How to Road Trip with the Kids, Part One: Research, Planning, and Packing

Even just the idea of taking a road trip with the kids can be a little overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be.

We recently took a massive summer road trip with the kids. MASSIVE. We drove from Tampa, Florida to Toronto, Ontario. The distance was just under 3,000 miles. We did it with two kids, ages two and four. And we didn’t just survive it… we loved it. We had a great time. Proper research, planning, and packing really helped us to have a fun road trip with the kids.

Deciding Where to Go on our Road Trip with Kids

Landing on our destination wasn’t hard. For my 40th birthday, I wanted to take a family trip out of the country without spending a fortune. Since my birthday is in June, going North to Canada and away from the Florida heat just made sense. Not only is Toronto in our same time zone, it’s the New York of Canada – perfect!

Researching Our Road Trip with Kids

Using Google maps, I entered our destination: Toronto, Ontario. Then I looked at major cities along the route. Charlotte, North Carolina, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania were both fairly obvious. Neither was out of the way, and both were places we had not yet been as a family. For the journey home, heading West set us on a path to see Detroit from a distance, then stop in Louisville, Kentucky, and Atlanta, Georgia.

Once our main cities were set, I began researching cool stops along the way. One of the neatest things about a road trip with kids is that you get to check out a lot of places that you likely wouldn’t otherwise visit. I looked for National parks. I searched for playgrounds and restaurants.

Finally, I did a bit of research on how other parents successfully did a road trip with kids. I used Pinterest and Instagram to note ideas that I especially liked. I found things like lap desks for car seats, games that do not require much, and reusable sticker books that hold a kid’s attention.

Planning Our Road Trip with Kids

Next, I began looking at Airbnb’s in those cities. We love Airbnb. We can usually find at least a two-bedroom place for less than the cost of a hotel. And then we don’t have to hang out in the dark with a sound machine once the kids go to sleep. Win!

What I look for in an Airbnb:

Under $200 a night (after all fees)
Superhost designation
Excellent reviews with specific mentions of the cleanliness and the location
Free parking
Flexible cancellation policy

As our road trip with kids approached, I began to get a bit nervous. Tampa to Charlotte was almost nine hours. My husband wanted to drive through the night, but then we’d be there in the morning and unable to check-in to our place until later in the afternoon. So, I made a decision to add another city to our trip: Savannah. Savannah was five and a half hours from us, and four hours to Charlotte.

Packing for Our Road Trip with Kids

I pretty much pack for all of us. My husband packs his clothes and toiletries, but that’s usually about it. Since I wasn’t just packing for myself and this was a super duty road trip, I began compiling a list of what to pack a couple weeks in advance. This way, I had plenty of time to think of random things that would be helpful and to make a note of them.

Here’s My List:

Day clothes for each of us – 4 warm weather days, 4 cool-weather days

Pajamas – 2 warm-weather nights, 2 cool weather nights

Back-up underwear




Backpacks for kids (I kept a change of clothes, the lovey and the blankie for easy access)




Sound machines

Night lights


Favorite baby doll

Shampoo, conditioner, tear-free soap



First aid kit (pain reliever, bandaids, ointment)

Little potty (such a lifesaver!)




Water bottles



Insurance cards

Credit cards (remember to notify your credit card company that you are traveling)

Auto registration

Phone chargers


Books and other reading material

Downloaded movies/podcasts

Lap activities (I had several in bags)

Paper & Crayons


Snack Bag

Food Cooler

Resources I found to be helpful for our road trip with kids:

All the Best Days Podcast

North Carolina State Parks

West Virginia State Parks

Check out part two of the series to see how the actual trip went!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *