School’s out for only one more week! While the kids are back at home, though, you may still be in the office, itching to go on an adventure with the whole family.
Before you start clicking through plane tickets and exotic locales, however, you might consider hitting the road, retro-style.
There’s no better way to see the U.S. than by road, and no better way to have a few unexpected adventures.
Maybe you grew up in a time when hitting the road with the family was the norm, or maybe it’s something you’d just like to try. Either way, with a little planning, you can see the sights without too many speed bumps along the way.
It’s possible to have plenty of postcard-worthy moments with your kids and family-with only the bare minimum of sibling rivalry and “are we there yet?”
Tips For a Family Road Trip
First off, you’ll want to answer: when do you want to put rubber to road? And how long? Decide if you’d like to do a short weekend trip, a week-long jaunt or even a two or three-week trek. For younger children, you might consider a shorter trip, to minimize potential meltdowns. But if a longer cross-country tour is on the cards, you can still keep kids occupied with toys, road trip games and other means (or better yet-drive in the early morning hours while the kids are still asleep).
Especially if you’re planning a long trip, be sure to mark plenty of rest stops, roadside attractions and well-loved restaurants in case of emergencies in the form of grumbling tummies and restless kids. Mark down addresses and phone numbers in case you get lost, and be open to the occasional detour to quirky tourist spots. For a road-weary bunch, it never hurts to add a little spontaneity by way of the World’s Largest Brick or the Cathedral of Junk. Not to mention, it’s a great family photo op!
Where to Go
There’s plenty to see in this country of ours, and no shortage of major (and minor) landmarks.
When you start plotting out exactly where’d you like to go on your trip, be sure to get a little input from your co-pilots-let your children be a navigator and ask them to help plot out pit stops or pick out potential attractions. Give them a paper map and help them draw out your route, to give them reference during the trip. Let your child get creative and use stickers to mark your major stops.
We have a few suggestions on the best-ever road trips, but ultimately, you’ll decide which trip fits your fam.
You can take some road trips coast-to-coast or close to home, plan out trips to theme parks, or national treasures. A classic road trip from Yosemite National Park to the Grand Canyon, with a few stops at California’s gorgeous Crater Lake, the stylish San Francisco, balmy Phoenix or the Sequoia National Park, makes a memorable vacation, but you can plan an equally memorable road trip close to home (whether home may be).
Maybe you’d prefer a weekend tour of the Lone Star state, or a week long trip down to Disney World and the Florida Keys. Whatever your particular interest, when you plan, plan smart.
Try to break up the trip with lots of little stops to keep the kids engaged, with stops no more than 5 or 6 hours apart for younger children. While you might have a few days to power through, plan to take your trip slowly. Make up a few new traditions for your family to enjoy along the way to the next stop, like collecting gas station key chains in every new state, or take a picture at every quirky roadside attraction. Or, for every 500th mile you drive, take a picture at the nearest rest stop, or create a cheer.
Remember that the journey is part of the fun!
What to Bring on The Roadtrip
Aside from a map and your trusty vehicle, there’s a few essentials you’ll absolutely want to bring along for the ride. Make a detailed checklist, and have kids check off essentials along with you.
First Aid Kit, Flares and Jumper Cables
A basic emergency kit is a must have on the road, with essentials like antihistamines, aspirin and basic first aid care for potential accidents along the road. You might also consider adding bug spray, sunscreen, and an extra cell phone charger.
Leave the junky food to the roadside. Instead of chips or candy, pack a cooler of healthy snacks, such as baby carrots, graham crackers, organic fruit snacks and fruit leathers, trail mix, energy bars, bottled water or pitas and hummus. You can search for recipes or simply pick up a few quick snacks at your local grocery store.
Podcasts, Audiobooks and Road Trip Games
Have your kids pack their own bag of activities for the trip, from coloring books and Mad Libs to wooden puzzles and other games.
If you’re trying to unplug your kids from the tablet for a little while, bring your own store of family friendly audiobooks and podcasts, or engage your kids in few classic road trip games. Get to know each other with silly games of “would you rather,” or other fun activities.
Don’t forget pillows and blankets, though--after while, your kids might be down for the count.
Now that you’re planned and prepped, you’re just about ready for the big vacation.
All that’s left now is to hit the open road!