The family road trip is supposed to be a time for relaxation, bonding, and enjoying an adventure alongside the people you care most about. Unfortunately, the truth is often much more grueling. Late starts, automobile trouble, wrong turns, fights, and car-sick children are just a few of the realities associated with packing up the wagon and hitting the highway. But you took time off from work for this, and you’ve been looking forward to it all year; you’re going to make it work, darn it! You have the will, and with a little help, you can also have the way. Here are some less-common tips to help you survive (and maybe even enjoy) your family road trip.
1. Be organized. Few things ruin a road trip like forgetting to pack something (on either end). Fight this by making a detailed packing list for each member of the family. Compile these on a computer so that they can be easily altered. When you’re ready to start filling suitcases, print off your lists and have everyone be responsible for their own items. Once the packing is done, use a master list to verify that everything you need is packed up. Use the same list at the end of your trip so that you don’t leave anything behind. Also, make sure to get your car inspected by a mechanic before you set out.
2. Get excited. Attitude is a huge factor in how much enjoyment you and your family are going to have. As such, don’t allow any of your negative feelings to show in front of your children, or else they’ll reciprocate them. You may not like driving for hours on end, but as far as your kids are concerned, they should think that you’ve never been more excited for anything in all your life. Don’t let stress ruin your trip before it even starts; get excited about the trip and your kids will be excited too (and far less likely to complain once they’re on the road).
3. Break some rules. We’re not talking about traffic laws, we’re talking about house rules. Is there a snack that you don’t usually permit your children to have? Bring it along. Are there other minor rules that you could set aside for the sake of enjoyment? The point is that if children see the road trip as a time when they can enjoy things that are normally forbidden, they’ll always look forward to it.
4. Pack some entertainment. There’s nothing wrong with using modern technology to keep the kids entertained while you’re on the road, and a portable DVD player can be a godsend in a pinch. But remember, this is supposed to be a family outing. Most entertainment technology isolates people rather than brings them together. If each of your kids are listening to their own MP3 players or playing games on tablets or smartphones, then you all might as well have stayed at home and saved yourself the price of gasoline. Instead, plan some car games that everyone can enjoy together, and secretly bring some fun prizes that you can award to the winners. Some of the kids may not be too interested in the first game, but once they see that they could win something, they’ll definitely be invested in the second one.
5. Choose a fun destination. A tour of the country’s historical sites are great for some, but not for everyone. Figure out what kind of things interest your family, and plan your trip accordingly. Do they enjoy camping in the great outdoors? Then plan your trip to swing through someplace like Zion National Park (and if they don’t like camping but want to enjoy the sites, book a room instead at some hotel fun like Zion Lodge). Or would your family prefer to see the ocean? Head to the coast and find some great beaches for tanning and sandcastle building. The journey is important, but so is the destination; so choose wisely.
6. Relax. Remember, the trip exists for the benefit of the family, not the other way around. To make that point a little clearer, never put the schedule ahead of the fun. Are you concerned that the family is spending too much time at one stop when you should be on the road? Don’t be. If everyone is having a good time, let them. It’ll make your whole trip better.