Your Guide to Adventure: 66 Tips for the Ultimate Summer Road Trip – Part V

Traveling with kids is an adventure in and of itself—and not always in the best way. But it’s also a chance to create memories of a lifetime. In Part Five of our series of tips for the ultimate summer road trip, we have advice for keeping your littlest road trippers happy, and recording the special moments that are bound to arise. Whether you’re headed out to celebrate the 90th anniversary of Route 66 (see our bonus tip at the end for an event you can hit along the way!), or your own summer destination, make it the trip you and your little wanderers will never forget.

Part 5: Tips 54–66


  1. Make It Special

Make the road trip itself a special experience for the kids by surprising them with something new just for the trip. It could be something as simple as a new tote bag, stuffed animal or notebook. They’ll approach the trip with a little more excitement, and they’ll have an instant souvenir that will always remind them of the journey.


  1. Have a Bag of Tricks

Within the cabin of the car, keep an easily accessible bag of snacks, toys and games (see Part Three of our series for great road trip games and entertainment). Try to keep some of the items a surprise, and space them out through the duration of the trip.


  1. Don’t Be Afraid to Bribe

Let’s face it: There comes a time in every parent’s life when you need to bribe your kids to make it through a tough situation. Spending hours on end together in an enclosed space just might be one of those times.

“Anyone who thinks they are above bribery is going to have a bad time on a car trip with small children. When my kids were little, I kept a bag full of special snacks, dollar store treats, simple craft supplies like crayons or pipe cleaners and other little delights in the front seat with me, promising to reveal the next mystery gift at regular intervals but only on the condition of good behavior. The constant cycle of having something to look forward to and having something new to enjoy kept everyone occupied for the long haul.”

—Ashley McCann,

  1. Consider an Upgrade

If you have a cramped backseat with no onboard entertainment, you may get a double dose of whining. If possible, consider renting a van—each child could have his own row (plus you’ll save the miles on your car)!


  1. Pay Attention to Schedules

Any parent can tell you the times of day that are best for their kids, and what times have them approaching meltdown city. If possible, coordinate the times you leave, stop for meals and stop for the day around sleep schedules and general cranky times.

  1. Hit the Book Store

For kids, there are plenty of activity books, trivia cards, sticker books and joke books that can be read out loud to the whole family. Don’t want to invest in a pile of books? Head over to Pinterest and find the printables most interesting to your clan.


  1. Personal Devices Are Worth Their Weight in Gold 

If every kid has their own electronic device with headphones, it means at least a little bit of quiet time in the car each day. Just be sure to set time limits so the little wanderers also learn to appreciate the journey.


  1. Have a Polaroid Party

We’ve grown accustomed to taking infinite amounts of pictures with our phones, but the limitations of film are a terrific reminder to slow down and be deliberate when framing a photograph. Give everyone on your trip a disposable or Polaroid camera and challenge them to spread one roll of film over the entirety of your road trip. Once you’re back home, you’ll love flipping through the collection to see what everyone captured, and you’ll have a physical memento of your journey.


  1. Keep a Journal

Journaling? Isn’t that what Instagram is for? While your friends will love it when you share photos from your trip as you go, the stimulation and excitement of new places and experiences can also inspire the writer deep inside you. A road trip is the perfect time to rekindle that love of journaling. Even a paragraph or two a day will give you something to look back on and will help you to remember and appreciate the best moments of each day.


  1. Make a Video

Take a picture at least once a day with the framing of the windshield to make a stop motion of the trip. You’ll be amazed at how cool it looks to see each shot threaded together. Check out how artist and writer Madeline drove cross-country with her dad in a 1930 Model A and made this little documentation afterwards.

The Garmin DriveAssist 50LMT has a built-in dash cam that not only acts as an “eyewitness that never blinks” by recording exactly where and when events occurred, it continuously records your drive, meaning you can easily create a video documenting your entire road-trip!
  1. Pick Up Postcards

Make a habit of grabbing a post card in every town you stop. Jot down some notes on the back about your stop, and keep it for a post card album when you get back.

post cards

  1. Stock Up on Small Souvenirs

Whether it be match books, pens, bumper stickers or Christmas tree ornaments, grab a little piece of wherever you go as a reminder of your trip. Just keep it compact so it doesn’t take up too much cargo space.


  1. Bonus Tip: Where to Go? Party it Up at the Los Angeles Route 66 Festival

November 10-13: The LA Festival offers “everything you ever wanted to know about Route 66 in Los Angeles County, but were afraid to ask.” It’s happening right downtown, where the city and the Mother Road come together.

Whether you pay homage to the historic route 66, or find your own lesser-known path, with these 66 tips in mind, your road trip is sure to be full of adventure, surprises and lasting memories.

Stratton Lawrence is a travel writer and adventure buff located in Folly Beach, South Carolina. He’s driven cross-country many times, including a two-month sojourn from San Francisco to Charleston in a 1972 Volkswagen Super Beetle. Stratton also provides auto advice, whether you’re hitting the road in a classic car or your favorite modern cruiser, as a writer for eBay Motors.