The family road trip typically gets a bad rap. Everything starts out great, but then everyone is cooped up, on each other’s last nerve, and just can’t wait to get there. However, family road trips can be fun and filled with fun memories. In fact, planning a family road trip is one of our favorite things to do as road trips align with our family budget and allow for awesome family bonding time. Follow these steps and you’re setting yourself up for a great family road trip.
How to Plan a Road Trip with Kids
When planning your next family road trip, as yourself the following questions. By first answering these questions while planning a family road trip, you will identify any obvious red-flags.
How far are you traveling? Decide on a destination with your kids
When children help choose the destination, they’re more likely to be excited and helpful because they’re invested in the process. One way to get what you want is, instead of opening the floor for suggestions, offer the kids a few choices that already have parent approval.
Get your creative juices flowing and get inspired by looking at different travel apps. Part of the fun of the family road trip is planning what you’ll do when you get there. Take the kids to the library and check out books on your destination. Make a list of sites you want to see and activities you want to do. Some will require advance reservations. Discounts are often available when purchasing tickets in advance.
Who is coming with you? Consider the ages of your kids
If you’re worried about keeping your kids in the car for too long, it could be a good idea to choose a closer destination for your first road trip. For example choose a city a couple hours away for your first family road trip. You will enjoy a nice drive to your destination, spend time together, and drive back home all in one day.
What type of road trip are you looking to take? Choose the route
Decide if you will be making several stops to see sites or do activities along the way or if you’re driving quickly to get to your destination. Many people who take road trips like to take the scenic route to their chosen destination. You can use a map or the internet to plan a route. Some drivers prefer to take back roads rather than interstate highways when they go on road trips. Although it may take longer to reach your destination on these roads, the views will be much more interesting.
What type of vehicle are you driving? Consider your vehicle
Some vehicles are simply not made for long family road trips. You should consider if you will have enough room for everyone along with all your luggage, gear, etc, to ride comfortably while not being squished. Also consider your gas mileage to keep your gas costs down to stay within your budget.
Before you head out on the road, get a tune up. The last thing you want to do is experience mechanical issues during your family road trip. If you are planning on driving over a long distance for several days, it is a good idea to let a mechanic check for problems, get your oil changed, refill your windshield wiper fluid, and make sure all the lights are working.
Once you’ve gotten the preliminary kinks worked out, it’s time to move on to planning for the most epic family road trip experience ever.
Road Trip Hacks for Planning a Family Road Trip
Bring plenty of mess free snacks and drinks
Skip the drive-thru restaurants and go for healthier homemade food for this road trip by preparing a snack bag. Healthy, mess-free snacks include granola or protein bars, whole grain crackers, apple slices, carrots, nuts, grapes, and individually sliced cheeses. Alternate with snack-size chocolate bars, candy, homemade cookies or muffins, and individual bags of chips. You can also throw in a couple of treats for a bit of distraction.
By making snacks personal size, it is easier to hand a child a small size of a snack instead of hoping and praying the don’t spill the entire thing on the floor or in their seat. The same goes for drinks. I could get capri suns, small size water bottle, or juice boxes for the kids. It was better than a whole can of soda or water spilling.
Additionally, make sure everyone has easy access to snacks. This prevents someone from having to constantly bend over the back seat or stop to open the trunk every time hunger or boredom hits.
Drive Through Nap Time, Bedtime, or Both!!
For family road-trips lasting longer than 10 hours, consider an early-morning wake-up call versus traveling throughout the night. Get going at 5:00 AM or a time that will not completely throw your body off and cause exhaustion (or illness!) a few days later.
Take into consideration what time your kids travel best for your family road trip. If your children can sleep in the car and you are a night driver, consider driving during the night. There is less traffic. You’ll also have less stops since your family is sleeping.
Make Time to Stop and Play
Rest stops often have big grassy lawns. You can also find parks near some interstate exits. Make a couple of stops at these to let the kids run around for 15 minutes. A Frisbee or ball stashed in the car can be helpful. We usually pack our first road trip meal and have a picnic at a rest area so the kids can let off some steam.
Bring a blanket and stuffed animals and/or pillow for when the kids start to nod off.
Stuffed animals and pillows can help prop little heads and help them deal with head nodding. Some families find those u-shaped travel pillows helpful.
Use a visual aid to show where you are
Despite all your best efforts, the kids will probably still get bored. You can keep favorite snacks, prizes, and other goodies as a surprise to keep the family road trip fun.
You can also use a visual aid to help your kids understand where you are and how much further you need to go. You can demonstrate this a few different ways.
Bringing along a paper map is helpful to show your kids where you are on the family road trip. You can put a sticker or a dot where you are and move it along throughout the journey
Tape to the Ceiling
Another way to help your kids understand where you are on the road trip is by putting masking tape on the ceiling of your car. You can determine how many pieces of tape you use. The tape can represent how many hours left; how many states you still need to drive through; or whatever you think is best. When all the tape is down, you will arrive at your destination.
Make a CD or playlist for your family road trip ahead of time.
Compile your family’s favorite songs onto a family road trip CD or playlist before departing. Get the whole family involved in choosing their favorite songs so that everyone can be excited about what song may come next. Once the songs on the radio begin to repeat themselves, pop in your playlist and rock out together as a family.
Don’t overload on electronics
While a family road trip does require some screen time, the beauty of a road trip is the opportunity for conversation and seeing miles of beautiful countryside. Consider alternating 1 hour of screen time with 2 hours of a non-screen activity in order to maximize this quality time together as a family.
While you do have screen time, consider renting a movie. This will keep them entertained for hours and will give the driver something new to listen to.
Make separate activities for each child
Have each child pack and bring their own backpack or duffle bag of items to keep the busy during the family road trip. These items can include: toys, books, tablets, games, coloring books, workbooks, trinkets, etc to keep them occupied. Don’t forget to charge those tablets or portable games the night before.
Remind the kids that whatever they pack will eventually have to be put away. This will help decrease clutter and lost toys. You can also bring fun travel journal printables, games, and other fun printable games. There are plenty of age-specific ones you can find for free.
Be prepared for car sickness and roadside emergencies.
Even after all we have done to prepare for our trip, accidents can still happen. Bring along a roadside emergency kit that includes booster cables, a flashlight, blanket, and extra food and water. Include a list of emergency contact numbers that includes roadside assistance just incase you need them.