Before you head out:
*If your kids are 7 and under buy a membership to your local children's museum and for the 8 and up crew a membership to a science center/museum. Double check to make sure they participate in the reciprocal program which allows you free access to other museums or centers in other areas. Usually as long as where you are going is fifty miles from where you are a member you get in free. This practice has allowed us free access to museums and science centers up and down both East and West coasts and even in Canada, with the added bonus of being able to visit our local spot all year long. It's almost priceless :)
* From the library check out several books on disc that the WHOLE family will enjoy listening to on the road. We have enjoyed The Chronicles of Narnia, Artemis Fowl, Trumpet of the Swans, 39 Clues series, and of course the complete Harry Potter series.
* Look at pictures online and get books from the library showing pictures of where you plan to visit so that your kids are aware, invested in, and excited about the trip.
* Pack a physical map in case 1) your GPS breaks ( this happened to us in Italy) or 2) you lose service on your phone (this happened to us in, no clue where I was because I lost service :)
On the road:
* Plan to drive no more than 3hrs straight if you have little ones under 8. My boys, 5, 8 and 10 have a 4 hour max after which it's goodbye mogwai and hello gremlins. Keep your eyes open for state visitor centers which usually have some interactive exhibits, vending machines, restrooms, picnic tables and space to run around. After 8 hours I would plan to stop at one of the museums you have free access to with your membership mentioned above.
* If you are a middle schooler like me ( younger than an old schoolers but older than the in the now parents) and your kids still share a tech gadget, determine a set amount of time for each turn and use a timer. When the timer goes off the kid has to pass it, if they don't they lose their next turn. This cuts out the whining and the asking of "when can I have a turn".
* Play roadtrip games like searching for out of state license plates, I'm thinking of, and guess that song.
*Have a food bag of easy to open, eat, and throw away snacks readily accessible for each kid. My kids like grapes, gold fish, apples, and granola bars. They put the trash back in the snack pack and we toss it during a fueling break. Also each kid has a SMALL water bottle, a large one and you are stopping more than you planned to.
* let each kid take pictures as you drive. Later you can try and guess where each picture was taken.
* bring small puzzling toys like a rubrics cube, a Jacob's ladder or an etch-a-sketch to keep little brains and hands busy
* freeze yogurt tubes (hot dogs if camping) and use them to keep things cold
* buy a loaf of bread and some pb&j and make your lunch at a rest stop or park instead of eating out
*if your grocery store partners with a gas station sign up and use your points to save on gas as you travel
* join hotels.com if you plan on staying in hotels. After 10 stays you get one night free.
*buy a penny passport and collect pressed pennies on your trip. It's a cheap souvenir that last a lifetime.
* if visiting a national park have your kids do the junior ranger program, they earn a badge for doing fun activities that teach about the park. The badge is a free souvenir.
We have road tripped through 5 countries and 13 states feel free to ask questions.