So you want to hit the road with your family, but you don’t want to lose your mind in the process. After all, there’s a very fine line between having a carload of spontaneous family fun and having your road trip turn into a major meltdown. So how can you plan a road trip that will keep the kiddos happy while allowing the grown-ups to maintain their sanity? Below are some excellent ideas to help you create a fun, memorable and kid-friendly road trip that the whole family will enjoy.
1. Do your “recon work” before you even get in the car.
This can take days or even a couple of weeks to hash out. If you’re not ready to go all-out on a cross-country extravaganza, you can find out what cool places may be within a 100-300 mile radius of where you live. That way, you’ll be far away enough from home to feel like you’ve been on a road trip, but not too far to where your work schedule or budget suffers.
If you do have the means to take an extensive amount of time off work and actually hit the road for a coast-to-coast trip, so much the better. Either way it goes, you’ll need to have some idea of what places you’d like to visit while you’re logging the miles. Here are some key spots to look for:
- National parks
- Places with one-of-a-kind natural beauty (Grand Canyon, Redwood Forests, Clearwater Beach, etc.)
- Special or unique museums (kid-friendly, of course)
- Sporting events (possibly seeing your home team play in an “away” game)
- Unique restaurants (RoadFood.com is a great resource)
- Miscellaneous, hard-to-categorize attractions (Carhenge, anyone?)
Use Google or sites like Roadside America to help you narrow down your selections. If you’re up for it, you can get the entire family involved in the process. Allow each member of the family to pick an attraction they’d like to see, and then plot your course accordingly.
2. Set your timeline–and make it realistic.
You’re not competing in “The Amazing Race,” so you don’t need to go full throttle when you’re traversing the highways. Try not to engage in marathon 10-hour driving sessions. Allow yourself plenty of time to reach your destination, planning hotel stays at certain strategic points if need be. Take breaks and enjoy the local scenery at stops along the way. You might even discover an extremely odd yet fun attraction that wasn’t even on your list.
3. Include all of the road trip essentials.
When you hit the road, you’re going to need to be equipped for the journey. Here are some must-have road trip items to make everything go much smoother:
- First-aid kit
- Plenty of batteries
- Snacks and water
- Jumper cables
- Pillows and/or sleeping bags (you just never know)
- Plenty of creative supplies to keep the kids occupied (books, sketch pads, coloring books, puzzles, playing cards, etc.)
- Gallon-size Ziploc bags (for miscellaneous trash, or even an “I’m getting carsick!” bag)
4. Play plenty of road trip games along the way.
There’s nothing wrong with bringing along the iPad, but low-tech road trip games can be just as much fun as Scribblenauts. Try these classic (and completely free) car games to get you started.
While no road trip will be perfect, you can use the tips outlined above to make your next family excursion a much more enjoyable experience. Now hit the road and enjoy some travel time with your little ones!