Ten tips to survive a road trip with children

Expert action mama Charmaine Vaughan aka 'Buzzy in the 'burbs' has been on many a road trip with her kids - and she's here to share her top tips to help everyone stay sane on long journeys in the car. 

Introducing Charmaine in the first ever Eardrops guest blog post! 


Taking a trip in the car with your kids. Madness? No way!

B.C (before children) I loved road tripping with my then boyfriend (now husband). We would throw ourselves in the car with reckless abandon with some drinks, a bag of chips and a mix tape and go explore. Fast forward a few years and two kids and the packing takes a while longer, the snacks are more extensive and the mix tape is an audio book. Oh my how times have changed.

Over the years we have explored extensively with our kids including almost monthly trips to Rotorua (a 3 hour trip that can be up to 4 hours depending on traffic), 3 weeks round the South Island - and for the most part our kids are good at sitting in the car. In fact, we just drove 5 hours to Napier and actually described the trip as enjoyable - and yes the kids were in the car with us.

Like any part of adventuring and exploring with kids it takes training, and this starts when they are young. So no matter how young your kids they are always ready to discover the joys of roadtripping. To make sure it’s a pleasant experience for everyone I have put together my 10 top tips for road tripping with littlies and not so littlies. Good luck for your trip!


Car packed ready to drive...

arrived intact... magnificent!


1.  Travel at sleep time  

If your kids are still having a nap during the day then this is a great time to travel, leave just before nap time or travel in the evening.

2.  Pack lots of little snacks and water

Nothing seems to make children (and adults?!) as hungry as sitting in the car.

3.  Pack a container to catch what comes up

While we are on the subject of food – always have a container ready for what comes up as quickly as it goes down. Gross, I know. I have a container in the front of the car with ‘car essentials’ in; wipes, hand sanitiser, sunscreen - and the second a kid mentions feeling queasy I upend that container and hand it over!

4.  Sing

Old MacDonald had a farm can have a lot of choruses when you have some miles to cover. And kids are never too old to sing (it’s just the songs that change as they grow up) and we can pass many a happy mile singing along with the radio.

5.  Play games

'I spy' is always a winner as is 'I went to the moon and I took...' (if you aren’t familiar with the 'I went' game ... go round the car with each person taking something to the moon in alphabetical order and remembering all the things before them). This one's good for the parent’s grey matter as well.

6.  Toys

Let the kids take a few toys in the car that they pack themselves. My children always take their soft toys and can happily pass the time play acting with their toys.

7.  Tell stories

Often as we are travelling somewhere with the kids, my husband and I will have already been there (albeit in another lifetime) but it’s fun to relieve the memories, plus the kids really like hearing that we had a life before they came along. Even if its somewhere we go all the time (like our trips to Rotorua) we can tell many a story about all the different friends who have come away with us or the different mountain bike rides we have done.

8.  Listen

If you get worn out telling stories then of course you can leave the storytelling to the professionals and pick up some audio books (from the library or you can download). Of course for young children the Eardrops audio stories are great as not only is it passing the time its educational so you win on both fronts.

9.  Don't stop too often

Some people say take lots of frequent stops for kids but we always tried to drive for 2-3 hours before stopping and it has really got our kids used to sitting in the car. Now they are older, toilet stops aside, we can drive for 3 hours easily with no long stops.

10.  Screens (as a last resort)

Yes there is always a screen that could entertain your child from the minute you leave home but then they would be missing all the amazing sights out the window. As a last resort we use some screen time but I really think we are doing our children a favour in the long term by teaching them to sit quietly with the scenery, be mindful and enjoy the world around them.


So there you have it - the low down from me, Buzzy in the 'burbs. We are lucky in New Zealand to live in an amazing country, just made for road trips. With a bit of planning you can enjoy the journey with your kids at any age.

Charmaine xx



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