If you’ve ever been on a family road trip, then you know just how much planning goes into it. From the kind of vehicle you need to take to the snacks and games that keep your kids entertained for hours.
The perfect family road trip means having everything planned out beforehand.
Road trips can be flexible, but when taking a whole family, there are many more details to figure out. What’s your timeframe? How will you keep everyone from getting too bored? Have you planned for any roadblocks you might hit on the way? It can get stressful. With that in mind, a good family trip is worthwhile. Here are a few starting things to remember when planning your adventure.
Plan out an interesting driving route
Before you even think about the kind of car you need to take, you need to think about your route. Where are you going? What are you hoping to see along the way? It’s a mistake to include one final destination in your trip, especially if it’s far away. The strength of a road trip is that you can move at your own pace between locations, and you don’t skip any of the landscape on the way.
Choose your primary destination to work well with your driving route and vice versa. Is there a particularly scenic road or landscape near your home? Maybe you live in the range of mountains or the ocean–make your destination at the other end of that. If you’re not near any natural wonders, that’s also fine. Look for various exciting places in the direction you’re headed. Is there a museum you’re interested in? Or, perhaps there’s a roadside attraction that you can plot out your route to intersect with. Especially if you’re travelling with kids, having an appropriate amount of breaks will make things much more exciting for everyone.
Depending on your trip length, you might want to consider having multiple “main locations” that you travel to. Rather than road-tripping to one city or campsite, mix it up along the way. Say you’re driving for a few days to stay a week in a big city and stop in a national park to camp for one or two nights if your route calls. That way, you’ll get to take two vacations in one and break up the long drive.
Plot out your food plan in advance
The thing about road trips is that you’ll always need more food, while also having way too much. Tell me if this sounds familiar: you pack some snacks for the road and throw a bunch of stuff into the car that no one really wants to eat. Along the way, you make a million stops at gas stations and restaurants to buy what you actually want. However, you don’t want to stop yourself or your family from getting their guilty pleasure because it makes everything twice as stressful when everyone’s hungry.
Not planning your food beforehand means you’ll either waste money or end up hungry and irritated. Before taking your trip, plot out where you’ll stop for food and gas. Think well ahead of the trip about what you’ll want on the road and what you’d instead buy at a stop. If you’ve been on road trips before, remember what you did not eat and narrow down your options.
Download audiobooks that everyone can enjoy
Audiobooks are a great way to keep everyone entertained in the car. Even if everyone is worn out from talking or doing an activity, a good audiobook can keep everyone “in the same room”.
Find a book that your kids can follow along with, but that won’t be a slog for the adults in the car. Even if the kids are too young to engage with a book, you can find many incredibly entertaining, family-friendly books that will keep everyone entertained. Audiobooks can be a few hours long but can outlast their runtime. If everyone listened to a book together, they could talk about it for the rest of the trip, able to engage each other with a shared topic.
Plan for the obstacles that might arise
It’s essential to plan for the inevitable roadblocks that will arise. There’s no way to know what will happen on your trip, so you must be prepared. Make sure everyone is buckled up, has their seatbelt on, and knows what to do if they get into an accident. Different states can treat car accidents differently, and the road’s rules can change with them. Have your medical information ready and memorized if you need it on a whim. Figure out your legal options in case of various emergencies ahead of time so you’re not taken off guard.
In addition, you might need help dealing with obstacles on the road. For example, someone could lose their wallet, or your hotel reservations could be screwed up. There could be severe weather that messes with your plans. Try to keep the trip’s possible issues in mind when planning it. Figure out your best solutions ahead of time so that you’re not screwed over.
Ask yourself: Why are you taking this road trip?
One of the main things people forget to do when planning a road trip is figuring out what they want out of it. Usually, someone will decide to turn a vacation into a road trip and not plan with their mind on any particular goal.
Are you taking a road trip to avoid other travel costs? In that case, plan your routes and destinations for maximum efficiency. Are you hoping to see and do as much as possible? If so, focus more on many different stops than on getting from point A to point B.
Another thing many people forget to do is consult the other people on the trip about what they want out of it. Even kids will have opinions on what they want to do and what they’re excited about. While you’re the one planning the trip, you’re not the only one taking it. A lot of the time, if you’re unsure, another person’s opinion can help narrow down your choices.
When you travel with your family, you’ll discover that they’re the most important people in your life. Road trips are a great way to spend quality time with your family. But if not planned for properly, they can be a disaster. You can forget to budget, or you can run into a roadblock, or you might have to deal with a car full of bored whining. It’s worth planning for these problems, though. Being ready for the worst means you’ll be ready for the best.