler

Kids have a way of getting hungry when they're bored. And they also have a way of getting impatient when you're 80 miles from the nearest rest stop and they suddenly decide they must eat lunch at 11:15 in the morning. That's where a pre-packed cooler becomes your friend. On our trips, we typically run into a convenience or grocery store before a long day of driving and stock up on ice packs, cheese sticks, yogurts, and other lunch foods. That way, we can feed our kids any time, and we don't have to waste time stopping for food if a restaurant isn't right off the highway. Plus it's a bit less unhealthy than eating fast food for days.

Traveling by car as a family can be a fun experience. When you take a road trip, you can discover new things along the way and visit places you never would've known about had you not seen a sign for them. But when there are kids in the mix, a car trip can be tricky. Do yourself a favor and add the above items to your packing list.

And, if you don't already have one, don't forget to apply for a credit card that rewards you generously for gas fill-ups. Similarly, you may want a card that gives you cash back for hotel stays so you can bank additional rewards in your travels. That way, you'll have an easier time swinging a follow-up road trip. Convincing your kids to go on one, however, may be a different story.

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