I have taken several road trips with my family. The longest one was from Houston, TX to Key West, FL. At the time, my kids were 1, 6, and 8. Although there were a few hiccups along the way (the DVD player broke 2 hours into the journey), this trip remains one of our favorite family vacations.
Because of COVID-19, more families are taking road trips to avoid crowded airports. But before you hit the open road, there are several things to take into consideration. A successful family road trip takes lots of planning, especially when young children are involved. Here are a few tips to help you to have a fun, stress-free journey.
Pick Your Location & Plan Your Route
When deciding on where to go, solicit input from every family member. Their buy-in will make spending long hours in a car less dreadful because everyone will be excited about the trip. The next step is to plan your route. Once again, you want to get input from everyone. Should you use only major highways or should you take back roads? Perhaps, you’d like to take a detour to visit your aunt. Be sure to keep all family members informed. After you’ve planned my route, print out a copy to review it with your family. This sheet of paper is a crucial tool to stave off the “Are we there yet?” question. Simply tell them to refer to the map.
This may not sound like an important part of the planning process, but it is essential if you want to keep your sanity. If you don’t establish seating boundaries from the start, you will hear a chorus of, “He’s touching me” or “Her stuff is on my side.”
Of course, many kids have cell phones to entertain themselves, but an additional selection of books, games, and movies will help to stave off boredom. You can also go old school and challenge your kids to a game of “I Spy” or “Spot the License Plate.” I like to crank up the music and have a family sing-a-long. The best part of being cooped up in a car with your family for several hours is that you have a captive audience. You can have deep, substantive conversations and really get to know one another better.
Pack Plenty of Snacks
Dining options along most interstate highways are limited. Your main choices are greasy spoons and fast-food establishments. That’s why it’s so it’s important to pack healthy snacks for the trip. Bring along some fruit, nuts, trail mix, granola bars, and plenty of water or juice.
Plan for Bathroom Breaks
Many dads like to get to their destinations as soon as possible. But kids force you to be more flexible. Schedule plenty of bathroom breaks during the trip. Make sure everyone goes to the restroom whenever you stop for gas and food. But don’t be surprised when your child says he has to go five minutes after you’ve left a scheduled pit stop.
Find a Cool Place to Stay
Depending on how long your trip is, you may have to stop for lodging along the way. If you choose a chain hotel, find one with roomy, comfortable suites, and offer free breakfast and/or dinner. Free wi-fi is available throughout the property. Airbnbs will give you more of a local flavor and you can find a unique property that fits your family’s specific needs. Find a property owned by a Superhost. They are experienced, hospitable, and knowledgeable about things to do and see in the area.
Go Off the Beaten Path
I know I said that making a plan and sticking to it is essential, but going off the beaten path to explore can reap huge benefits and create lasting memories. Go visit the world’s largest rubber band collection. Stop at the flea market on the side of the road. Try a new type of cuisine. Your family will always remember these unique experiences.