When it comes to any sort of family vacation, I always look to see if we can make it the trip by car first. There is usually a threshold of cost vs time savings that I look into which usually equates to roughly 12-14 hours of driving time. Anything over that I start to take a good look into flying or even taking the train.
There are some exceptions to that rule, take for example a one-week vacation my family will be taking to Myrtle Beach over the summer. The drive itself will be close to 20 hours, the cost savings between flying and renting a car and driving from Kansas City made me look even harder at the possibility of driving.
Surviving the family road trip is a test of endurance and patience
However, we have prepared ourselves for a road trip of this length. We have traveled from Kansas City to Denver which is 9 hours and “survived.” Trips of this magnitude become even more difficult when you add kids into the mix. Kids have unexpected bathroom needs, they tend to get bored looking out the window, they don’t like your choice in music, and they constantly ask, “Are we there yet?”
Throughout the several road trips that my family has taken together, whether it is one hour or 9 hours we have some tips that help us make the most of the time on the road together.
Plenty of Screen Time
The family road trip is one time when screen time becomes almost unlimited. While it may appear that the hidden motive behind this is just so that we aren’t being constantly asked, “Are we there yet?” by a bored toddler, it gives the kids something to occupy themselves. This helps not only pass the time for them but helps us as a family stay on the road longer and get to our destination sooner with minimal breaks.
There is a caveat though, we do make them take breaks every couple of hours from the screens. There is nothing worse than a kid who is getting car sick from playing video games the entire time on the road. I’m speaking from experience.
When we hit the road on any family road trip, the one thing that we will turn around for is headphones for every person in the car. There is nothing more distracting than hearing one of your kids playing on their Nintendo Switch from the back seat while you are trying to listen to a baseball game or a podcast on the radio. Their electronic devices are a way to keep them occupied and the only thing keeping you entertained is the car radio. Make sure that you can hear it and listen to what you want so that your family is able to make it to their final destination safely.
Plan Your Breaks
The next two trips to help you survive your family road trip go hand in hand. Before heading out the door, unless you are just going out to drive where ever the road takes you, it’s a good idea to have an idea of where you will be stopping along the way. Plan your big breaks such as lunch and dinner along with some of the sites that you plan to see along the way. This helps you be able to tell your family how far away from a specific stop you are. It can also help mitigate many of the small bathroom breaks when you can tell your kids in the backseat that you will be stopping in 15 or 30 minutes.
Expect to Stop More Often
While going into a family road trip with a plan of places to stop is always an ideal scenario, having the understanding that there will be more breaks then planned will ease your stress level. You can always plan the big stops like where to stop for lunch and dinner and the other sites that you want to see along the way, but it is the inability to plan for the small bathroom breaks between those that makes planning a road trip both difficult and fun when you are trying to beat the original ETA your GPS gave you when you left the house.
Bring the Snacks
Outside of having a plan of places you will be stopping, bringing a cooler of snacks will help your kids survive the family road trip. Load up a small cooler with some of their favorite snacks along with some healthy items so they aren’t eating junk food the entire time. Bring your own water bottles and fill them up when you can to save on the cost of drinks.
As the main driver for many of our road trips, I like to sneak a few of my favorites under my seat. Whether it is Australian Licerice, a bag of beef jerky, or some Cracked Pepper Sunflower Seeds.
Make A Game Of It
When the kids are not on their screens, make a game of the family road trip. Play eye spy (which can be interesting when you are playing with a 4-year-old) or car tag bingo by making bingo cards with various states that you mark off every time that you see a specific states car tag.
Surviving the family road trip isn’t easy but with these tips, it will make your experience as the driver and your families more enjoyable when you hit the open road.
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