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Large Family Road Trip Hacks and Tips from Moms with Lots of Kids

Learn the best travel advice from other large family moms and make your next vacation smooth and fun!

It's family vacation season!  We've already done several small road trips this year and have one larger one coming up soon.  I write often about our own vacations and how we organize and plan them, so I thought I'd do something different for this blog post.  I asked the moms with lots of kids from my large family Facebook group to weigh in with their top hacks for traveling.  Every word of this blog post is their own words (used with permission).  So, here are some great road trip tips from the expert moms!

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Jennie, mom of 6

"I buy a kit of various fidget type toys on Amazon.  There are stretchy things and pokey things and poppy things, just things to fiddle with.  I split them in half into brown paper lunch bags (one for there and one for back, and not see through so it's always a surprise).  Whenever someone just gets too restless, I pull out a random thing and it distracts them for a bit."  

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Chantal, mom of 5

"Buy a big box of bandaids for the 4 and under crowd to unwrap and play with.  Makes a terrible mess but gives you hours of contented kids."  

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Tina, mom of 9

We do assigned seats so there is no arguing and no asking a hundred times about where to sit or who to trade with, etc.  Also, use every crack and cranny available.  I found baskets that fit under our seats in our big van and we use them for things like snacks, toys, books and coloring supplies, toiletries, etc.  Things can be cleaned up quickly and they can be carried in easily wherever we go.  Also, a hitch packer (click the colored text to learn more) became one of my best friends.  We pack in totes that can stack and be strapped down.

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Becca, mom of 8

"We use a piece of luggage/totes/boxes per day instead of per person.  This way, only one box (sometimes two) has to come in with us each evening.  If we're staying somewhere for a few days/a little while, we sort by person while we are stopped.

We listen to audiobooks/stories on the road.  No one gets tired of hearing the same song over and over that way!  (The Narnia series was a fun one to listen to while we were moving cross country.  We've also listened to Patch the Pirate, Adventures in Odyssey, Little House series, the Ramona Quimby, books, the Little Women series, etc)."  

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Heidi, mom of 9

"Camp!  Most vacation destinations have great campgrounds.  We've camped in Washington DC, Baltimore, and even NYC!  It's always an adventure and so much cheaper than a hotel!"  

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Learn the best travel advice from other large family moms and make your next vacation smooth and fun!

Hailey, mom of 9 (she blogs at

"Do not try to dress the kids for the trip!  We leave in jammies, I keep one tote easily accessible whatever clothes they'll need to be in when we get where we're going.  If we need to arrive dressed, we can stop somewhere to stretch and change shortly before arriving or we can get dressed upon arrival.

I made each kid a "busy bag" with things like books, an activity pad, some kind of manipulative like a Jacob's Ladder or Rubix Cube, maybe a small magnetic lap size game, the dollar store or target dollar spot are great for these things- even the bags!  It's their job to be responsible for their bag.  If it's not in the bag when we stop or do a trash pickup, it'll get pitched.  If you want it, keep track of it!

Short trips, they each get a certain number of snacks in their bag and they know they have to last the whole ride.  Longer trips, I keep the snack stash and pass things out intermittently.

Everyone has a SMALL spill-proof cup.  Instead of getting drinks when we stop for potty breaks (which makes everyone need another potty break) we stop to potty and then drive for a while.  30-60 minutes before we plan to stop, I'll fill the cups and hand them out.

Keeping a potty seat with a plastic grocery bag and open diaper in the bottom can be a lifesaver when traveling with potty trainers or littles where bathrooms may be hard to come by.

Invest in a few sets of sea bands even if you're unsure if anyone might be prone to carsickness.  I keep a stack of 32oz gas station cups in our van for the inevitable "I don't feel so good" moments.

I also like to keep a bag of $1 cheapie flip flops in everyone's size in the back.  Someone will lose a shoe in the car but need to potty or get out and step in something gross we don't want in the car or a million other reasons kids in large families just never seem to have shoes.  They've been a lifesaver more than once!"   

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Learn the best travel advice from other large family moms and make your next vacation smooth and fun!

Melody, mom of 4

"Find your own groove. Research/listen to ideas, but recognize that all of them will work for your family. (That's just life, right?)

- Amazon sells hospital grade throw up bags, they're great!

- Trash bags in every row

- Buy cheap (dollar tree or dollar spot) surprises just for the trip. This can be toys, coloring books, whatever will interest your kids

- Clipboards with storage are awesome for each kid! My kids keep coloring/activity books, crayons or colored pencils, and even small toys in theirs

- I'm too cheap to buy individually packaged snacks, so I bring snack containers for each person to fill and pass out

- At every stop, take a moment to reset the stuff. Collect the snack containers, make sure all the trash is in the bags, find everything that was dropped... doing a quick reset every time makes everything go smoother

- I haven't actually tried this one, but I plan to on this next trip: instead of each person having their own bags/suitcase, pack by days. So everyone's outfits for days 1-3 go in one bag, days 4-6 go in the next, and so on

- If you pack lunches like I do, an 18 gallon storage tote is great for all the non-perishable food

- If you have people that get carsick: no books, devices, or coloring books. They need to look straight ahead. Full stomachs actually help reduce nausea, so lots of snacks and chose more filling drinks (my favorite is chocolate milk)

- Keep a bag easily accessible with one change of clothes for everyone.  You never know when a potty accident, motion sickness, spilled drinks, or something else will strike

- A friend of mine had the most genius idea, but it won't work for everyone.  If you're one of those people who have extra car seats (of the same kind) in other cars, grab just the cover off of those.  Then, if the seat gets messy all you have to do is switch out the cover, and in the meantime it didn't take up much storage"  
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What would you add to this list?  Do you have other family road trip hacks that you use, which I haven't written about yet?  What's the longest trip you've taken with your kids?

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Learn the best travel advice from other large family moms and make your next vacation smooth and fun!Learn the best travel advice from other large family moms and make your next vacation smooth and fun!

Silly sing along songs for family road trips to pass the time and get everyone laughing

Pack your bags with surprise snacks and play the mystery snack game with your family

Travel potty options for family road trips to avoid bathroom emergencies.  Great for special needs kids too!


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