How to have an enjoyable family road trip with kids and teenagers

Children upset in car

Jessica Taylor Yates

Posted September 14, 2023

Family road trips are one of the best ways to get out of town and see the beauty of Australia. But it’s also the kind of adventure that can turn sour very quickly.  

Times have changed since the parents of today were thrown in the back of a station wagon to play ‘I Spy’ – the only form of entertainment on the open road.

These days, not only are there in-car activities for a long car trip with kids and teenagers, but plenty to look at from your passenger window, from a list of ‘Big Things’ to great playlists and art to spot along the freeways of Victoria.

Whether it’s a day trip, Victorian getaway, or full blown interstate road trip, being in the car for hours on end can be cumbersome – but there are ways to make the journey part of the holiday.

From what you should pack to where you should stop, here’s how to survive a road trip with the whole family ranging from kids to teenagers - without making empty threats to turn the car right back home again. 

Tips for long car trips with kids and teenagers

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 current 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 and fill up on petrol early to save and give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination, making the trip as stress-free as possible.

Always let someone know your destination and when you are scheduled to return. 

Is everyone in the family comfortable in the car?

There’s nothing worse than feeling cramped for an extended period. That two-door sportscar might have been trendy in your 20s, but with three surly teenagers in the back, it may not be as comfortable.

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 teenagers and adults, backrests, a travel pillow and a car that is clean and organised.

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 an icy pole 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 and teens.


Road trip safety tips check list

Before you head off on your road trip, complete this safety check list.


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.

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.

Here’s some great places to stop on the Great Ocean Road and the Hume Highway.

Have you got a contingency plan?

It’s always good to carry extras for those ‘just in case’ moments in an emergency car kit. As well as running through a Road Trip Checklist, make sure you are carrying items 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 or printed map
  • phone charger
  • snacks
  • water

Do you know the road rules for the place you are going?

While a lot of Victoria has similar road rules – for example, we all stick to the left – rules can change slightly depending on the city or state you are in. Whether it’s Melbourne’s famous hook turns to Sydney’s one-way streets, make sure you understand the road rules of the destination you are heading in. 


dog happy on back

Kids aren't the only ones in the car who might want a break! Image: Getty.


How to entertain kids and teenagers on long drives

Luckily, parents these days no longer need to undertake multiple rounds of 'I Spy' to keep kids 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 for this – download shows ahead of time on Wi-Fi to avoid excess data charges and inevitable drop out zones; and have chargers and/or back-up battery devices and extension cords easily accessible. 

We've also provided a list of games to play in the car that can entertain kids and kids-at-heart.

Plan where you are going to stop on your road trip

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. 

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.


RACV Emergency Roadside Assistance gives you peace of mind on your journey.
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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.