Planning a Summer Road Trip Worth Remembering
Family travel is on the rise, and that’s an amazing thing. Experiences and time together create lifelong memories. Some of the most vivid memories of my childhood are from road trips. Yet, planning a family road trip can be a daunting task. As a mom who believes in the transformational power of travel and who’s racked up two cross-country and one cross-continent road trip, I’m here to help you collect miles and memories.
This post was created in collaboration with Hotel Planner.
The Family Travel Association conducted a survey of over 700 families who travel. The organization said 75 percent of them have taken road trips, and a whopping 94 percent are planning to take them again. It’s clear that road trips ROCK!
Step One: Decide Where to Go
Road trips can be as simple as going an hour away when you have a new baby. As baby grows, so can the length of your road trips. My boys, now nine and 14, are champion road trippers and have more miles under their belts than most NASCAR drivers.
This summer, we’re planning a trip from Florida all the way to Wisconsin, retracing the biannual “snowbird” treks of my youth. Through more than four decades of travel, I’ve learned a ton. We’re planning to use back roads and take more stops and picnics at local parks for a bit of time to run around.
Step Two: Grab Some Maps
I’m a big believer in making every travel experience as educational as possible. When you map out your route the old-fashioned way, you’ll be looking at the land, the area, state capitals, parks, and more. Last week, we hit our local AAA office to grab a U.S. map as well as a state map and guidebooks.
Use GPS as a backup, but have paper maps as your backbone. Your family road trip is a lesson in geography, decision making, and navigation. Traveling teaches valuable life skills. In fact, according to research by the U.S. Travel Association, kids who travel are more likely to:
- Do well in their studies
- Go on to college
- Earn more money in their careers as adults
Infographic via U.S. Travel Association
Step Three: Set Your Stops
On longer road trips, making plenty of stops is the key to success. If you plan ahead with maps as your guides, you’ll be able to see where you want to stop, not just because you need to stop. Look for great activities like historical sites or roadside attractions along your routes and spend some time on a unique family activity. Get to know old main streets, state parks, and even big cities.
Don’t discount larger metropolitan cities. Staying on the outskirts of a big town can be a great stop, allowing for a wide assortment of affordable lodging choices and kid-friendly activities such as parks, trails, and children’s museums.
Step Four: Prepare Your Vehicle
AAA recommends these steps to insure your vehicle’s safety before traveling:
- Schedule a checkup. This includes oil changes, fluid level checks, battery tests, and tire inspections.
- Pack an emergency kit. Include your mobile phone and car charger, a flashlight with extra batteries, a first aid kit, a basic toolkit with tire pressure gauge and adjustable wrench, windshield washer solution, jumper cables and emergency flares or reflectors, drinking water, and extra snacks and food for travelers and pets.
- Prevent lockouts. Always take keys when exiting the car and bring a spare car key on every trip. Keep the keyless-entry remotes away from water and replace the key or fob battery before you head out.
Step Five: Get Ready For Fun!
Now the real fun begins! Before you leave, make sure you pack healthy snacks and prepare yourself with tons of road trip games. My boys love telling jokes on car rides. We listen to a ton of audio stories like “Adventures in Odyssey,” and I don’t mind if they watch a few videos or movies or even play on their tech gadgets.
You’ll want to use for navigation for backup, but it’s not always right. Try a social GPS tool like the WAZE app around town before you use it on a road trip to see if you like it. Download a gas price app to find stations with the best value on the road. Get your music and movies downloaded and updated. Find some great educational apps including word searches.
Epic Road Trip Advice
I asked Forbes contributor and travel editor, Laura Begley Bloom, if she had any great advice. Laura says, “We’ve done some great road trips with my daughter. My biggest piece of advice is to start small and start early, and then work your way up to longer trips. We have a place in the Hamptons, and we started taking our daughter there when she was just one week old. We started venturing on longer road trips and took her to Cape Cod when she was about four months old. It really helped prepare her for longer road trips.”
“When she was 2, we did a 10-day trip up the Oregon coast and throughout Washington to the San Juan Islands. By that time, she was so used to being in the car that it was a breeze. I also bring lots of toys and games. We play tons of music and do family singalongs. And I upload some movies onto the iPad and am not averse to letting her watch them if she starts to get antsy. We also try to break the trip into chunks and make stops along the way at parks to let her run around.”
What’s my best family road trip advice for an adventure worth remembering? Do the planning, but be flexible, kind, and patient. Laugh at yourselves when things don’t go according to plan. Remember, life is a journey. Enjoy it.
Are you planning a summer road trip? I’d love to hear about it! Grab my awesome free license plate game here and cross off each state as you see it.