There is a special kind of potential in a road trip: the freedom of hitting the open road, being able to slow your travel, and having the flexibility to do what you want, when you want. While much of our travels in this modern world are simply about getting from point a to point b, a road trip is about stopping and smelling the roses. Bringing children on a road trip shouldn’t detract from the fun, but instead add to it. Here are a few tips for planning a great road trip for everyone in the family.
Plan As a Family
The best way to get your family excited about the trip is to enlist the entire family in the planning of the trip. Roadtripper is an amazing (free!) app that can help you chart a course AND find great attractions along the way. Simply enter your destination and the app will calculate trip time and mileage (and even approximate gas cost!). Next, view a map of your route and discover attractions, restaurants, outdoor recreation spots, and more along the way. Let each member of your family select at least one attraction that they want to see. This will help to keep them excited and engaged in the trip.
Factor in LOTS of Stops Along the Way
Don’t forget to slow it down. Actions like getting out the door in the morning, eating lunch, stopping for the bathroom (…and how many stops you may need to make for the bathroom…) could be quick stops or they could take forever. Your attitude toward these breaks is one of the best determiners of the success of your trip. Go with the flow and leave plenty of time for adventures.
Leave the Interstate
Yes, the typical fast food restaurants are conveniently located just off of most freeway exits, but driving even a few miles into the center of a town can open your eyes. Maybe you’ll see a 30-foot-tall Apatosaurus, an entire house constructed from beer cans, or even a giant gorilla holding a VW Bug (yep, these are all real roadside attractions). Leaving the interstate will also open your eyes to regional cuisine. Great food is a staple to any good road trip. Speaking of food, when you do stop at convenience stores and gas stations, check out the candy aisles. You just may find a new favorite.
Don’t Forget the Entertainment
Technology can be a huge help on any road trip! The ability to play movies, stream cartoons, and play handheld video games can keep the peace and help the miles to fly by. But don’t simply count on screens to entertain your family. Take a turn in the backseat. As you sit with your kiddos it’s a great time to go back to staple road trip games:
- The Alphabet Game– An oldie, but goodie! It can be played individually or as a team. The goal is to find all 26 letters of the alphabet (or something that begins with that letter) on things that you see outside your vehicle as you are riding, in order, from A to Z.
- I-Spy- The classic game of “spying something with your little eye” is played similar to 20 questions (which by the way, is another great road-trip game!) Someone starts by choosing an object, and gives a hint describing it. The other players then take turns guessing until they get it correct. For older family members, you can choose an object outside the car and the others have to think quick.
- The License Plate Game– This game can extend over the entire trip. It involves trying to find a license plate from each of the 50 states. A good way to keep track of what plates you have seen is by printing out a map and cross off each state as you spot them.
- Pass the Story- The fun(ny) group story-telling game in which one person starts a story, with just a sentence or two, then stops, even mid-sentence. The next person picks up and keeps adding to the story. The stories usually end up with a good laugh.
Wherever your road trip plans take your family, don’t forget: The joy is in the journey.