12 Tips For A Successful & Zero Waste Road Trip With KIDS
Updated: Sep 24
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I remember the first time my husband and me planned a road trip as parents. We just had one kid and I spent hours on Pinterest researching how to survive a road trip with a toddler.
Everything I read encouraged me to create a lot of waste, all in the name of convenience.
So that's what I did.
At the end of our road trips we used to have a car full of garbage. It would contain items like juice boxes, squeeze pouches, water bottles, granola bar wrappers, new cheap toys that had already broke, and countless bags of chips.
It wasn't long into my zero waste journey that I realized road trips didn't need to be so wasteful.
Continuing to reduce waste while travelling was a great opportunity to make taking care of our planet a natural part of who my children are.
We love to travel. In fact most summers we don't spend a single weekend at home. We are usually off exploring the world around us and visiting family hours away.
12 Tips For a SUCCESSFUL & Zero Waste Road Trip With Kids
1. Bring LOTS Of Snacks
A hungry kid who's been stuck in a car for hours is no joking matter.
If you're child is hungry you need to get food in their mouths as fast as you can... or the tantrums will begin.
In a moment like that if you have no snacks prepared you are going to be running to the nearest gas station or store and buying an easy packaged snack.
Instead I usually pack a bunch of snacks from the bulk store, fruit, and veggies. Reusable snack bags are great for storing snacks on the go. ( Amazon.ca, Amazon.com) I keep all our food in a small lunch kit by the passengers feet. That way I always know where it is.
**We pull over while our kids eat so we can watch them in case they choke. Be prepared for a lots of quick stops.**
2. Skip The Drive Through
If you have no time for a sit down restaurant avoid the extra waste created from drive throughs and pack a lunch.
I like to stop and eat outside near a park when possible. That way the kids can run around and burn some much needed energy.
If you're like me and love to eat out then go for it. Taking your time on road trips can be really nice. Especially for the kids.
Try to stick to sit down restaurants to avoid waste.
You can even call ahead if you want to confirm the restaurant uses reusable items.
3. Always Have Water
Packing reusable water bottles might seem obvious but it's one I used to forget often.
You should make it a habit to ALWAYS take a water bottle with you no matter where you go.
One time use plastic water bottles are bad for the earth, bad for your health, and bad for your wallet.
( I Always take my kids water bottles to restaurants to avoid their one time use plastic lids)
I like to use stainless steel water bottles ( Amazon.ca, Amazon.com) for on the go because they are light and easy to carry. Most restaurants and fast food places will re fill you water bottle for you if needed.
4. Bring Lots Of Cloth Napkins & Wipes
I carry a ton of cloth wipes and a small wet bag in my purse.
Kids are messy and if you want to avoid disposable napkins cloth is best! The wet bag is to store dirty wipes!
I usually wet the wipes with water from my water bottle or use them dry. You can also pack a tiny spray bottles with you for wetting them if needed.
When going road tripping ALWAYS bring more wipes and cloths than expected.
Things spill, kids pee, people get car sick....
No one ever regretted bringing too many wipes...
5. Make Sure Your Zero Waste Car Kit is Stocked Up
Before heading on the road be sure to check on your zero waste car kit. Make sure all your regular supplies are there.
My Zero Waste Car Kit Always Has:
1 Reusable Shopping Bag
4 Plates ( 1 for each family member)
2 To Go Mugs ( 1 For my husband & 1 For me)
1 Container ( For Restaurant food leftovers)
Extra Cloth Napkins
1 Medium sized wet bag ( for Dirty cloths and unexpected dirty clothes)
6. Bring SURPRISE ( Thrifted or borrowed) Toys
Years ago when I was doing research for our first road trip with our son I read a few posts that talked about bringing NEW toys yours kids have never seen.
The idea is that a new and exciting toy will keep them occupied longer than a toy they are bored of.
The writers recommended going to the dollar store and buying a bunch of cheap toys.
It's a great idea and it really does work.
Problem is my kids don't NEED more toys, cheap toys don't last, dollar store toys are plastic, and they will be in the trash sooner than later.
That really isn't the most eco friendly option.
What I started doing was borrowing toys from my friends. Before a long road trip I would borrow some of her kids toys and lend them some of mine. These are toys my kids have never seen , will keep them entertained for hours, and can go back to their owner when we get home. Not to mention her kids are also happy because they have "new" toys to play with.
An alternative option is to thrift some toys. Thrift stores have a TON of awesome toys for super cheap. I personally prefer to have a limited amount of toys so borrowing is more up my alley.
When my kids were younger I would cut holes in small boxes and stuff the toys inside. They LOVED pulling their toys in and our of the boxes.
7.Take your time
Don't be in a rush!
Things are not going to go as planned so give yourself extra time.
Before you head out on the road take the kids somewhere to burn some energy. If weather permits the park is a great choice.
Play & Explore.
Be sure to stop and let the kids run around and explore every few hours. Restless kids make for a horrible road trip.
Enjoy this time , kids grow up fast.
8. Have EVERYTHING you need within arms reach.
Kids always seem to need something when there isn’t a town in site.
Be prepared to pull over and change diapers and feed your kids in your car.
If you have a bottle-fed baby ALWAYS have a bottle ready to go.
If your child is potty trained ALWAYS! ALWAYS! ALWAYS! have a potty in your car. Do not forget toilet paper, wipes, or rags.
No matter how old your kids are. Things can get messy
Have a change of clothes for each child.
( Even if your child has not had an accident in 4 years... You just never know )
Bottle Fed Babies.
A thermos filled with hot water is a great way to warm up a bottle on the go.
If you are a passenger pump in the car. Bring a hand pump or get batteries/ an adapter for your electric pump. It saves so much time if you are able to pump while on the road.
Bring a cooler with some ice packs to store all your milk.
9. Prepare a kids playlist
I’m not going to listen to the Wiggles for 10 hours straight…
BUT sometimes a few of your kids favourite songs can make the trip more exciting.
You can also take this time to really get them listening to and enjoying your music. I still Love the music my parents listened to when I was a kid. It brings back great memories.
Music is a beautiful thing.
10. Leave at nap time/bedtime
This tip is only helpful if your kids will nap in the car. If your kids don't sleep in the car than the opposite is true.
If your kids do sleep in the car leave right at nap or bedtime.
The more your children sleep during the drive the happier you will be.
Kids don't scream when they are sleeping.
The trick here is to make sure you are good to go. Once your kids are asleep you don't want to be stopping for gas or a pee break. If we are stopped for more than a minute my kids will wake up and stay up.... even if their nap was only 30 seconds.
11. Leave Room in the backseat
Road trips are not always easy on kids and sometimes they just need a little company. There have been many times where one of us has had to sit in the back to keep our kids calm and happy. Especially with a newborn.
If leaving space isn't possible try having items that can easily be moved to the front passengers seat.
( Eg. Diaper bag,small bag, lunch kit.)
That way if it becomes necessary for you to sit with your kids ,you can.
12. Don’t stress the small stuff
If your children have a little too much screen time ,they will be okay.
If your children eat only crackers for 2 days, they will survive.
If you arrive 4 hours late to your destination, life will go on.
If you forget to give your child anti-nausea meds and he throws up all the contents of his stomach 2 mins into your 10 hour drive, you will still make it through the day.
Going anywhere with kids is hard and there are days where it just doesn't feel worth it.
BUT in the end you are creating life long memories for your kids. It takes time but eventually everyone will adjust and road trips will become second nature.
It is so important that we show our kids our beautiful planet and teach them to love and care for it away from home.