Tips for road trip fun.
It’s summer! And for many families, that means road trips with the kids. In fact, with gas prices low, and fear of international travel high, 69% of U.S. families are planning a road trip this summer. We all know the road trip drill: load the car, load the kids, then get ready for the back seat fighting, complaining, getting lost, getting bored, getting everywhere late. It doesn’t have to be that way. Here are eight great tips for having a perfect family road trip.
1. Plan Plan Plan: When you were free and single, the unplanned, land-where-we-may road trip held a certain romantic allure. Not so with hungry, arguing kids in the back seat. Get a map, get the kids involved in picking where to stop and what to see, and you’ll save yourself a lot of unnecessary trouble down the road…literally. And for the record, sightseeing on the road doesn’t have to cost you! Check out this list of free things to do in all 50 states. You’re bound to be driving through one of them!
2. Safety First: Too many road trips end in tragedy. Don’t let yours be one of them. Make sure your car seat is installed properly and is the right size for your child. Take frequent rest stops – every two hours or so – to make sure you remain alert and capable of driving. And don’t forget your safety kit. The American Red Cross suggests every car have one. It’s something you don’t want to need, but are awfully glad to have if you do.
3. Set Road Rules: Who gets the front seat? Who has to pump the gas? Who decides when it’s time to haul out the snacks? Make a car trip schedule ahead of time and minimize the arguments before they even start.
4. Snacks Matter: Many parents say food is the best way to keep kids happy in the car. And if you’re going on a trip to a home away from home vacation – like a resort residence home stay – chances are you’ll have food in the car. But that’s not the same as having accessible snacks for the road. Calories don’t count for car snacks (don’t I wish!) so think maximum yum and minimum mess. Here are some of my favorites – delicious and even kind of healthy!
5. Keep screen time as a last resort: It’s tempting to plug your kids in and enjoy the peace and quiet. But there are some great car games you can play that will keep the peace, too, and might even bring you a bit close as a family. We all love the license plate game, or even 20 questions, but for extra fun check out this list of car-games you never heard of before. If you do end up letting your kids plug in, see #3 above: set how long they’re allowed to watch before you hit the road, to avoid the inevitable “Can’t I watch one more?” imploring.
6. Audio books are your friend: For me, audio books are the best of both worlds: they pretty much guarantee peace and quiet, but since they’re audio only, they still encourage imagination and foster listening skills. Plus, some pretty awesome actors read audio books these days, so the quality is excellent. Try the first of the Harry Potter books (it’s the least scary one, if you have little ones), read by the incomparable Jim Dale, and fantastic for all ages. There’s Henry and Ribsy read by Neil Patrick Harris, and Matilda, read by Kate Winslet. If your kids are older, try The Fault is in Our Stars – as long as you can cry and drive at the same time. An added bonus? If you’re staying at a vacation rental, where you’ll spend some time cooking or spending evenings at “home,” you can continue listening out of the car. Trust me, these are so good you’re going to want to listen, listen, listen!
7. Don’t be so rigid: I know my first tip was plan, plan, plan, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be flexible, too. What’s a plan for if not to deviate from it? Try not to make the trip as hectic and mapped out as the rest of your family life or it won’t feel like a vacation. In fact, if you think of the car trip part of the trip as an important part of your family vacation – rather than just the route to it, you’ll already have the right mind set. Build a little extra time into your driving schedule, so you can pull over and take a look at amazing road side attractions like the Beer Can House in Houston, Car Henge in Alliance, Nebraska, or whichever amazing site you happen to pass.
8. Make the destination worth it: That may seem obvious, but after all that planning and driving, you’d better end up somewhere AWESOME. Planning your trip with Vacatia means you can be sure the resort property you stay in will be well managed and exactly what you were promised. Because in the end getting there is only part of the fun…it’s being with your family and having fun that makes vacation the best family time ever.
Nancy Friedman is the co-founder of KidzVuz.com, a family focused media and marketing company. Nancy was a TV writer/producer in NY for twenty years, and has been published in several literary magazines and anthologies.
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Vacatia.