Hitting the open road to drive near and far in search of adventure is an iconic experience. However, as is the case with so many other things, once you have a family, things can get a bit more complicated. That’s not to say that going on road trips with a family isn’t a good idea. In fact, it can be a great idea … if you go into your trip prepared. Here are some surefire planning tips to help make sure that the next time your family hits the highways and the byways in search of adventure, it’s safe, exciting, and fun for everyone involved.
Plan According to Your Situation and Abilities
An interesting thing about family life is that it never stays the same. From the number of kids to the age and phase each child is in, families are continually changing. Not only does the constant evolution keep things interesting on a daily basis, but it’s also something you’re going to want to take into account when you plan out a road trip, as well.
For example, if you’ve got teenagers gearing up to leave the nest, it might be time to plan out a long road trip to a big ticket location like the Grand Canyon or the Big Apple. On the other hand, if you’ve got little ones — who tend to be high maintenance on the road — you may want to aim a little bit closer to home. State parks like those at Gettysburg, Hovenweep, or the Gauley River can be genuinely fun ways to get away from it all for a few days without breaking the bank — or having to drive too far with grumpy toddlers!
Capitalize on the Holidays
The holidays can be a fun time to see family, but they often involve long, sometimes multi-state road trips in order to rendezvous with the clan at a parent’s or sibling’s house. If that’s the case, consider combining the holiday trip with a chance for some road-tripping fun. Look for vacation destinations along your route and turn the chore of driving into a fresh adventure for the family.
Check the Car
Driving hundreds of miles requires a sturdy vehicle. That’s why it’s important that you thoroughly check the car before the rubber hits the road. First, there are logistical concerns — when the whole family’s in the car for hours or even days on end, things can get pretty cramped. Consider getting a roof box and do your best to pack light. For example, if the trip is long, try to factor in a chance to stop at a laundromat to reduce the number of clothes you have to bring with you. The point is, less is more.
Second is the vehicle itself. From oil to tire pressure, turn signals to windshield wiper fluid, you’re going to want to make sure the family transportation is in tip-top shape before the asphalt is under your feet. Here’s a handy checklist of things like:
- Oil changes
- Tire Tread
- Coolant levels
- Wiper fluid
- Fan belt
- Headlights and backlights
All of these are critical elements to check before you leave.
There are few places where safety is a greater concern than in a moving vehicle. Thousands of children are victims of fatal car accidents every year, which makes safety a top priority when going on a road trip. There are obvious things like buckling properly, but there are other ways you can increase your family’s safety as well.
The thing is, the danger doesn’t just lie in an accident while driving. It’s also present any time children are navigating a new place they don’t know well. Make sure you bring brightly coloured clothes so that any time your kids jump out of the car at a pit stop or are walking next to a road at a destination, they’re easy to spot.
It’s also important to know your limitations. Make sure that the driver(s) aren’t behind the wheel while overly tired or distracted by what’s going on in the car.
Next up are the logistical elements to a good road trip. If you head out in the summer weather, chances are it’s going to be hot. You may want to consider bringing a cooler with you to stash away refrigerated drinks and snacks in order to help keep things cool as you go along. Also, be sure to take breaks and so everyone can get out and stretch their legs — prolonged sitting in the heat of summer can cause legs to swell and do damage to veins, especially for the adults, so staying hydrated along with taking a stretch and walk breaks is important.
Another hack for those with younger kids who are freshly potty trained is to bring a children’s potty right in the car with you along with some gallon zip lock bags to line it. While you’ll still need to stop the car if anyone needs to unbuckle in order to use the bathroom, having a kid’s potty in the car allows the parent to help the child use the loo without the need to enter a disgusting public restroom.
Finally, don’t forget that you’re not planning a business trip. Road trips are designed to be fun, spontaneous, and adventurous. Of course, having a family of little ones in tow can also make proactively planning some of the on-the-road fun a good idea. Here is a list of ways to spice up your driving time with things like
- Site seeing
- Car games
- Using the good ‘ol imagination
Planning the Best Family Summer Road Trip
There are plenty of ways to minimize stress and maximize the fun of a family road trip. The most important thing of all, though, is to stay in the adventurous spirit as you go. It’s easy for parents to become overly-wrapped up in the logistics and the planning (it’s what you do all of the time, after all). So take a step back before you leave, take a deep breath, and then dive into the fun along with your kids and make some memories.