We have logged thousands of miles in the van on family road trips. We often get the travel bug and plan ambitious trips that cover multiple states and many miles. Planning a family road trip can be a challenge and offer some unique obstacles, but if you prepare ahead of time, the trip can be one of the most memorable experiences of your family’s life. Here are some quick and easy tips for a successful family road trip.
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10 Tips for Successful Family Road Trips
A few months ago I spent some time with my Mom and Grandma doing some road trip dreaming and planning. We spent hours pouring over our atlas, remembering trips of past years and figuring out the best roads, routes and destinations.
At age 98, my Grandma traveled to all 50 states. My parents are sitting at 49 and I’m at 38. When the three of us got to talking about road trips, we had quite a few stories for sure!
Make a checklist
Prepare a list of things you need. This list should include first aid kit, food, snacks, drinks, a cooler and things to keep you and the family busy.
Exploration America offers some great printable road trip checklists to help you prepare for your trip.
Check online for printable road trip games that you and the kids can play along the way.
If you have very young children you will need to take the diaper bag and wipes for the occasional spills. Family members of all ages should have a blanket and travel pillow to help them sleep in comfort when the road trip gets long.
Pick your Destination
Let the family weigh in as you decide where you are going to go for your road trip. If the whole family has the chance to give their opinion on where to go for a family vacation, then everyone will have the opportunity to help plan something special.
Budget for Travel Costs
Remember that gas prices will vary as you travel around the country. Check AAA to budget how much money you will need for fuel costs on your trip.
Keep small change and bills in your car so you will be prepared for tolls, ferry fees and parking meters.
*Don’t forget about fees for parking garages or public transportation if you are going to spend time in larger cities.
Take a Break
When you start planning your trip, make sure you look for stretch break stops and boredom busters. We love finding the roadside attractions and oddities along the way to help break up the drive.
Be Safe & Prepared
Make sure your vehicle is prepared for a road trip. You should have your oil changed, all filters checked and tires ready for travel (don’t forget the spare tire, too). Double check the windshield wipers and get the fluids topped off before you hit the road.
Check the laws in each of the states you plan to travel through to make sure you comply with their safety and protection laws.
Here are some important questions you need to ask before you cross state lines. Ignorance of the law is no excuse and could cause issues on your trip.
Plan for the unexpected
No road trip is ever perfectly executed as planned. There are always unexpected events, so plan ahead and be prepared. Here are a few things you may want to pack in your car – a lawn chair, extra blanket, emergency road kit, umbrellas, water, flashlight and batteries, a battery-powered radio, and windshield wiper cleaner. In the glove compartment include a first aid kit and cell phone charger. Keep all medications in a Ziploc bag in the glove compartment as well.
Have an Emergency Plan
Although noone wants to have bad things happen on a vacation, it is always best to be prepared. Make sure you provide a list of telephone numbers (including the hotel where you are staying) to family or friends back home so you can be reached if you end up having issues with your personal cell phone.
Even on a road trip where you don’t have a specific itinerary, you should still keep in contact with someone so somebody knows where you are.
You should also have a physical copy of contact numbers for family and friends in your vehicle in case you need them.
Set Expectations for Souvenirs
Set a souvenir budget so each family member knows how much they have to spend on souvenirs. We typically give the kids a set amount of money before we start the trip. Then they can plan out what they want to buy for a souvenir and not have to discuss it when we are on the road.
If you enjoy scrapbooking, a road trip may be a perfect opportunity to add new treasures to the book. As you make stops at some scenic sites, ask the kids to find an item they would like to include in the scrapbook. Or if the kids point out something along the way that they find fascinating, take a picture of it to include in the scrapbook as well.
Plan for Each Family Member
Engage the kids in the decision making and allow them to decide what they would like to bring. Have them pack their clothes (check the suitcases afterwards) so they feel part of the overall experience. Planning ahead of time for a family road trip will save you time, stress, and money. And the kids will enjoy this adventure, too!
Do you love road trips with your family? What are your best memories and destinations? I’d love to hear!
Need a little help planning your next road trip? I’m working on getting each state filled with great vacation ideas and reviews from real people who have visited! *This resource is constantly growing as I add new destinations to each state! But it is already a great place to help you start planning your next family road trip!
Click here for a state by state vacation guide!