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How to Have a Successful Road Trip With Young Children: Bring Some Good Books & Audios

You likely well know this, but we love books at our house. And no trip is complete without them! I have fond memories of my mom reading to us on long car trips and I hope to create those same memories for my children.

Picture Books

These are great for reading aloud or letting the children read/look at themselves. I tried to pick books that corresponded with some of the places we were visiting and things we were doing to make them a little more relevant.

You can find our family’s 15 favorite read-alouds here if you need ideas for good books. We get most of our books from PaperBackSwap since, sadly, our library system here is nothing like the wonderful library system we had in Topeka and Kansas City (we were spoiled there — no late fees, very clean and modern facilities and lots of new books and new releases!).

Chapter Books

I always try to bring one chapter book along to read in the car and at night as we’re snuggled up in bed before going to sleep. The children beg for me to read every night and there’s nothing that beats a good chapter book while we’re all snuggled under the covers together!

We’re finishing the Little House series right now, but I brought for something different for this trip. The children loved it and I think I know what books we’re going to read once we finish the Little House series! (Thanks to a reader who recommended this book!)

Books On Tape/Audio Dramatizations

One of the ways we pass a lot of time in the car is by listening to great audio. One of our children’s current favorites is the We also enjoy the and the The girls also recently listened to during their afternoon quiet time and were enthralled with it.

Books for Mom

Don’t forget to bring some books for yourself, too. Road trips almost always provide some time to enjoy longer stretches of reading than you might usually be able to enjoy at home. I brought , , and . Reviews on these books will be posted in a few weeks when I share about the books I’ve read this month.

Other posts in the Have a Successful Road Trip With Young Children series

  1. How to Have a Successful Road Trip With Young Children: Be Organized When Packing
  2. How to Have a Successful Road Trip With Young Children: Pack an Emergency Box
  3. How to Have a Successful Road Trip With Young Children: Bring Some Good Books & Audios

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65 Comments

  • AJ says:

    We LOVE listening to audio in the car. We drive at least 40 miles round trip several times a week and besides our favorite podcasts we have lately been listening to the Narnia series done by Focus on the Family radio theater. We’ve also listened to Stuart Little and Mouse and the Motorcycle in the past few months.

    • Cassie says:

      do you have kid podcasts you listen too? If so, would you share them? 🙂

    • says:

      I forgot that we listened to an Adventures in Odyssey CD on our road trip two weeks ago. When we got the CD as a gift our oldest was quite young, but we popped it in and she loved it (she is now 3 1/2, but I think it will make more impact when she is older). She wanted to listen to it over and over. We also had audio books and library books to read on the trip amongst other things to keep the kids busy. Check out some of our other activities here:

  • Kari says:

    One of my favourite series as a kid was the All of a Kind Family. I recently took them out of the library to reread — and I still love them.
    For when the girls are older — they would likely also like the Booky series by Bernice Thurman Hunter (the Margaret series is also good). She is a Cdn author but I think your girls would still like them (the Booky series takes place in Toronto during the depression and Margaret during the Polio epidemic).

  • Dee says:

    We traveled the 500 miles to visit Grandma 5 to 6 times a year when my kids we little. We loved classic children’s literature on audio – Old Yeller, Where the Red Fern Grows + a few just for silly fun – Hank the Cow Dog series. I kept Tupperware containers that fit under the seat filled with markers, coloring books and activity books, too. They used the box as a lap desk.

    • B Camp says:

      We too a trip from Texas to Disneyworld in Florida when our kids were 6 and 10. They loved Hank the Cowdog on the way!

  • Sarah May says:

    My husband is the librarian in Meade, KS. While your library system may not be the incredible experience you are used to (I know, we lived in Topeka before moving here – it was an amazing library!), don’t discount using the services at the library. You can still get just about any book for almost free through inter-library loan. If your particular library is not a comfortable place for you, consider going to a smaller library in a nearby community. Also, you may already be familiar with this, but the State Library offers a free State Library card that offers you access to lots of free audiobooks and other resources.

  • says:

    Oh Crystal, I had to comment because I love All of Kind Family! Your girls also might enjoy the Betsy Tacy Books; I’m planning to start the first with my 4-1/2 year old soon.

  • says:

    We always take a ton of books on road trips! Books help pass the time and keep little minds focused on something other than their aching bums. Last year I checked out state books by Sleeping Bear Press to take with us on our trip from Rhode Island to DC. We took the book for each state we drove through and the NYC & DC city books. Each book also has a website with printable worksheets. Fun, educational and free – 3 of my favorite words! 🙂

  • says:

    We have a family wide-spread car sickness epidemic which unfortunately prevents any books, coloring, etc. 😉 However, we LOVE the Johnathan Park series, we burn lectures/sermons onto cds before we go too. Finally, we also have catechism on cd as well as bible verses to song on cd that allow for some time of the kids “singing and learning” at the same time. This variety solves our problem with car sickness, but allows for each of us to be edified and entertained! We tell the kids “one Jonathan Park, then one lecture/sermon and discussion and then some singing time” and just keep rotating through this cycle depending on how long the road trip is!

  • says:

    I love The Wounded Spirit-and anything by Frank Perretti. I hope you enjoy it, too!

  • says:

    Before a big trip, consider going to yard sales the weekend before to pick up some new books for your kids. I often even find kid audio books, too. Often books at yard sales are only $0.25 each, and I always pack little bags of never before seen books for my kids. They read/look through them all, then switch bags. Hours of entertainment!

  • Charity says:

    No more books in the car for us. My littles always throw up when they look at books while riding! 🙁

    • Chels B. says:

      Awhh poor kiddos! Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been the same way. To this day, I still can’t read in the car, but my husband can so maybe the kids will be able to also. Time will tell. I also hadn’t considered audio books which I think is a great idea.

      • Kristine says:

        I get carsick if I read in the car too – so there would be no way I could read to the kids on a roaptrip! But the audio books are a great idea! We also love radio channel surfing. I don’t know why, but we find it so amusing to put the radio on “scan/seek” and see what it find in the area!

  • Jorgiee says:

    Hi there! Just a quick tip for road trips and days when your running errands with the kids…. PATCH THE PIRATE CD’S!! They are sold by Majesty Music. They are fantastic, character building stories for children but honestly adults love them too. My kids love them and beg to listen to them everytime we get in the car. We purchase a new one everytime we plan some kind of trip. Some all time favorites are Custard’s last stand (about family togetherness), The lone stranger (about being strong in the Lord). Have a great summer!!

  • says:

    Sorry to hear about your library not having the best resources. The company I work for, has thousands of books as well as audiobooks on cassette and CD, (CDs and DVDs too, if you have portable or in-car players) that would be great for road trips. We pay cash for used media items and then resell them to keep them out of landfills. And you can repeat the process so when you get back from a road trip you can then trade those books back in to us for cash or for new books and audio books for the next trip.

  • Kate says:

    Almost every long trip for us is precluded by a trip to the library to borrow a pile of books on tape/CD. Our library is small, but luckily has a good-sized collection from which to choose.

  • lyss says:

    Books for the car ride are only good if you don’t get carsick! 🙁 But audio is great. Highly recommend Patch the Pirate! Kids love it!

  • Terri says:

    Crystal,
    The All-Of-A Kind Family series was my favorite and my daughter has loved the books as well. Your children might also enjoy the Bobbsey Twins series. They were popular in the 1950’s and I found the entire series in our library.

  • says:

    Jonathan Park is our family favorite!!! We almost can’t wait to take a road trip just to listen to those! =) Great ideas!

  • says:

    When I was a kid, the best part of taking a road trip was going to the bookstore before the trip. My mom would let us pick out 6 books each (no idea why that particular number), and she’d buy them for us. But then, we weren’t allowed to touch them until the trip. Oh, the anticipation!

    I hope to do the same for my son someday.

    Unfortunately, I stopped being able to read in the car when I was 19. I just get sick now if I try. 🙁 However, during the morning-sickness phase of my pregnancy, I had several people notice the sea bands I was wearing, and they mentioned that they wear them in the car so they can read or knit. I’ll need to try that…

  • Carissa says:

    We miss the Topeka library too. You can’t beat no late fees and checking out books online and having them mailed to you for free! When we moved we had no idea how spoiled we were!

  • says:

    I had All of a Kind Family when I was a kid, loved that book… but I didn’t know it was a series :). So awesome that you share your love of reading with your kids, especially on long trips… growing up we always went to the library before road trips and I read… kinda sad because now kids just watch DVDs in the car…

  • Kristin says:

    We bought our kids the Adventures in Odyssey “A Maze of Mysteries” set for Christmas, and any time we are in the car they yell out “Odyssey please!” They love the stories and we have gone through the 8-disc set (9 hours worth) many times already. I think we’re going to have to get some new Odyssey stories for our long road trips coming up this summer!

  • Sarah says:

    We brought Jim Weiss and Classical Kids CDs on our last road trip. Magna-doodles from a yard sale and reusable sticker books were also a hit! I get too car sick to read, too 🙁

    • Laura says:

      Magna Doodles are THE BEST!!! A great alternative to crayons, since my children are too young to color in the car. 🙂

    • Emma K says:

      I agree with Magna-Doodles. That and books are what we keep in the car and it keeps my two little ones entertained!

  • says:

    Chalk me up as one who LOVED, LOVED, LOVED the All-Of-A-Kind Family series when I was growing up. I was doubly excited by them because my family is Jewish, and it was hard to find books about children like me. Also, my grandmother lived in a tenement on the Lower East Side in the same time period as these girls. In fact, she lived on Rivington Street where the family shops at the market. There are five books in the series, and I always wished there were more. The new American Girl, Rebecca is also Jewish and lives in NYC in 1914. Her books are good, too, and there’s more information about that time period in the backs of those books called “A Peek Into the Past.”

  • says:

    We drove to Disney World last year from New York and would not have survived without audio books (on the ipod), regular books, and coloring books. Snacks and books make for a sane road trip 🙂

  • CH says:

    Any tips for traveling with a younger child? My 18mth old doesn’t fair well on road trips. Last trip was 9 hours of which he cried at least 3 or 4 hours. He also doesn’t seem to sleep well in the car, every little bump and sound wakes him up which of course gets him frustrated and crying all over again:(

    • Emma K says:

      Have you tried books and magnadoodles?

      My kids first road trips were when they were a month old so I have them both trained.

    • Amy says:

      Oh, I feel for you!! My son has always been a great traveler but neither of my girls did well in the car until they were about 3 years old. Keep trying new things, and hang in there!! One thing that helps give kids a break, and distracts them, is eating in the car (instead of in a restaurant) and using rest stops for running and playing (at road side parks or fast food playgrounds). The last thing a kid wants to do at a rest stop is be strapped into yet another chair. 🙂

  • missy says:

    love all of a kind family. my six girls always remind me of their family with the stair step girls that look alike. sadly alas i cant get my girls to read them or little house on the prairie. loved those books when i was little

  • Sonja says:

    We could never make the drive from Kansas to Massachusetts without Jonathan Parks & Patch the Pirate cds! My boys and I all get car sick if we read AT ALL, so audios are a real life saver for us!

  • says:

    We always used to get a new Adventures in Odyssey set when going on a trip. I still like to listen to them in the car and now I’m 25! lol. I know have all the old collection. Too bad they are on tape and I only have a CD player in the car.

    • says:

      My husband is going to help me start converting my old cassette Adventures in Odyssey to MP3, then you can burn them to a CD and fit a lot more on, or play them from your MP3 device if your player has a jack for it. At 28, I also still listen to Odyssey, though I have finally cut myself off from purchasing the recent revamp. After volume 50 I swear I’m done.

  • says:

    I also love All of a Kind Family. A teacher read it to me aloud in the second or third grade and I’ve been reading the whole series ever since. (I reread them every few years). We survived childhood road trips via books and Adventures in Odyssey. By the time we were in high school we owned all the current adventures (30 some volumes) and I’ve recently started collecting them again. (My husband thinks I’m a big dork, but I like listening to them while I do housework and my two year old already knows the names of main characters. I can’t wait until my daughter is old enough to enjoy these as well. I was so glad to see an article that didn’t recommend a DVD player as the first and only line of defense for road trips. Granted, my sister and I would have given our right arms for one when we were kids, but I think that it was better that we didn’t.

  • Mary says:

    If you love All of a Kind Family, you will ADORE Understood Betsy!!!! Get it and read it to your girlies! They (and your husband) will love it!

    Mary

  • Heather says:

    Audio books are awesome – worked like a charm when my boys were little. “The Great Railway Adventures” series by Lionel were a favorite!!!!! Classic stories at their best. My hubby and I enjoyed listening to them as much as the boys!

  • sona says:

    not sure how to listen to the CD books in the car. we have tried several times and the road/car noise is too loud, we cant hear a thing. Its a new car.

  • Rebecca C. says:

    Our favorite audios include Patch-the-Pirate, Stories of Great Christians (only available on MP3 now, from Moody), and Lamplighter Theater. Oh, and we’ve also listened to all of the Jonathan Parks as well! 🙂

  • Ruth says:

    I agree with Sona. Our Camry makes it impossible to hear the CD books well. Is it the road noise in So Cal or just my car’s system?

  • Jaci says:

    Great tips for road trips! Another crucial element for us is snacks. It never fails that when the kids get in the car they want a snack! (I think they get that from their Mom 🙂

    Oh…and I’m looking forward to hearing your review of Quitter. I plan to purchase that for my husband’s birthday as it sounds like the perfect read for him right now.

  • says:

    I saw you linked the books to amazon. Don’t forget library books will loan books, most of the time for 3 weeks or more, which should give you enough time to take them on vacation and return them before they are overdue.

  • says:

    oops sorry didn’t read all the comments, it seems a few people have already mentioned the library 🙂

  • says:

    Oh! Oh! Oh! I LOVE All-of-a-Kind Family! I have that on my read-alouds list for my sons, along with all the Little House books and Charlotte’s Web. Among others, we’ve read Stuart Little and all the Narnia Chronicles and are actually starting on The Hobbit. It’s been harder to get my older son interested in All-of-a-Kind Family and the Little House books than in the “fighting” books. I hope his interests broaden eventually. 🙂 Love your favorite books lists.

  • Heather T. says:

    If I read anything in a moving vehicle its awful I get sick just thinking about it, our van with the tv has been a life saver! Not sure if my kids get car sick yet, they don’t seem to and we do have a 3 1/2 hour drive vacay coming up so we may have to check out some books on audio from the library!

  • says:

    We also like the “Look and Find Books”, and other age appropriate activity books. The “Look and Find” ones seem to keep their attention when they’re too antsy for “real” reading 🙂

  • says:

    Oooh, love the idea of reading chapter books on vacation! You’re creating great memories!

  • Clare C. says:

    The All of a Kind Family series was a favorite of mine as a child along with the Betsy-Tacy series but I think I loved the Betsy-Tacy books just a little bit more. I must have since I have a daughter named “Tacy.” 🙂 Anyway, both of these series still reside on my living room book shelf today. I love to share good books with my kids, too. It’s so heartening to see other moms doing the same…

  • Janna says:

    My kids LOVE the Jonathan Park series! I think we’re on volume four. I’m sure by the time we’re done homeschooling we’ll have the entire collection and CDs will be a thing of the past. 🙂 Do you find any good deals on those or do you think of it as an investment?
    We’re currently listening to the Focus on the Family Radio Theater of Naria. It was $20.00 through Christian Book Distributors! For the entire set! AND I got an activity book and a large discussion guide book to correspond with the Narnia series and spent less than $7.00! That’s a great site sometimes!

  • Kaitlyn says:

    Adventures In Odyssey is great! They’re extremely funny too. Everyone in the family loves them. We like to find a new CD pack (usually comes with 4 CDs with 3 episodes on each CD) before the trip and listen the whole time during our trip.

  • K says:

    We love getting audiobooks from the library! Nothing else keeps my kids so quiet and well-behaved. Our family has enjoyed Magic Treehouse, Flat Stanley, Sarah Plain and Tall (one I remember from my own childhood car trips!) and we are currently enjoying the Harry Potter series .

  • Annie says:

    Kind of a late post,

    I’ve never heard of the OneofaKindFamily series. Can anyone tell me what grade level this is at? My 10 year old daughter is not too interested in reading the Little House series for some reason. Thanks too for reminding me about the Bobsy Twins too.

    Thanks!

  • Jenn says:

    I never travel anywhere without a deck of Uno cards. They’re great for all ages: toddlers will enjoy examining, eating and bending each card and then dropping them off the side of the car seat. And when you collect them all and give them back it’s like a new toy! (Obviously this deck is only for the toddler.) Older kids can use a deck for color and number id/matching. The deck also works for go fish, snap, old maid, concentration and, of course, Uno.

    Robert Munsch is a great children’s author and has a website where you can download recordings of his stories for personal use.

    I also like to bring something that involves working the hands, like a small bead rollercoaster for little kids and some sort of big piece construction toy for older kids. Magnetic dolls or travel games are also great. And I have a travel-sized lite brite as well. We travel often enough that I keep a box of travel toys and add to it as I find things. The travel toys can only come out when we’re traveling, otherwise they’ll get stale.

    Our local library in Kentucky had these great themed backpacks you could check out. There would be a couple books and a few skills toys around a theme like feelings, dinosaurs, colors, etc.

  • Christi says:

    I loved All of a Kind Family as a kid. That’s how I learned about half sour pickles, soda crackers and Yom Kippur and Purim!

  • says:

    We just took a 1000+ mile trip from NC to OK and KS (my husband and I both grew up in KS) with our two young boys and had a great time! Books are definitely the key and you’re right – I finished several books myself. 🙂 Another good idea for the kids and a way to pass the time is to make a sticker chart – every hour (or certain number of miles) they get to put a sticker on their chart and when the chart is complete they turn it in for a surprise! It was something to look forward to and a good motivator. 🙂

  • says:

    I love the All of a Kind Family! As others have recommended, Betsy-Tacy is another good series. I also loved The Five Little Peppers and the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books. And the Shoe books by Noel Streatfeild – Ballet Shoes, Theater Shoes, Dancing Shoes, etc.

  • says:

    We just took a 5 hour road trip over Memorial Day weekend with a 15-mo old and two big dogs and we are still exhausted from it!! The dogs traveled perfectly, the the busy toddler was pretty tired of being stuck in a hot car by the time we drove home.

    We tried to keep the same eating/snack schedule, but the nap schedule was completely off. And we learned that we cannot share the same hotel room when baby’s bed time is 7:30! Next time we get adjoining rooms so we don’t have to hide in the bathroom with our laptops until the baby falls asleep!

  • Becky says:

    I envy you – I get carsick if I do anything but stare straight forward. I sometimes can get away with looking out the side window or getting a snack. Audiobooks are a good idea though. Usually we turn on music or talk (no kiddos for us yet). I sometimes have a hard time concentrating on audiobooks but they might be useful in those long stretches.

  • Blaire Ruch says:

    Not sure if you will read this or not Crystal, but things have changed in Topeka. We have late fees now, and they charge for mailing out books 🙁
    Still an incredible library though! 🙂

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