When Ben was young we’d take weekend road trips each winter to go skiing and each summer for some beach or lake fun. Now that we’re empty nestors, we still love our road trips, and we’re trying to get Ben and Allyson to join us, even if it’s for some long weekend fun. We’ve even looked into renting a motorhome from Go RVing to head to the Southwest from Florida (Grand Canyon bound).
But, deciding on a family road trip can be a daunting challenge, not to mention an exercise in patience. It’s difficult with just the two of us and a dog, but if you prepare ahead of time, the trip can be one of the most memorable experiences of your family’s life.
Quick and easy tips for making your family road trip a fun and safe one
1. Prepare a checklist of items you will need. We always brought a first aid kit, food, snacks, drinks, and lots of toys, coloring books, paper and crayons, a portable DVD player or extra mobile phone so your kids can watch their favorite movies; and a cooler. A good idea is to ask the kids what games they would like to take (as long as they are car friendly).
- Try to keep the snacks healthy. Too many sugar snacks can have the kids bouncing off the car seats, making it a real headache for the navigator to watch the map AND take care of the kiddos. Remember, this is a relaxing family vacation and you want to avoid the kids getting bored or repeatedly asking “are we there yet?”
- Check online to print out games for the road that you and the kids can play along the way. There are an assortment of puzzles and riddles as well. If you have very young children you will need to take the diaper bag and wipes for the occasional spills, blankets and pillows if applicable and a favorite item or stuffed animal for the young ones is a good idea as well.
2. Decide on the destination and then contact AAA for a trip ticket. Ask for the scenic route, one that is much more calming and pleasing to the eye, especially the driver! I like to have this as a backup to my GPS, since I can get a better idea of where we might want to turn off to explore (AAA will also give you guides to the area as well).
3. Check out the planned route to find gas stations along the way that offer the cheapest gas (we’ve used apps like Gas Buddy and Gas Guru). Also if there are any points of interest along the route mark them on the map and plan to stop at these sites.
4. While on the road ensure that you make pit stops regularly. This will allow the kids to run around and let off some steam, while allowing you to stretch and reenergize. Bring along a football or soccer ball to toss, so that the entire family can have some fun while exercising at the same time.
5. BE SAFE! This includes having the car checked at your local mechanic or gas station, get an oil and filter change; rotate and top the tires (don’t forget the spare tire, too); we usually replace the windshield wipers and top off the fluid; and I usually ask the mechanic to give a look at the belts, hoses and brakes…
6. You may want to toss a few extra things in your trunk if you’ve got the room: a lawn chair, extra blanket, emergency road kit, umbrellas, water, flashlight and batteries, a battery-powered radio, and windshield wiper cleaner. In the glove compartment include a first aid kit and cell phone charger. Keep all medications in a Ziploc bag in the glove compartment as well.
7. Take a list of telephone numbers including the hotel or motel where you are staying as well as those of family and friends you may need to contact.
Keep a scrapbook or journal with the kids
If you enjoy scrapbooking, this road trip may be a perfect opportunity to add new treasures to the book. As you make stops at some scenic sites, ask the kids to find an item they would like to include in the scrapbook, or if the kids point out something along the way that they find fascinating, take a picture of it to include in the scrapbook.
Don’t forget to include the kids in the decision making, and allow them to decide what they would like to bring. Have them pack their clothes (check the suitcases afterwards, you don’t want 10 t-shirts and no underwear) so they feel part of the overall experience. Planning ahead of time for a family road trip will save you time, stress, and money, and your family will have memories that will last a lifetime.
Where is YOUR favorite place to roadtrip with the family?