The best middle grade books about road trips are packed with adventure, sightseeing, family bonding, and of course, a dash of emotion. I love books about traveling and I enjoy how discovering new places can lead to self-discovery for the characters. In these 23 middle grade books about road trips, you’ll see all that come to life. As fun as they are, many of these books tackle serious issues like racism, mental illness, and the grief of losing a loved one.
23 Best Middle Grade Books About Road Trips
Far from Fair
Odette Zyskowski has a list: Things That Aren’t Fair. At the top of the list is her parents’ decision to take the family on the road in an ugly RV they’ve nicknamed the Coach. There’s nothing fair about leaving California and living in the cramped Coach with her parents and exasperating younger brother, sharing one stupid cell phone among the four of them. And there’s definitely nothing fair about what they find when they reach Grandma Sissy’s house, hundreds of miles later. Most days it seems as if everything in Odette’s life is far from fair. Is there a way for her to make things right?
With warmth and sensitivity, Elana K. Arnold makes the difficult topics of terminal illness and the right to die accessible to young readers.
Wrong Way Summer
Claire used to love her dad’s fantastical stories, especially tales about her absent mom—who could be off with the circus or stolen by the troll king, depending on the day. But now that she’s 12, Claire thinks she’s old enough to know the truth. When her dad sells the house and moves her and her brother into a converted van, she’s tired of the tall tales and refuses to pretend it’s all some grand adventure, despite how enthusiastically her little brother embraces this newest fantasy. Claire is faced with a choice: Will she play along with the stories her dad is spinning for her little brother, or will she force her family to face reality once and for all? Equal parts heartwarming and heartbreaking, Wrong Way Summer is a road-trip journey and coming-of-age story about one girl’s struggle to understand when a lie is really a lie and when it’s something more: hope.
The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise
That’s how long Coyote and her dad, Rodeo, have lived on the road in an old school bus, criss-crossing the nation.
It’s also how long ago Coyote lost her mom and two sisters in a car crash.
Coyote hasn’t been home in all that time, but when she learns that the park in her old neighborhood is being demolished―the very same park where she, her mom, and her sisters buried a treasured memory box―she devises an elaborate plan to get her dad to drive 3,600 miles back to Washington state in four days…without him realizing it.
Along the way, they’ll pick up a strange crew of misfit travelers. Lester has a lady love to meet. Salvador and his mom are looking to start over. Val needs a safe place to be herself. And then there’s Gladys…
Over the course of thousands of miles, Coyote will learn that going home can sometimes be the hardest journey of all…but that with friends by her side, she just might be able to turn her “once upon a time” into a “happily ever after.”
How to Go on an Unplanned Road Trip with Your Grandma:
Grab a Suitcase: Prepacked from the big spring break trip that got CANCELLED.
Fasten Your Seatbelt: G’ma’s never conventional, so this trip won’t be either.
Use the Green Book: G’ma’s most treasured possession. It holds history, memories, and most important, the way home.
What Not to Bring:
A Cell Phone: Avoid contact with Dad at all costs. Even when G’ma starts acting stranger than usual.
The Someday Birds
Charlie’s perfectly ordinary life has been unraveling ever since his war journalist father was injured in Afghanistan.
When his father heads from California to Virginia for medical treatment, Charlie reluctantly travels cross-country with his boy-crazy sister, unruly brothers, and a mysterious new family friend. He decides that if he can spot all the birds that he and his father were hoping to see someday along the way, then everything might just turn out okay.
Debut author Sally J. Pla has written a tale that is equal parts madcap road trip, coming-of-age story for an autistic boy who feels he doesn’t understand the world, and an uplifting portrait of a family overcoming a crisis.
Rion Kwirk comes from a rather odd family. His mother named him and his sisters after her favorite constellations, and his father makes funky-flavored jellybeans for a living. One sister acts as if she’s always on stage, and the other is a walking dictionary. But no one in the family is more odd than Rion’s grandfather, Papa Kwirk.
He’s the kind of guy who shows up on his motorcycle only on holidays handing out crossbows and stuffed squirrels as presents. Rion has always been fascinated by Papa Kwirk, especially as his son—Rion’s father—is the complete opposite. Where Dad is predictable, nerdy, and reassuringly boring, Papa Kwirk is mysterious, dangerous, and cool.
Which is why, when Rion and his family learn of Papa Kwirk’s death and pile into the car to attend his funeral and pay their respects, Rion can’t help but feel that that’s not the end of his story. That there’s so much more to Papa Kwirk to discover.
He doesn’t know how right he is.
Alpaca My Bags
When anxiety threatens to derail a homeschooled girl’s attempt to make new friends, she finds support in an unlikely source . . . a herd of adorable alpacas!To some kids, Amelia’s life sounds like the ultimate fantasy. She and her brothers are homeschooled by their adventurous parents, and the family travels around the country in an RV, scaling mountains, rappelling down canyons, and skiing down double black diamond slopes.There’s just one problem — Amelia didn’t inherit the family’s daredevil gene. She’s terrified of heights and would give anything to be reading instead of careening down a mountain. She’s also desperate for the chance to attend a regular school and make real friends. So when her parents decide to temporarily move to Colorado, Amelia’s delighted by the chance to settle down.
However, starting at a conventional school is much harder than Amelia imagined, and her anxiety makes meeting new friends extra challenging. Everything about her feels wrong, from her clothes to her hobbies to her complete lack of pop culture knowledge. So when Amelia’s given the chance to volunteer at an alpaca ranch, she’s delighted by the chance to do something she’s good at — take care of animals. And soon, the alpacas and their owners start to feel like real friends. But when a cruel classmate’s prank puts the alpacas in mortal peril, Amelia will have to summon strength she never knew she possessed to save the only place that’s ever felt like home.
When I Hit the Road
Samantha is not exactly excited to spend her entire summer vacation in Florida with her grandma. Or to have to write to her future self in the journal her mom insists she use. But it turns out that Gram has some not-so-boring plans up her sleeve…
Gram and her friend Mimi are going to audition for the Seniors Have Got Talent Karaoke Contest!
A road trip in Gram’s new Mustang turns into a series of hilarious mishaps that flip Samantha’s summer on its head, especially because, an unexpected person is sharing the ride: a super cute, muscular, athletic-looking, dimple-faced, middle-school boy named Brandon.
It looks like her journal might be worth keeping after all because this summer will be one Samantha will never want to forget.
The Lonely Heart of Maybelle Lane
Eleven-year-old Maybelle Lane collects sounds. She records the Louisiana crickets chirping, Momma strumming her guitar, their broken trailer door squeaking. But the crown jewel of her collection is a sound she didn’t collect herself: an old recording of her daddy’s warm-sunshine laugh, saved on an old phone’s voicemail. It’s the only thing she has of his, and the only thing she knows about him.
Until the day she hears that laugh–his laugh–pouring out of the car radio. Going against Momma’s wishes, Maybelle starts listening to her radio DJ daddy’s new show, drinking in every word like a plant leaning toward the sun. When he announces he’ll be the judge of a singing contest in Nashville, she signs up. What better way to meet than to stand before him and sing with all her heart?
But the road to Nashville is bumpy. Her starch-stiff neighbor Mrs. Boggs offers to drive her in her RV. And a bully of a boy from the trailer park hitches a ride, too. These are not the people May would have chosen to help her, but it turns out they’re searching for things as well. And the journey will mold them into the best kind of family–the kind you choose for yourself.
How to Avoid Extinction
Since the death of his grandfather, Leo’s number one chore has been to chase after his grandmother who seems to wander away from home every few days. Now, Gram’s decided to roam farther than ever. And despite his misgivings, Leo’s going along for the ride. With his seventeen-year-old cousin, Abbey, and an old, gassy dog named Kermit, Leo joins Gram in a big, old Buick to leave their Pennsylvania home for a cross-country road trip filled with foldout maps, family secrets, new friends, and dinosaur bones.
How to Avoid Extinction is a middle-grade comedy about death and food and family and fossils. It’s about running away from home and coming back again. For Leo, it’s about asking hard questions and hopefully finding some sensible answers. As if good sense has anything to do with it. Against a backdrop of America’s stunning size and beauty, it’s also about growing up, getting old, dreaming about immortality, and figuring out all the things we can — and can’t — leave behind.
The Adventures of a Girl Called Bicycle
Introverted Bicycle has lived most of her life at the Mostly Silent Monastery in Washington, D.C.– and she likes it that way. But when her guardian, Sister Wanda, announces that Bicycle is going to attend a camp where she will learn to make friends, Bicycle says no way. Determined to prove she can make friends on her own, she sets off on her bike for San Francisco to meet her idol, a famous cyclist, certain he will be her first true friend.
Who knew that a ghost would haunt her handlebars and that she would have to contend with bike-hating dogs, a bike-loving horse, bike-crushing pigs, and a mysterious lady dressed in black. Over the uphills and downhills of her journey, Bicycle discovers that friends are not such a bad thing to have after all, and that a dozen cookies really can solve most problems.
See You in the Cosmos
11-year-old Alex Petroski loves space and rockets, his mom, his brother, and his dog Carl Sagan—named for his hero, the real-life astronomer. All he wants is to launch his golden iPod into space the way Carl Sagan (the man, not the dog) launched his Golden Record on the Voyager spacecraft in 1977. From Colorado to New Mexico, Las Vegas to L.A., Alex records a journey on his iPod to show other lifeforms what life on earth, his earth, is like. But his destination keeps changing. And the funny, lost, remarkable people he meets along the way can only partially prepare him for the secrets he’ll uncover—from the truth about his long-dead dad to the fact that, for a kid with a troubled mom and a mostly not-around brother, he has way more family than he ever knew.
Jack Cheng’s debut is full of joy, optimism, determination, and unbelievable heart. To read the first page is to fall in love with Alex and his view of our big, beautiful, complicated world. To read the last is to know he and his story will stay with you a long, long time.
The Last Grand Adventure
It’s 1967 and twelve-year-old Bea is in need of some adventure. Her mother is off in San Francisco, while her father has just gotten remarried in Los Angeles. Bea has gained a younger stepsister, and she’s not thrilled about her blended family. So when her ailing grandmother, Pidge, moves to an Orange County senior-living community and asks if Bea would spend the summer helping her get settled, Bea is happy for any excuse to get away.
But it turns out, her grandmother isn’t interested in settling in. What she really wants is to hop a train back to Atchison, Kansas—where she thinks she’ll be reunited with her long-missing sister: Amelia Earhart. And she wants Bea to be her sidekick on this secret trip.
At first, Bea thinks her grandmother’s plan is a little crazy. But Pidge has thirty years of letters written in “Meelie’s” unmistakable voice, all promising to reunite. This might be the adventure Bea needs…
With letters in hand, Bea and Pidge set off on their quest to find Amelia. But getting halfway across the country proves to be more of an adventure than either of them bargained for. And their search for Amelia leads to some surprising truths about their family—and each other.
Julia and the Art of Practical Travel
When her grandmother dies and the once-majestic family estate is sold, eleven-year-old Julia Lancaster and her aunt Constance must take to the road to find Julia’s long-lost mother. They bring with them only the most practical travel things—silver candlestick holders, a few Oriental carpets, some steamer trunks, and Julia’s beloved Brownie camera, which she will use to document their journey across 1960s America.
On the road, Julia and her aunt meet a cast of peculiar characters, including guitar-strumming hippies in Greenwich Village, a legendary voodoo queen in New Orleans, the honorable proprietor of the World’s End Cattle Ranch in Texas, and the colorful sheriff of Gold Point, Nevada (population: 1), who also happens to be the town’s mayor, fire chief, and reverend. But will they find Julia’s mother and a place to call home?
Poignant, engaging, and funny, Lesley M. M. Blume’s new novel is a meditation on the thin line between being an insider and being an outsider, and the deep-rooted need we all have to find a place where we can feel at home.
Survival Strategies of the Almost Brave
After their mother’s recent death, twelve-year-old Liberty and her eight-year-old sister, Billie, are sent to live with their father, who they haven’t seen since they were very young. Things are great at first; the girls are so excited to get to know their father – a photographer who, for the summer, is travelling around in an RV. But soon, the pressure of parenthood becomes too much for him, and he abandons the girls at the Jiffy Company Gas Station.
Instead of waiting for someone to come to their rescue, Liberty takes matters into her own hands. On the sisters’ journey to get home, they encounter a menacing gas station attendant, a heavily tattooed trucker, a kid obsessed with Star Wars, a woman who lives with many very usual pets, and a host of other characters.
When all seems lost, they get some help from an unlikely source, and end up learning that sometimes you have to get a little bit lost to be found.
Raina can’t wait to be a big sister. But once Amara is born, things aren’t quite how she expected them to be. Amara is cute, but she’s also a cranky, grouchy baby, and mostly prefers to play by herself. Their relationship doesn’t improve much over the years, but when a baby brother enters the picture and later, something doesn’t seem right between their parents, they realize they must figure out how to get along. They are sisters, after all.Raina uses her signature humor and charm in both present-day narrative and perfectly placed flashbacks to tell the story of her relationship with her sister, which unfolds during the course of a road trip from their home in San Francisco to a family reunion in Colorado.
The Courage Test
Will has no choice. His father, a professor of American history, drags him along on a wilderness adventure in the footsteps of the legendary explorers Lewis and Clark―whether he likes it or not. All the while, Will senses that something about this trip isn’t quite right. His parents are divorced, and he hasn’t spent much time with his father. Why now? And why is Will’s mother practically pushing him out the door?
Along the journey, Will meets fascinating strangers and experiences new thrills, including whitewater rapids and a heart-pounding encounter with a bear. This, along with getting to know his dad, tests Will in ways he hasn’t faced before. But the biggest test of his courage isn’t on the road; it’s facing an illness that will be life-changing.
Barfing in the Backseat: How I Survived My Family Road Trip (Hank Zipzer #12)
Hank’s dad has decided to enter a crossword-puzzle tournament, and he wants to make a family road trip of it! So the family piles into the car—along with Frankie and Katherine the iguana (Hank and Emily each get to bring a “friend”). When they reach their destination, they’ll get to spend the day at a roller-coaster park during Hank’s dad’s tournament! The only caveat is that Hank has a homework packet to finish before they get there . . . which he somehow manages to lose at a stop along the way. Suddenly, Hank doesn’t feel so good . . . Can Hank and Frankie rescue the lost packet and get Hank on a roller coaster?
The Great Peach Experiment 1: When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Peach Pie
After a tough year, Lucy, Freddy, and Herb Peach are ready for vacation. Lucy wants to read all of the books on the summer reading list. Freddy wants to work on his art projects (when he isn’t stuck in summer school). Herb wants to swim every day.
Then their dad makes a big announcement: one of the inventions their mom came up with before she passed away has sold, and now they’re millionaires!
But Dad has bigger plans than blowing the cash on fun stuff or investing it. He’s bought a used food truck. The Peaches are going to spend the summer traveling the country selling pies. It will be the Great Peach Experiment–a summer of bonding while living out one of Mom’s dreams. Summer plans, sunk. And there’s one more issue Dad’s neglected: none of them knows how to bake. . . .
A perfect blend of humor, heart, and family antics, When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Peach Pie is a delectable treat to be gobbled down or savored slowly. (Slice of pie on the side, optional, but highly recommended.)
BSC in the USA
The baby-sitters have a million adventures during their fabulous summer vacation which includes several days in Disneyland.
Peter Lee’s Notes from the Field
Eleven year-old Peter Lee has one goal in life: to become a paleontologist. Okay, maybe two: to get his genius kid-sister, L.B., to leave him alone. But his summer falls apart when his real-life dinosaur expedition turns out to be a bust, and he watches his dreams go up in a cloud of asthma-inducing dust.
Even worse, his grandmother, Hammy, is sick, and no one will talk to Peter or L.B. about it. Perhaps his days as a scientist aren’t quite behind him yet. Armed with notebooks and pens, Peter puts his observation and experimental skills to the test to see what he can do for Hammy. If only he can get his sister to be quiet for once — he needs time to sketch out a plan.
Olivia is on the road trip of her dreams, with her trusty camera and her big sister Ruth by her side. Three years ago, before their family moved from California to Tennessee, Olivia and Ruth buried a time capsule on their favorite beach. Now, they’re taking an RV back across the country to uncover the memories they left behind. But Ruth’s depression has been getting worse, so Olivia has created a plan to help her remember how life used to be: a makeshift scavenger hunt across the country, like pirates hunting for treasure, taking pictures and making memories along the way.
All she wants is to take the picture that makes her sister smile. But what if things can never go back to how they used to be? What if they never find the treasure they’re seeking? Through all the questions, loving her sister, not changing her, is all Olivia can do—and maybe it’s enough.
There they are: 23 of the best middle grade books about road trips! Which of these books have you read and enjoyed? What else would you add?