7 Tips for Taking Kids on an Eco-Friendly Road Trip

Background image of colorful roller luggage. Foreground white text that reads "7 Steps to a More Eco-Friendly Family Road Trip"

A Road Trip! How fun! 

Whether your road trip is the journey or the destination, there are definitely some unique challenges to traveling the road with children. Because of the potential for limited space, a budget, and/or convenience, road trips also often result in a lot of excess waste.  Our family recently took a trip across the country with over 20 hours of driving time.  We learned some important lessons along the way, so I am here now to bring you my best tips for an eco-friendly road trip with kids.

Our Strategy for a Sustainable Road Trip with Children

Pick and choose the strategies that may work for you to try to make your next road trip a little bit more eco-friendly!


Novel doesn’t have to be New! 

One of the tricks I read about often when trying to plan for a LONG road trip with toddlers was to bring new items for them to play with along the way. The idea is that the novelty of the keeps their attention. Not only can a bunch of new toys for a 20 hour trip with multiple children get expensive quickly, but it can also be a huge environmental impact with all of the manufacturing, packaging, and shipping material. So I looked for some pre-loved toys that would be new and interesting to the girls without the impact on the environment.


Upcycling & DIY Can be Your Friends! 

The line between trash and a toy is pretty vague for a young kid.  And there are a LOT of amazing things that you can make for enjoyment on the road trip.  Some things can be made ahead of time by a grown up. And some things can be an activity with the kids to prepare for the road trip, which makes these a two-in-one kind of win! 

Some examples include: 


Electronic-Free Games

Listen. When I was preparing my trip with two toddlers, I bought a tablet.  I didn’t think we could make it without one.  And we didn’t. But we DID make it a full 8-hours of driving before needing to rely on the energy-sucking screen time! 

In addition to the toys, you can rely on electronic-free games to play during your trip. Some ideas include: 

  • I Spy
  • I’m Thinking of an Animal
  • Search for a rainbow of Cars (1 for each color of the rainbow)
  • Search for cars with license plates from each state
  • Name that tune

When you’re planning snacks, try to keep in mind that your kiddos will be stuck in their seats, so loading up on sugar is probably not the best idea.


Sustainable Snacking

I knew that we’d be doing a decent amount of snacking on our trip, so I was intentional about packing a variety of snacks that would satisfy all the people in the car. I also worked hard to make more eco-friendly choices.  My two main strategies were:

  • Buy bulk instead of individual packages.
    When possible, you can buy things like trail mix or nuts from a bulk store in your own reusable container.  But even if that isn’t an option for you, buying a larger size usually means less packaging.  You can then use a refillable bowl os snack cup to divide the snacks on the road.
  • Choose sustainable, ethical companies.
    Looking for companies that strive to be carbon neutral, that pay their worker a fair wage, and that use sustainable materials and processes are a great choice when you’re trying to reduce your negative impact on the environment. If you want the short list of our favorites, head over to our earlier post.

When you’re planning snacks, try to keep in mind that your kiddos will be stuck in their seats, so loading up on sugar is probably not the best idea.


Reusable Water Bottle & Container of Water

It’s relatively easy to start off the trip with a sustainable option by filling up your water bottle at home. However, some people run into trouble throughout a trip when they need a clean refill for their water bottle. I get it! I don’t want to be filling up my water bottle at a gas station water fountain, either! But you can still waste less plastic in other ways.  Can you fill up a pitcher with a tight lid to bring with you for refills? Can you save a gallon jug from your last milk purchase to wash out and reuse for water? Can you choose to buy a gallon of water over buying individual water bottles? 


Bring Your Own Meal Kit

For trips that may include a stop for a meal at a place that often hands out plastic utensils and straws & paper napkins, consider packing your own set for each person.  Wrap up your utensils and a reusable straw in a cloth napkin so you have them if you need them! 


Potty Time Tricks

If you are cloth diapering your littles, a road trip can be a tough task.  But there are definitely some hacks to make this more feasible. Check out the amazing list from The Cloth Diaper Option.

If your little is potty training, this can be a little challenging, too. If you have a portable potty, find a place to put it in your vehicle where you have easy access to it.  If you will be using public restrooms, consider a folder, reusable potty seat cover. We have one that we use any time we go to a restaurant or travel so that we don’t have to use toilet paper or paper seat covers. Then it just gets disinfected for the next use! Not only do you get to reuse it, but it also makes the seat a little smaller for your small potty training kiddos.

Safe Travels & Good Luck

Listen, traveling with kids is hard enough. Don’t let being eco-friendly add stress to your trip.  Set yourself up for success by picking the strategies that work for YOUR family. 

Others have said it before, and it is worth repeating: We don’t someone to practice sustainability perfectly. We need everyone to practice sustainability imperfectly.

Be safe. Have fun. And stay sane! 


1 toddler and 1 infant in rear-facing carseats in a vehicle with mom turning head to look back at them

If you have any other tips for an eco-friendly road trip with kids, we’d love to hear about them in the comments!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Related Posts

Feeling Lucky?

Enter your email address to spin the wheel for a chance to win these money-saving offers from Green Whale!