I can't emphasize this enough! It does not matter if everyone had three full plates at the hotel buffet breakfast, 20 minutes down the road someone will be asking for snacks. Granola bars, cheese sticks, raisins/nuts/seeds, and fruit or raw veggies make for quick and easy snacks while travelling. Fill up water bottles before you're out on the road too to save from buying overpriced roadside bottled water.
2. Coloring books/crayons/workbooks/puzzle books
I had a backpack for each child in front of them so they could get out what they needed, and they kept the pencil case between them so they could share.
3. Kid friendly music
We hit up the library before we left and borrowed a handful of CDs including some children pop mixes, classic children's songs and lullaby CDs for nap time travelling. If you have them on your phone or tablet, that will also work great.
4. iPads/tablets/portable DVD players/other media
We made a deal the day of leaving to leave the tablets at home and bring portable DVD players for the car and hotel. We brought a few favorites and a few new ones they never knew about and it would guarantee an hour of good behavior. We had kid safe earphones so they could watch their own movie choice, or turn it down low and sit it between them if they wanted to watch the same one.
5. Car games
The only ones our kids know so far are I Spy and the Silent Game (ok, that one was more for mommy and daddy's benefit) but it kept them entertained for periods of time. If your kids are a little older, Animal, Vegetable or Mineral (20 questions), License Plate Game or Telling a Story, Word by Word are great for keeping them occupied.
6. Favorite small toys from home
My girls are big into Polly Pocket dolls, so I filled up a resealable freezer bag with dolls and accessories. It would work with small cars, action figures, small puzzles or games.
7. New small toys/items
When you have left the last rest stop before your final destination of the day, and the kids and begging for supper (even though they have been eating every 30 minutes), now is the time to pull out something new. I packed a couple new coloring books, board books, DVDs, and a few new small sensory stimulating toys. You don't need to spend much, but a small initial investment can make for some calm road tripping.
8. Plan your day on the road
Make sure everyone has a good breakfast, it will help get the day started right. You'll need to plan for lots of bathroom breaks and feeding stops if you have little ones or you breastfeed. Also figure out when the best time would be for a run around activity. Sometimes right after breakfast is the best time to go to an attraction before leaving town, able to get in early before the crowds, get out before lunch time, and if all goes right, kiddos will be ready for a nap after a snack. Or head out on the road right after breakfast and use your lunchtime stop as your additional activity for the day. Find a cool playground, go for a short hike, or check out a quaint little town to get the kids out of the car and moving for a bit.
9. Roadside rest stops
Most roadside stops are commercial gas stations and restaurants, but if you don't need to fill up be on the look out for a rest stop with a green space. We found lots of nice ones in Quebec, with green space to run around and play tag, tables to have a quick picnic, and some have small playground areas.
10. Relax and take a deep breath
Yes, there will be some arguments, you might take a few wrong turns, you might of booked a hotel for the wrong weekend (yes I did that) but in the end you will see and experience lots of cool stuff beautiful scenery. So take it all in and watch your children's wide eyes and excited expressions when you go over a large bridge or down into a scenic valley. They love all the little things along the way like horses in a field or a large roadside attraction.