How to survive the family road trip

Children upset in car

Jessica Taylor Yates

Posted June 28, 2021

So, the school holidays are once again upon us.

With international flights grounded, this means a return to the good old-fashioned family road trip. However, times have changed since today’s parents were thrown in the back of a station wagon when only ‘I Spy’ was used as road trip ‘entertainment’. From what you should pack to where you should stop, here’s how to survive the family road trip without making empty threats to turn the car right back home again. 

Tips for long car trips with kids

Do you know where you're going on your road trip?

It sounds simple, but ensure you've got all the directions you'll need to get you to your destination and you are aware of any issues such as roadworks, weather forecasts and any scheduled events that may affect your journey. If you haven’t yet decided, we have some great ideas on road trips you can take around Australia.

If you can, try to leave early and give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination to make the trip as stress-free as possible. Remember also to let someone know where you are going.

Have you got cover if something goes wrong?

The last thing you want on a family road trip is for something to go wrong with the car and having no solution in sight. Ensure you have adequate car insurance and emergency roadside assistance so you can get help as quickly as possible in case the unexpected happens on your journey.

Is everyone in the family comfortable in the car?

There’s nothing worse than feeling cramped for an extended period of time. That two-door sportscar might have been cool in your 20s, but with three surly teenagers in the back? No thanks. Try to ensure everyone is as comfortable as possible – for younger kids, this may mean adding some pillows and a blanket (and rotation for the dreaded middle seat), and for adults, backrests, a travel pillow and a clean car. Make sure you’re dressed comfortably, too – you’re going to be sitting for some time! 

Has your car had a recent vehicle inspection?

Remember being trapped in your parents' Volvo with nothing but a roll-down window and Sunny Boy to cool you down on a 40-degree day? Not everything nostalgic is better. Ensure your car is up to date with its service requirements and everything is in good working order for a long road trip with kids.

Kids smiling in back of packed car

That's more like it! Image: Getty.


Do you have food and drink prepared?

Often on road trips, the only places to stop are service stations and fast-food restaurants which can have long queues and unhealthy options. Plus, then your car gets covered in chip crumbs. Make sure you bring along snacks and enough water (with reusable drink bottles), or if you don’t have time, think about building in a stop or two to unwind at a local café or general store.

Have you got a contingency plan?

It’s always good to carry extras for those ‘just in case’ moments in a Survival Car Kit, such as:

  • wet wipes
  • nappies (if needed)
  • toilet paper
  • jumpers or coats
  • bathers and towels
  • torch
  • cash
  • socks
  • First Aid kit
  • extra water
  • jumper leads
  • a paper map
  • phone charger

What is the car entertainment set up like?

Luckily, parents these days no longer need to undertake 16 rounds of spotting various number plates and yellow cars to keep children entertained for hours on end. Look into what you can do to make the trip more enjoyable – a tablet or two in the backseat with headphones; colouring; books; a great playlist of tunes or audio books; and interesting areas to look at along the way. Remember to plan ahead for this – download shows ahead of time on wifi to avoid excess data charges and inevitable drop out zones; and have chargers and/or back-up battery devices and extension cords easily accessible. 

Is your road trip Covid-safe?

Unfortunately, the 'new normal' means being adequately prepared for health issues and last-minute changes. Ensure you are up to date with the latest Covid restrictions along your route, and that you have adequately prepared to be Covid-safe along your journey with masks, hand sanitiser, wet-wipes and the latest travel information.

Have you factored in stops along the way?

A long leg of driving with the kids can seem daunting even for the most eager of road trippers. If time allows, think about breaking up your trips with stops along the way that you’ve planned out in advance for eating, toilet breaks, stretching your legs and having a scenic tour. It’s a great way to support the local communities, learn about the area – and just might help you survive that road trip after all. 


The information provided is general advice only. Before making any decisions please consider your own circumstances and the Product Disclosure Statement and Target Market Determinations. For copies, visit As distributor, RACV Insurance Services Pty Ltd AFS Licence No. 230039 receives commission for each policy sold or renewed. Product(s) issued by Insurance Manufacturers of Australia ABN 93 004 208 084 AFS Licence No. 227678.