This summer many of us are eagerly making plans to make it an unforgettable one. For some, that means summer road trips and adventures! The summer break is a fun time for families to create memories, explore and become adventurers. I remember reading a post from former MMC contributor Dacia a couple of years ago. She talked about how we only have 18 summers left. Eighteen summers until our children become adults and are possibly off to college! This reality truly made me think about how precious time is and how rapidly it passes us by.
As MMC contributor Becky states “road tripping with kids can seem daunting,” but it does not have to be. Here are some tips that will help from the beginning stages of your adventure up to the ending of hopefully a smooth ride.
PICK A DESTINATION
Our family loves going on a good road trip. Over time we have realized that choosing where to go is the hardest part. Here are a few tips, I hope they help you plan your next adventure.
- How much time do you have?
- This is the biggest factor as to how far you can go. We typically take a week trip and travel no more than 15 hours each way. We know that this means we truly have no more than five days of exploration. As two of those days are our travel days.
- How long do you want to spend driving?
- Decide on how long you want your drive stretches to be. You can always choose to say in cities along the way to your final destination.
- What kind of accommodations do you like?
- Some cities do not have many hotel options.
CONSIDER YOUR VEHICLE
Renting v. driving your own vehicle is also an important decision. Although it seems that driving the car in your driveway may be the cheaper and easier option, you should always consider the following factors when selecting a vehicle for your summer road trips:
- Depreciation cost
- Lease penalties (if your car is leased)
- Car reliability
- Bigger, tougher, and safer vehicle options for the terrain you may be exploring
CHOOSE WHERE YOU WILL STAY
Whether you want an RV camper, a 5-star hotel, a resort, or just an Airbnb rental, consider your family and what you believe will be best and most accommodating for them.
CHOOSE YOUR ROUTE
Choosing your route is key if you intend to schedule stops, find attractions along the way or just explore a scenic route. We tend to stick to the shortest route to get to our final destination. Sometimes on the way home, we will add an attraction to our return route.
ORGANIZE YOUR ITINERARY
Once you have a budget, you want to plan your itinerary. This does not mean it is set in stone. However, it will provide you tranquility knowing that you will be prepared. The last thing that you want is to be out of gas or unable to find a hot meal.
MAKE A PACKING LIST
Lists, especially packing lists are so important. Ask yourself…
- Do you prefer pen and paper or digital?
- Who are you packing for?
- Then, you want to set up your list.
- Select categories (toiletries, clothes, shoes, medicines, etc.)
- Double-check as you pack.
PACK A COOLER AND ESSENTIALS
This is a must! Especially if you are traveling with kids. Cold drinks on hand will save you from headaches and keep favorites close. This prevents you from overpaying for them at gas stations.
DRIVE VERY EARLY OR VERY LATE
We have done both and they each have their perks.
- Leaving very early means you are refreshed.
- Leaving very late means you will probably have the road to yourselves.
Whichever you choose, here are some tips.
- Do not leave on less than five hours of sleep.
- When it gets dark, have two wide-awake drivers to rotate and watch out for each other’s driving.
- Avoid rest stops during children’s regular nap times.
- Direct music to the front speakers to get you pumped.
- Coffee helps!
GO BIG ON SNACKS
There can never be too many snacks! Getting the whole family involved in picking snacks is a great way to make sure you’re on the right track. For us, yogurts, bananas, Goldfish, cheese sticks, hummus with chips, and mini sandwiches are always winners.
DON’T RUSH AND PULL OVER WHEN NECESSARY
Taking it all in and enjoying the drive is part of what makes road-tripping fun. This should be an adventure. You don’t want to feel rushed or overwhelmed.
Games are awesome and entertaining for kids on summer road trips.
I Spy, name that tune, road trip bingo, hangman and even the license plate game are all super fun.
STOCK UP ON TOYS
There are a few toys that we take on every road trip. Magnetic board, Water Wow reusable boards, Crayola mess-free color, tic tac toe, and a favorite plush or two.
We also take a few new toys (they do not have to be pricey) to surprise her throughout our trip. I usually do two goodies on our drive to and two on our drive back. Your local dollar store sometimes has great finds. This helps kids get excited, entertained, and believe it or not well behaved.
DON’T OVERLOAD ON ELECTRONICS
Electronics are awesome during long travel. However, too much of it can be counterproductive. We tend to break “Kindle/iPad time” into intervals towards the end of our trip when the “antsiness” kicks in.
BE PREPARED FOR EMERGENCIES
Emergencies can happen. A roadside emergency kit, extra food, water, blankets, empty bags, toilet paper, backup chargers, important contact numbers, and printed maps with directions are all helpful.
I also always carry a backup outfit to have on hand for my little in the event of an accident. (Spilled drink, potty accident, etc.)
PICK OUT YOUR ROAD TRIP MEALS AS A FAMILY
This can be fun! We usually pick three to four options and start eliminating them one by one. Once we get to the final choice, the whole family had a say in what was selected and there is no fighting. Plus, looking at digital venues is always fun and burns some time.
ADD A DESIGNATED GARBAGE AREA
It keeps a nice order and contains messes. You simply grab that bag or bin and dispose of all the garbage at each gas or rest stop. The last thing you want is garbage all over the place when you arrive at your final destination.
Playlists are fun but they can also be problematic. Thank God for ear pods and headphones! If your family has similar taste in music, creating a playlist is fun. If not, explore the radio stations as you drive. You’ll be surprised how music options can vary from city to city and state to state.
GIVE YOURSELF GRACE
I hope these tips are helpful. My biggest tip of all is to give yourself grace. Take it all in, enjoy the moments. Everything does not have to be itinerary perfect. Just be present and relax!
Enjoy your summer road trips!
In case you missed it, be sure to check out some more road trip tips and destinations here! Where are you headed this summer?
Updated June 2023