Travel Hacks for Road Tripping Families

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As a family, we road trip quite a lot. It’s a ton of fun, but also a lot of work (for me at least)! Over the years, I’ve found a variety of ways to save time and money and I’m finally sitting down to share those family-friendly travel hacks with you!

Travel Hack #1: It’s All About How You Pack

I am not a fan of having too many bags. I joke that I could have never been a socialite because I need to fit everything (from the entire family) into one suitcase. I’m constantly asked how we fit it all so I finally put together a quick video to show you my method. So many people find rolling your clothes effective, but I have found that when you have 5 people’s clothing, it’s way too bulky. My method is more about keeping things flat so you can layer and fit it all into one bag. Obviously it depends on how bulky your clothing is, and how many days you’re traveling, but you will be surprised how much you can fit into one suitcase, if done right!

#2: Plan, Plan, Plan

I’m a planner. Always have been, always will be. It’s mostly about feeling in control of all situations, but also about making sure that we use our time wisely and experiencing as much as we can, during our stay. I make a list of everything local that we want to see, check their hours and plan our entire trip before we even leave. Of course, things happen or we may hear about something new and the schedule may change, but for the most part, it helps make our trip so much more smooth when we have an itinerary.

#3: Backpack with Activities and Chargers

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Each of our girls always pack their own backpacks with activities that they need to keep them busy. Whether it’s a book, a coloring book and crayons, a puzzle book or their devices, they feel less inclined to ask “are we there yet” every five minutes, if they have plenty of things to keep themselves busy.  They are also responsible for packing and unpacking their own backpacks which takes some responsibility off of me! Of course, when they were younger, I would have to make sure they packed the right things and not a bag full of stuffed animals (that totally happened more than once). But now that they are old enough, they are great at choosing the right things! They even remember to bring their chargers!

#4: Bring Food from Home

If your hotel has a refrigerator and/or microwave, pack some easy travel food! We often take cut up veggies, bread, cold cuts, peanut butter, our water bottles and a couple of gallons of water to fill them up. We also bring easy breakfast foods (if the hotel doesn’t offer a free breakfast or isn’t all-inclusive), such as yogurt, oatmeal or cereal. We try to eat out only for dinner which saves so much money!

#5: Use Non-Toll Roads As Much as Possible

Map your route and if you are able to take the non-toll roads, take them! We can save $40-$50 by switching up the route just a bit. It’s so worth it and you can use that savings as a little extra spending money on your trip! Every little bit helps!

#6: Make a Stop or Two

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If our destination is more than four hours away, we try to find a city to stop mid-way. It’s a great way to explore a new place and also gives you the chance to stretch your legs and use the restroom. If we are taking a longer road trip, sometimes we will stay over in that city so that we can explore or visit one of their bigger local attractions. Less time in the car in one stretch makes for less cranky kids (and adults).

#7: Use an App to Find the Best Gas Prices

You’d probably agree that the most important travel hacks will save you money. We very rarely use the highway gas stations as they tend to charge more for the convenience. There are apps out there like Gas Buddy that will help you find the most inexpensive gas prices along your route. Make sure to plan to stop at those stations! You can save so much money that way, especially if you have to fill up your tank multiple times during your road trip.

#8: The Easiest Way to Bring Home Laundry

swoop bag and a suitcase in the back of a car

I struggled for years with the amount of time it took to pack up to go back home. There were always dirty clothes all over the floor and while I tried to pack it all into those hotel provided plastic laundry bags, 1) they were plastic and we are trying our best to do better for our planet and 2) they rip so easily, so we often wound up with dirty clothes spilling out in the car (yuck). A couple of months ago, I was watching a friend’s Instagram stories and she was talking about Swoop Bags. I immediately had an idea!

I thought if I could open up the swoop bag and leave it flat in the corner of our hotel room, we could use it as our laundry area. We instructed the kids (and ourselves) to drop our dirty laundry in the middle of the flattened Swoop bag. When it was time to pack up, I just swooped the bag, tied it and voila… it literally saved me all of the aggravation of picking up all of the clothes and trying to find something to carry it all in.

Best part?! When I got home, I just opened and dumped it all into the washing machine. I’m so impressed with it! I can’t wait to get some more for the girls toys. They are going to make cleanup so much easier for them!

I hope our travel hacks will help to save you both time and money! Do you have any travel hacks that your family have come up with over the years? Share them below! We’d love to hear!

As a family that loves to road trip, we've come up with a number of travel hacks to make our experience smoother! Now we are sharing them!

*We received a free Swoop bag in exchange for our review. All opinions are my own.


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Hello There!

I'm so honored that you've found us! I'm Heather, a Mom of 3 who blogs about parenting, food, occasional travel and how I overcame my daily struggle with anxiety. I miss sleeping and rely on coffee and laughter to get me through the day. I hope you enjoy and visit often!

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  1. I’m not a fan of having too many bugs either when traveling. Knowing how to pack light is important

  2. We so need for travel hacks, as the time is taking toll on us. I would like to add a point here. I think it’s better to settle on home-stay or better in a tent than spending quite a lot in hotels. That will save a lot of money I guess, and also we can cook our own foods as well, as it’s not only fun but also less expensive. Isn’t it? I would love to have you thoughts on these.

  3. Making sure your car is road trip ready will help you avoid unintended stops, emergency tows, and visits to a mechanic. Before you set out on your next adventure, take time to assess your vehicle.

  4. Taking road trips with children can be very difficult. Bringing food from home and making stops can really make things easier.

  5. These are all such great tips to make sure everyone stays sane on roadtrips. I love the bringing food from home, saves money too.

  6. As a retired military family, we’ve had our fair share of long road trips. The best advice is to plan to break down the driving into 3 hour increments. That way you get plenty of stretch breaks and always have a refreshed driver.

  7. Traveling with kids is not that easy! I always bring these items whenever we travel. A pack of gum or candy, tissues, wipes, earphones, snacks, and medicines. I put it inside a pouch so that it’s organized. Thanks for this!

  8. Thank you for these great tips, Heather! Pinning!

    I’ve never heard about Swoop Bags. They look very useful and I’ll definitely buy one for my next trip.

  9. I plan on taking my girls on a road trip in the next couple years so I definitely will remember and put these tips to use!

  10. Dirty laundry is always a problem when traveling. I end up stuffing them in hotel laundry bags or plastic bags. lol. It isn’t great so these Swoop bags look pretty great!

  11. I’ve never gone on a road trip, but these are great tips to keep in mind! I hadn’t taught about using non-toll roads at all!

  12. Great tips. We love going on road trips, but we always forget something or overpack. Hard to find that balance.

  13. So many useful tips, we road trip a lot with a baby and a toddler and it´s also lots of work for me. The swoop bag sounds really handy!

  14. Planning is a great start for a family trip, especially when you have little kids. I love those backpacks btw!!

  15. The swoop bags look amazing!! Traveling as a family with kids is never easy! And so much laundry!!

  16. Your kids backpacks are so cool! Wish I had similar ones as a kid (:
    When travelling I, too, always use a dedicated bag for laundry.. the swoop bag definitely looks interesting!

  17. Packing food from home does help you save while on the road. Fastfood does get expensive for a family of 5.

  18. As a parent with two young kids who often get restless when going ona road trip, these tips are so right! I always get them to pack some of their favourite books/toys/gadgets and always get some new ones they they have not seen before to keep them entertained when travelling

  19. Backpacking is my go-to for everything Heather! LOL I even pack ahead for a day on the beach and playground. I watched the video. One word. Wow! Thank you for sharing helpful info like that. You the plug!!

  20. That swoop bag is genius. We want to get a mini van at the end of the year so we can road trip for our kids first lives since flying is so expensive.

  21. These were some great tips. Taking the scenic route is definitely better than taking the fastest way there.

  22. Great tips! Traveling with kiddos is not always easy…so important to plan ahead and have a checklist.

  23. Planning is so important for any trip but for a road trip you probably need some extra preparations. Good tips which would be useful when we do go for road journeys.

  24. That swoop bag sounds amazing. Our last beach trip had me at a laundry mat because I had no clue how to bring home all of our laundry. My husband wanted to reserve one piece of luggage, LOL.

  25. I love me a good road trip! As a child-less traveller these tips are still so useful … Specifically the laundry one! Thanks for sharing xx

  26. These are all great hacks for a family road trip! We always take regular breaks when we do something like this as there’s only my other half who drives and he’s been known to fall asleep at the wheel before. So scary!

    Louise x

  27. I love road-tripping! I don’t have any kids but often travel with my dog. That is amazing that you fit all that in one suitcase! That app is being downloaded on the phone this very minute. Thank you for the tip and I will be using it for every trip! That swoop bag looks so cool and a great thing to have for dirty laundry!

  28. The Swoop bag is a lifesaver. It would make packing stuff easier and unloading them would be a breeze. Even if our travel plans are on hold (temporarily), I would still want to get one of those bags to keep my grandson’s small toys all in one place.

  29. These are all wonderful tips. We always bring food from home as well. It’s a great way to save money.

  30. We will be hopefully going on a road trip soon. I need to remember to pack very lightly though since our villa has laundry service.

  31. I swear by backpacks and planning! I like to have a couple of activities already planned, and my kids always have their backpacks with their ipads and electronics in them!

  32. These are some great ideas. We wish we could travel more. We will be over the summer at least! I’m all about saving money. Luckily my kids are older and can basically entertain themselves. Praise chocolate.

  33. We road tripped a lot as a family growing up. We would pack my parents and us 5 kids in our 1974 Volkswagon bus and drive from San Jose, CA to Colorado. We would never stay in a hotel, we always stayed the night a friend’s house on the way. We always made food and brought it in the car, so we didn’t stop and eat at places, only for gas and to stretch our legs. Oh the simple life back then. My parents didn’t have much money, but were still able to provide amazing travel memories.

  34. This theme is always an evergreen because you never stop traveling. I save the blog post and read it again before every departure!