So you’ve decided to plan a family road trip. You’ve looked at various places along your route – national parks, attractions, and local restaurants. You’ve also made your campground reservations and plan to dry camp a few nights.
You might have made all the plans you can, but these kinds of trips can be stressful for everyone. Let’s make sure the adults, kids, and pets all enjoy this time together so that it’s a memory-making adventure of a lifetime!
Before you head out on this adventure, let’s look at making the most of this family road trip.
Family Road Trips Can Be Stressful
Road trips can be hard on families because you’re confined to a vehicle for long hours. Especially if you have younger children you have to entertain, hours in a vehicle can make you want to pull your hair out. Kids whine and complain because they’re hungry, bored, and tired. Adults might not whine about it, but they feel the same way.
The driver must focus on driving safely in areas they’ve never driven before. The co-pilot might have to concentrate on navigating through detours, traffic, or construction areas.
Then, you’re trying to pay attention to when to fuel up, stop for meals, and get out and stretch. It’s a lot.
How to Keep Everyone Happy on a Family Road Trip
When you’ve spent so much time planning and preparing for a great adventure with your family, also make sure to make plans to keep everyone happy.
A terrible attitude, broken electronics, and hours of driving can ruin a day no matter how cool the roadside attractions are. Let’s look at specific ways to keep everyone happy on a family road trip.
Stock Up On Everyone’s Favorite Snacks
This is a great way to get everyone involved pre-trip. Take a ride over to the grocery store and have everyone pick up their favorite snacks. These need to be travel-friendly, though. You don’t want to pack super spicy or salty foods that will make everyone drink lots of water and then have to go to the bathroom frequently.
You also want the snack to be relatively mess-free or at least easy to eat in the car. So give a few parameters, and then give your kids free reign of the grocery store to get their favorite snacks. Then when they say they’re hungry in the car, you can keep them smiling without having a meltdown.
Charge All Your Devices
Lots of parents have screen time for their kids. It’s healthy and wise to set limits. But on road trips, sometimes, those limits need to take a break. It’s hard for kids to ride for hours in a car. Spending some time on devices isn’t going to harm them.
In fact, it may keep your family road trip from being ruined. Keep them off the devices while sightseeing by letting them use them in the car. But this means making sure you charge them every day. Plug them in at night wherever you are.
Make this part of your nightly routine. You’ll regret it in the morning if you forget.
Stretch Your Legs
Sometimes you stop for meals and bathroom breaks. But don’t forget to stop just because you need to get out and stretch. Especially if you’re traveling with pets, this is really important. Even if you don’t, it’s very important to get out of the car every couple of hours.
Our bodies in a seated position for extended periods will start to ache. Nothing ruins a family road trip more than getting hurt and not being able to enjoy all of the attractions and adventures.
Take care of your body and everyone else’s by making regular stops to get out and stretch.
Pro Tip: Make sure you don’t forget to pack these 7 Summer Road Trip Essentials on your next road trip.
Don’t Forget Headphones
Because everyone has their own devices, make sure everyone has their own headphones. If these are wireless, make sure to charge them when charging the devices at night.
The driver might listen to a podcast, the co-pilot might listen to an audiobook, and the teens might listen to music or watch a movie. Everyone wants to enjoy what they’re listening to and not be interrupted with frequent sound bytes of someone else’s movie.
Know When to Stop Driving
As already mentioned, plan stops along your route to get out and stretch. Take cues from your family as they become antsy, squirm, or complain more. But those cues aren’t just for roadside stops. Know when you need to stop driving for the day.
Maybe you got a late start, and you haven’t quite made it to the next stop on your road trip. But when you look in the rearview mirror, your kids are fighting, the dog is panting, and no one looks to be enjoying themselves.
Take those cues, find a hotel or campground nearby, and call it a day. Even if it’s 4:00 p.m. and you think you’ve still got plenty of daylight left to drive, don’t risk ruining the next day by putting everyone in a worse mood.
Keep your family happy. Know when to stop driving.
Check Out Roadside Attractions
Instead of just looking at destination attractions, don’t forget to check out roadside attractions along your route. Route 66 is famous for these types of attractions, but other roads will also have quirky statues, hometown diners, or local parks where you can get a break from driving.
Consider packing a lunch one day and finding a state park on your route to have a picnic and perhaps take a hike. Don’t rush past the exit if someone sees a billboard sign for something they want to check out. Take a slight detour and enjoy the journey – not just the destinations.
Pro Tip: Road trip with your family down I-80 with our ultimate Interstate 80 Road Trip Guide.
Although this is much easier said than done, be patient with each other. The adults have to set an example. If the co-pilot told the driver to turn down the wrong road, handle it with patience and grace. Someone may have overslept but really needs to take a shower one morning, handle it with patience and grace.
If the kids see their parents calmly addressing problems, they will also learn the art of patience. Family road trips are fun and exciting, but things go wrong. When they do, don’t lose your cool.
Switch Up the Seating Chart
If possible, a fun way to make a family road trip interesting is to switch up the seating chart. Especially if you’re traveling with teenagers, this works out great since they can sit in the front seat. Maybe start a card game tournament and switch out players at every rest stop.
Even include the driver and give them a break for a couple of hours. If you have children in car seats, this is more difficult, but with older kids, this can be a fun way to change up the monotony of travel.
Make Your Family Road Trip a Fun One
It’s exciting to plan a family road trip. You know you’ll cherish the memories for parents even if the kids don’t remember them. But even with all of the enthusiasm, your road trip won’t be perfect. It won’t go as planned. Keeping these tips in mind will help for a smooth journey even when things go awry.
So the next time you plan a family road trip, don’t focus on just the destinations and attractions. Keep in mind the journey and make sure it’s enjoyable for everyone.
Where will you be heading on your next family road trip? Tell us in the comments!
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