Travelling with kids, a survival guide

Blog post posted on 22/05/23 |

With half term on the horizon, many families will take advantage of the break and head off for a change of scenery. However, taking a long road trip with children can be a daunting prospect. Cries of "are we there yet?" or "I need the loo" or "I'm hungry" echo around the car. So, how can you make the journey easier for everyone?   

IAM RoadSmart, the UK’s largest road safety charity, has some tips on how to manage those road trips with the kids.


Before heading off on your holidays, make sure you do the essential maintenance checks to ensure your vehicle is roadworthy. You don’t want it breaking down with screaming kids in the back. Check your oil, water, and tyres and check the vehicle for any damage, including wiper blades. Watch IAM RoadSmart’s video here.

Safety first

By Law, all children must use a suitable restraint in the car until the age of 12 or 135cm tall, whichever comes first. To keep your child as safe as possible when travelling in the car, you should use the best option available to you and only changing it when they’re physically outgrown, rather than upgrading based on the minimum requirements of the next stage.

To learn more about car seat safety, check out our blog with Car Seat Ninja here.

Before you set off

Plan your journey so you know exactly where you are going before you set off. Make sure you allow plenty of time to get to your destination. Some parents prefer to drive through the night so the children can sleep, and the roads are quieter; others prefer to drive during the day but avoid the busiest parts of the day. Also, remember that the quickest route might not be the best one when you are travelling with children, so think imaginatively.  


Backseat mirrors allow you to view what is going on behind you without taking your focus off the road ahead. Installing a sunshade in the back will also help keep kids cool and comfortable in hot weather, and a backseat car organiser will keep things like drinks, snacks, and books within arm's reach.

Drinks and Snacks

If you don’t fancy shelling out at restaurants for food at every stop, prepare a packed lunch you can have at a service station or rest stop. Keep plenty of healthy snacks and sugar-free drinks in the car, and always have a plastic bag for the rubbish. Don’t forget the tissues or wet wipes for spills.

Take a break

Where possible try to plan your stops at fun places where everyone can get out of the car and release some of that built-up energy. Some motorway service stations have children’s play areas- the list can be found here.

If none of those are on your route then you could consider looking at other places with a play area, just off the motorway.

A break where children can have a run around is much more fun than a stop with nothing that interests them. Obviously, the type of stop depends on the age of your children, but these links should help with all but the stroppiest of teenagers!


Don’t worry, these days there’s more than ‘I Spy’ to keep the kids happy. Tablets and smartphones are always a winner. Download some of their favourite films and TV shows, but don’t forget headphones. This will help whoever is driving to keep their focus on the road.

Colouring books, pens and stickers are also a great idea to keep kids from sliding into boredom and if children are occupied, they aren’t distracting the driver. 

Richard Gladman, Chief Examiner at IAM RoadSmart, said:

“Travelling with younger family members can be stressful if you fail to prepare. Make sure the car is going to get you to your destination safely, if it is due a service, have it done, if it isn’t, then make sure you carry out your vehicle checks.

“A planned stop on the journey, ideally somewhere of interest to the children, will help the journey become part of the holiday. Although tablets and phones will entertain for a while, the old favourites such as car cricket will always entertain.”