15 Tips to Make Traveling with Grandchildren Easy Peasy


Updated: May 2024
Kids leaning out a car window - Traveling with Grandkids - Adventures in NanaLand

Traveling with grandchildren. . .Are You Crazy??

Do you want to take a road trip with the grandkids? Are you sure? Traveling with grandchildren (or any children) can be challenging for sure, but in my experience, it can also be some of the best memory-makers and lots of fun! It can be for a week or just a day but being prepared is what will make or break your experience.

When our kids were little, we had too many kids and too little money. So, we drove EVERYWHERE! Since we had so many fun road trips with our own children, it seemed like a natural thing to continue  with our Littles (this is what we call our grandchildren). However, what we didn’t account for is the fact that we were now dealing with little travelers in a digital age and children who were used to different expectations in the car.

(Most of this article deals with car travel. However, you can adapt some of these ideas for airplane or other types of travel.)

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So. . .how do we deal with it?

Here are 15 tips to make traveling with grandchildren easy peasy!

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1. Drive at Night or Early Mornings When Traveling with Grandkids

When our kids were little, we used to drive all THROUGH the night. However, as grandparents, we just can’t pull those all-nighters anymore – it’s just our age catching up to us.  However, if you get the kids up super early and start driving, they will sleep much of the morning. The same works on the other end of the day. Driving into the late night will also yield some sleepy kids.

2.  Be Prepared for Emergencies When Traveling with Grandkids

(and hope that you don’t need any of it) – medical releases from parents, medical history, meds and how to give them, and copies of insurance and doctor info. When traveling with grandchildren, you can’t be too careful with this stuff. Trust me. . .if you don’t have it, you’ll definitely need it!

Little boy in carseat - Traveling with grandkids - Adventures in Nanaland

3.  Car Seats

Yep! It’s one of those necessary evils! Learn which ones you need and how to get the darn things in right. Also know the seating guidelines about front-seat sitting according to law as well as your car’s requirements. It may not be all about age. Truth be told, if it wasn’t for the extra junk I have in my “trunk” that makes me a little heavier, I may not be big enough to ride in the front seat myself!

4.  Snacks

I like to make snack boxes for my Littles. I have used a nice square plastic box with an attached lid (that way the lid doesn’t get lost). Or, you can use a plastic box with smaller compartments to keep snacks separated.

Inside, I pack non-refrigerated snacks for the whole trip into the box. I tell the kids that they can either eat them all at once or spread them out over the trip, but that’s ALL the snacks they are getting for the whole trip. I am surprised at how well they do with that. Also, I think it goes without saying, but. . .do as little sugar as possible!! Save your sanity!

This applies to air travel as well since the airlines are skimpy with the snacks these days. You may only get one small item if any at all! Make sure you have a water bottle to fill at the airport before you take off. It may set off more bathroom trips so gauge it carefully. However, it’s miserable if you don’t have something to drink if your kiddo gets thirsty.

Snack boxes - traveling with grandchildren - Adventures in NanaLand

5.  Know the {Good} Bathroom Stops Along Your Route

If possible, line up bathroom stops according to your grandchildren’s ages. . .or your own needs. . .whichever is more often. When traveling with grandchildren, especially younger children, waiting for gas stops is often too long in between. So what can you do?

I try to make sure I know about how long it is between towns and/or rest stops. Once in a while, we have to stop and let the little boys pee on the rocks. . .you know, since most of our grandchildren are boys (as were most of our children), it makes things a bit easier.

Rest stops are typically about every 100 miles which should offer some help when cities are far apart. While you are at the rest stop, get the kids to run around. Here are some activities you can do:

  • Tell the kids to run and touch every picnic table and come back and tag you.
  • Have them, touch and count each tree within a certain area.
  • Do a follow the leader game up and over and around.
  • Skip up and down each of the parking lot lines if there aren’t very many cars.
  • Go to the back and throw rocks if it’s not dangerous to do so – boys especially NEED to throw rocks! Am I right??

So the BIG question: How do you find the GOOD bathrooms??? Follow the truckers! Typically speaking, if it’s an actual truck stop or rest stop, they will have decent bathrooms – not always, but most of the time. Just beware of those sketchy convenience store bathrooms. . .yikes!

So, when traveling by airplane, make sure the littles ones go right before y0u board. Understand that you CANNOT get up to use the bathroom during prep time or takeoff. It’s tough to know exactly when the next opportunity will be.

I had a cousin who had an extremely unfortunate incident when her little one had to “go” just as the plane was ready to take off. If the kiddos are newly potty trained and having to go frequently, it might be best to just put on a Pull-up in case you encounter those types of emergencies whether you are in a car or on a plane.

6.  Limit Screen Time

Yes, now that these little digital natives have hit the scene, they have their phones, tablets or other screens with them all the time. While these can be sanity savers, don’t miss the “magic” of building relationships in the name of video babysitting. Save screen time for when you need to take a snooze. . .of course, unless you’re driving. I have found that constant screen time can make the kids more irritable, disobedient, and even sluggish. So, we play lots of games and do some talking, singing, or whatever doesn’t take batteries.

7.  Play Games

Car and travel games are such a novelty to kids these days, they will actually look forward to playing with you. Always a must is the Alphabet Game (or License Plate Game). We also loved Five-Mile Smile, Roadtrip Bingo (this is our very favorite game on long or short trips), and car dancing. There are many road trip games you can find online. Try some of these games out the next time you are traveling with grandchildren even for just a small amount of time.

Make sure you have some activities/games for individual quiet time. My Littles love to color but I highly discourage crayons (they melt in the heat), markers (well. . .it’s obvious), and dry erase markers (they stained my cloth seats). So, I recommend colored pencils with a sharpener that has a tight lid. Or you could go for the Crayola Twistables. They’re great also! Magnetic travel games work well too.

Basket with Croissant and Sandwiches in the trunk of hatchback car - Traveling with Grandkids - Adventures in NanaLand

8.  Roadside Picnics

Pack a lunch, stop to eat, and let the grandkids run around a bit. It will take you just as long to do that as it will to stop at a fast food place to get your meal. It is cheaper and you are much more likely to get the kids to eat what you pack than what you buy. (Okay. . .I admit it! I hate all the spills in my clean car when they eat meals.) However, there are other advantages to this also. It’s a good idea to let the kids run around and get in a potty break while you’re stopped. You really won’t be losing any time doing it this way.

9.  Music, Music, Music

This is a must! Whether it’s listening, singing, or dancing to, make music part of the trip. Music can help change the mood or temper arguments. My kids loved to do what they called “car dancing”. We would put on music and the kids (still in their seat belts) would turn towards each other and clasp hands as though they were slow dancing or just wiggle in their seat.

This is no time to be shy! No one else can hear you outside your car. We crank up the showtunes or Disney and sing at the top of our lungs. It’s always a good time! It also will get out a lot of that extra energy that the kids have.

10.  Hotels

Let’s talk reason here. I’m used to staying in nicer hotels (‘cuz I’m kinda picky), but when you have kiddos with you, don’t splurge on a 4 or 5-star hotel unless there’s a great bargain.

Choose a family-friendly or kid-friendly hotel that offers breakfast. As long as the breakfast has some cold cereal options and fruit, you will probably be able to get the kids to eat.

So how do you find a good hotel? My #1 rule is CHECK THE REVIEWS!! Don’t risk it! (By the way, if you are doing a Disney trip, don’t mess around. . .check out GetAwayToday. One thing I love about them is that they screen their hotels carefully and offer you only the best hotels at great prices. For a special discount, use the Discount code: Nanaland. That tells them that we are friends, and I sent you.)

pink box ad for Get Away Today's Layaway Plan - Adventures in NanaLand - Traveling with Grandkids

11. Bedtimes & Naptimes

A reality of traveling with grandchildren that that you have to plan your trip around bedtimes and naptimes. I know it sounds inconvenient, but if kids don’t get enough sleep or they are too far off their routine for too long, you really find out the meaning of “inconvenient.” On the other hand, if you can plan your activities around some downtime, things will go much smoother. It will save a lot of tears. . .especially your own!

12. Know What’s in the Suitcase When Traveling with Grandkids

Go over the contents of the suitcase with the mom before you leave. I can’t tell you how many times I have gotten to the end of the week with no matching clothes. If I am matching up things that don’t actually go together, I end up sabotaging the remainder of the wardrobe by about Day 3.

A really good way to do this is to pack each outfit in a plastic zip-type bag or in packing cubes (really, really love these ones – flexible, multiple sizes, different colors to sort by kid, etc.). This way, you don’t have to try and match things up or remember what mom told you went together. It’s a life-saver!!

You also want to be aware of where the toiletries are, what “comfort” items might be in there, and any meds or anything that will need your attention. I have the moms put in a packing list so that when things get spread all over, I will know what to be looking for that might be MIA when it’s time to pack up to come home.

Let’s chat just a bit about what’s in your grandchild’s carry-on bag when going through airport security. KNOW WHAT’S IN THAT BAG AHEAD OF TIME!! You don’t want to get caught with items that will cause problems going through security or have unwanted items on the plane.

Do make sure that if you are traveling by means other than car, you have whatever ID you need for both you and your grandchild in the carry-on bags in case they are needed (Driver’s license, state ID, birth certificate, etc.) Check ahead of time to know what is needed!

13. Let the Grandkids Help Choose the Stops

This will give them something to look forward to. My Littles LOVE maps! A hand-drawn map of the route with stops helps them not be so antsy about where the next stop is going to be. Plus, they feel pretty grown up to be able to tell Papa where to go next.

Hand drawn Disneyland Vacation Map - traveling with grandchildren - Adventures in NanaLand

Sometimes the kids will pick little monuments or unique places along our route to stop. One of our favorites is a little country store that sells every type and flavor of candy and soda on the planet! It’s fine to go a little off the beaten path and explore a bit. . .it’s all part of enjoying the journey. Take the opportunity to see the world through your grandkids’ eyes.

14.  Save Money Where You Can When Traveling with Grandkids 

The beauty of being older is that you can get discounts through places like AARP. Also check out Kiplinger, GetAwayToday, and even Costco to find discounts on car rentals, hotels, destination spot tickets, and suggestions for other ways to save some money on your trip.

TIP: Give each of the kids $5 – this can be specifically for the car ride. Tell them this money is for when you stop at convenience stores with drinks, candy or souvenirs. Tell them that this is all the money they have to spend and no more. Let them choose what they will spend their money on. Trust me when I say that this will save you money in the long run!! And. . .it will make them happy as little clams!

You can also do this when you travel by plane. You can give the Littles money to spend at one of the stores in the airport while you are waiting for your plane.

That leads us to the next tip about bigger souvenirs at the places you will visit.

15.  Set a Budget for Souvenirs When Traveling with Grandkids

Face it; traveling with grandchildren = souvenirs. You are not going to get around all the begging and pleading to buy this or that. . .or can you?? This is where the trip can get really pricey.

Here are a couple of things that have helped us:

  • First off, ask the parents to provide a small amount of money for their kids’ souvenirs.
  • Another solution is to help the kids earn some money before they go. We like to have them over to do chores around our home that we pay them for. This becomes their souvenir money, and they spend it much more wisely when it’s their own.
  • And. . .one small savings tip when it comes to Disneyland, if you have a Target Red Card or Debit Card, buy Disney gift cards there, and use them at the park. You get the 5% off when you buy the gift card with your Target Card – every little bit helps!

(As a side note, we even have the bigger grandkids earn money to pay for their amusement park tickets. . .yes, even Disneyland!)

The kids may be too young or the above solutions may not work out. If that’s the case, then give each child a set dollar amount that you will spend and stick to it! When it’s gone; it’s gone.

Little girl playing with money, piggy bank nearby on yellow background - Traveling with grandkids - Adventures in NanaLand


Hopefully, these tips will help make traveling with grandchildren a bit smoother. Not everything is going to go smoothly or as planned. However, some of those imperfect moments will be the ones that make you laugh or cry or simply remember the time you shared together.

But no matter what. . .just make memories!

So, take a week in Washington D.C. or a day trip to the canyon. Taking a road trip with your grandkids can prove to be a real adventure (hopefully the good kind). Buckle up, be prepared and have fun as you make the most of the time with your grandkids. Happy memories!!

Cookies & Milk for Everyone!

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