Travel tips for road-tripping with kids

Posted by Gabrielle Jacobs on 19 November 2018

You’re riding shotgun, the designated navigator, entertainer and parent in charge of everything that doesn’t involve driving. It doesn’t have to be a chore, however. Save your sanity and heed our travel advice for travels with the younger folk this holiday season.


Credit: Getty

The padkos philosophy is simplicity and convenience, and your snacks can still be healthy and nutritious without being elaborate or bruising your pocket.

Make popcorn before you leave and pop it in little bags or containers. If you keep the seasoning simple, this can be a really healthy and filling snack, not only containing carbs, but a lot of protein, too.

Slice up apples for a fresh and fruity snack, and dish out some peanut butter for a dip (not recommended for tots under four) to add extra texture and sweetness.

Pop chicken sticks or fish fingers in the oven to take along with you. If you’re on the road, chicken pops are a fun and filling option.

Pack in some biltong, the classic padkos snack; you can choose between chomping on droëwors, chewy biltong slices, or the flavour-filled biltong sticks that’ll keep everyone happily busy for quite some time.

Pack wet wipes and don’t forget to make sure that the kids stay hydrated – it can help prevent headaches headaches and irritability.

Also read: 8 best biltong stops on SA’s roads


You have a few options here, but they generally separate along the lines of traditional entertainment and tech:

Charge and pack in power banks to keep your tablets and smartphones going. Tablets and smart phones with big enough screens are perfect for watching movies. Consider investing in car headrest monitors or get hold of a bracket or tablet mount for the back of the headrests.

These days there are apps for colouring in as well as games, so if you forget to pack in writing materials, the younger ones can still be kept occupied.

Download movies on your device or on memory sticks. The same goes for music. If your car has a USB media port, add a selection of albums or create a playlist that’ll keep you going and alert while the kids watch their shows and scribble in their colouring books.

Turn your old phone into a media entertainment device where younger kids can access all their content. Pre-teen and young adolescents could use it as an MP3 player to save storage and battery life on theirs and your main devices.

Don’t forget to pack in earphones so that you don’t all go insane listening to catchy songs about baby sharks or hear explosions and car wheels screeching from action movies.

If you’d prefer to keep your kids away from screens, pack in colouring books and crayons, as well as any activity or puzzle books.

Games are fun too and can make the time fly, so pack in the 30 Seconds deck.

My favourite is Rory’s Story Cubes which is great for all ages: it’s a compact game where you roll dice-like blocks with different images on each face. If you roll three, for example, you must craft a tale related to the images on the three upturned die faces.

Picture books are fun for little ones to page through, and they don’t necessarily need you to read them.

If motion sickness isn’t an issue, consider packing in some reading material for the older ones who are happy to read on their own. Visit a library a few days before you leave or pop in at the book store to get something new for a good holiday read.


Make sure the kids are comfy at the back and consider sun shades for windows, especially in the case of a long trip.

Neck pillows will help stabilise their necks if you’re going across rougher terrain – plus, it helps them face forward without bothering their backseat neighbours. Regular pillows are just as good, and are very comfy to snuggle in to. A booster seat is a good idea to give children that are too big for car seats a better view of the passing landscapes through the window and it’s also safer, because the seat belt won’t run too high across their necks.

Bring a few light blankets for extra comfort or shade – you can always roll them up to use as armrests. This helps save boot space as well if you roll up or fold blankets and beach towels to use for the same purpose inside the vehicle.

Credit: Getty

Remember that timing is key, and depending on the length of your trip and the age of the kids, you could arrange your activities and the trip around nap-times. If you set out around the time that they usually take a nap, it’ll cut down a lot of the time on the road for them and they’ll hopefully be a lot more subdued.

Hold onto the element of surprise – the less they know about what you’ve got stashed away for them in the way of snacks and activities, the greater their gratification. When they get fidgety or a bit peckish, you can surprise them with a snack or a new puzzle or toy.

Finally, make sure the young people know what’s in-store for them and what they should look out for along the way.


Featured image from Getty.

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