Are We There Yet?
Tips for a Safe and Happy Family Road Trip
I have the best memories of being carried to our station wagon as a sleepy child in the wee-small hours of the morning and waking up in a new state—on the way to a family adventure. Road trips became cool again with the advent of the 2020 pandemic and continue to be a great way to take a cross-country trip as a family. Bonus feature? Traveling this way gives you more control so you can take as much time as you need to get from here to there.
Here are a few ways to make your road trip a success:
Tune-up the vehicle. There is absolutely nothing worse than having car trouble when traveling with your family. Schedule a tune-up for your vehicle that includes a comprehensive check-up, oil change, and tire inspection before heading out on the open road.
Conduct an interior equipment check. Be sure that car seats and other safety restraints are up to date based on your child’s age, height, and weight. In the unlikely event, you have some sort of collision, you want op to be sure your children are safe and secure in your vehicle.
Make sure all overnight stays are reserved and confirmed. When I was a kid (long, long before the technology we enjoy now) we just played the whole hotel/motel stays by ear. Sometimes seeing a few no-vacancy signs sent us further down the road than we had planned—making it a very long day for the person behind the wheel of the station wagon. So! Be sure that you have your rooms and arrival time confirmed for every stop.
Plan regular potty breaks. You know your children and their tendencies—so plan accordingly. A bathroom stop is sometimes challenging in areas of the country when gas stations (or any form of civilization) can be few and far between.
Stay on course, but there may be times to stop and smell the roses. Planning and staying on course are very important if you have certain obligations—like a room reservation or a promised time of arrival at the home of a relative or friend, but you should also keep your eyes open for fun, spontaneous adventures, or opportunities.
Pack your snacks and save money. You will be stopping for bathroom breaks and refilling your tank, but those convenience store prices can be pretty steep. Save yourself potentially time-consuming arguments or distractions at the pump by taking snack requests when trip planning and then having them prepacked before you hit the road. You’re welcome.
Plan to play games together and apart. Some of my fondest family vacation memories involve playing silly games with my family, like I Spy, the car game, the color game, the license plate search, etc. Balance the interactive/conversational play with solo activities like drawing, listening to music or stories on a headset, reading, or napping.
Enjoy these specially made License Plate Bingo Cards on your next cross-country road trip!
Designate tablet time. I see the tablet as a blessing and a curse. Of course, having a tablet on hand for gameplay or movie watching can be a Godsend, but the best family bonding takes place through conversation, singing, and ongoing interaction between travelers. Give the kids something to look forward to—like, “It’s Tablet Time when we cross the Texas border!”
Make sure your journey has a soundtrack. When planning your trip ask each family member to share what kind of music they want to hear as you travel from home to your final destination. Older kids will not be shy about asking for their favorites, and as a mommy or daddy, you know your toddler will rock out to “Wheels on the Bus.”
Plan a few audiobooks to entertain the kids—and the adults. This too should be a part of the plan. Select audiobooks that will be age-appropriate and satisfy all your travelers. After listening to the audiobook, use the storyline as a catalyst for some great family discussion—like a mobile book club for the family.
Stream movies if you have the technology to do so. We know that movies can be really captivating and make time fly. Just as you did with the music planning, ask your kids what movies they would like to download or stream during travel.
Pack plenty of pillows and blankets so the ride is comfy. Do you know what else makes car time fly? Naps. Many a pillow was drenched by drool on our family vacations but feeling comfy cozy will lull your kiddos to sleep in no time if you pack preferred blankets and pillows that feel like home.
Take photos! Grainy home movies and brittle black and white photos documented your parents’ and grandparents’ journeys—so be sure you snap lots of pics along the road to tell your own road trip story. Better yet, be sure to share them with us, especially if your vacation includes a stop at Kids Quest or Cyber Quest!