Are you considering taking a road trip with your kids this summer? There's nothing better than hitting the open road with your family. Summer is a great time to get out there and explore new places. Road trips can be fun, but it's essential to plan a road trip ahead of time so everything goes smoothly.
Before you head off on your adventure, make sure you’re prepared. The last thing you want is miserable kids in the back seat! Luckily, we have some great family travel tips to make the process of planning a road trip easier.
Essentials to Consider When you Plan A Road Trip with Kids
You'll want to be sure to consider the following when you are thinking about the road trip you'll take with your children in the near future:
- Choosing the right destination
- Planning your route
- Benefits of a road trip with kids
- Keeping your kids entertained on the road
- What to pack
- Staying safe on the road
- Snack, drinks, and the like to pack so no one gets hungry
We go into each of these points in-depth, below.
How to Choose the Right Road Trip Destination
When you plan a road trip with adults it might be about the journey and the destination. But with kids, it’s all about the destination. While choosing a destination for the best road trip, it's essential to consider the interests of everyone in your family. You'll want to pick a place with kid-friendly activities if you have young children.
Allowing even the young family members to participate in the planning process will make the trip more enjoyable. Teenagers will likely want some input. You'll want to make sure there's something for everyone to enjoy at the destination (parents too).
A couple of favorite road trip destinations are the Grand Canyon National Park, Glacier National Park, Zion National Park, and the Blue Ridge Parkway. If you get a National Park Pass you can explore all National Parks at a frugal discount.
Plan Your Road Trip Route
One of the most important parts of planning a road trip is mapping out your route. You'll want to consider the distance you're comfortable driving each day and any sightseeing or activities you want to do along the way.
This might include great roadside attractions that are popular in each area.
It's also important to factor in rest stops, gas stations, and places to eat. Also, don’t forget to consider some quirky roadside attractions.
Road Trip Tip: Don’t forget to print out a kid-friendly map with the route highlighted for children to follow.
Reserve Hotels or Campgrounds Beforehand
Because you’ve decided how many miles per day you wish to drive ahead of time (many people feel 300 miles is a doable amount and stopping by 3:00pm, for example, is comfortable), it's best to reserve overnight accommodations.
Consider booking a super cool hotel for one night to give the kids something to look forward to before getting to your destination. Maybe a fun indoor pool you can dip in before bed or a themed hotel where the whole family can get excited would be fun for your family.
Once you have your route planned, you can start to make reservations for hotels or campgrounds. Camping is a great way to save money in the summer and cut down on hotel costs on your epic road trip.
What to Pack for the Trip
Packing for a road trip can be challenging, especially if you're traveling with kids. In addition to your clothes and personal items, you'll need to make sure you have everything you need for the car ride.
When packing the car for a road trip, make sure that the items you'll need most are within arm's reach and not loaded in the trunk. That includes things like snacks, games, and first-aid supplies.
You'll also want to bring any necessary items, such as beach towels or hiking gear with you. Don’t forget your family's favorite blankets, stuffed animals, and pillows for naps for the kids.
Road Trip Tip: Consider printing or downloading a trip packing list to make this task easier.
Pack Meals, Drinks, and Snacks
Snacks will keep kids busy in the car and will also cut down the need for convenience store purchases and stops at restaurants. Pack a cooler to keep food and drinks cold. Include a table cloth to make those rest-stop picnic tables more appealing and have a picnic.
Pack cold lunches and dinners so you don't need to heat anything up. This eliminates the need to find a heat source. If you're camping overnight, you can pack food to heat up over a campfire.
Look for unique road trip food ideas online if you want to get creative.
Road Trip Tip: Before checking in to your campsite or hotel, stop at the grocery store rather than convenience stores to refill the cooler.
How to Keep the Kids Entertained on the Road
One of the biggest challenges of taking a road trip with kids is keeping them entertained. That is especially true if you're traveling for more than a few hours. There are several ways to keep kids entertained on a road trip.
You can bring along books, toys, and games. Many families also like to use portable DVD players or tablets to watch movies or play games.
Here are some other fun road trip activities to entertain kids and adults:
- Turn up the music. Download some of your family’s favorite songs and make a road trip playlist. Find some tunes that are about driving and road trips.
- Use audiobooks to listen to some great family-friendly stories.
- Play road trip games. Car games like “I, Spy,” and The Licence Plate Game are great choices.
- Print out a custom scavenger hunt for kids to play along your road trip route.
- Use special road trip snacks to keep kids entertained on the road. Include some special sweet treats like M & M’s and Swedish Fish, or keep it healthier with snacks like whole grain crackers and peanut butter. Invest in small plastic organizers created for medications to divide up snacks and make it fun for the kids.
Tips For Staying Safe On The Road
Safety is always a top priority when traveling, but it's crucial when you're on the road with kids. You can do a few things to help ensure a safe trip.
- Pack a roadside emergency kit including flares, a jack, a spare tire, a can of “Fix a Flat,” and any other items you might need when broken down on the side of the road.
- Make sure everyone in the car is wearing a seatbelt.
- For the driver, avoid distractions as much as possible to keep focused on the job at hand.
- Plan for rest stops and take breaks every two hours. Get out, stretch your legs and maybe burn some energy as needed. (This last tip will benefit everyone!)
Road Trip Tip: Consider enrolling in AAA for the duration of your trip. Not only will have peace of mind that you can call someone if there’s a breakdown, but you also get discounts on hotels and attractions.
The Benefits of Road Trips with Kids
There are many benefits to taking a road trip with your kids. It's an excellent opportunity to bond as a family, spend quality time together, and create lasting memories. Road trips can also be a more affordable option than flying on vacation.
Depending on your destination, it can be a great way to see parts of the country that you wouldn't otherwise experience.
Once you're back from your road trip, it's essential to take some time to reflect on the experience. Talk to your family about what they enjoyed on the trip and what they didn't like.
Take note of your favorite road trip activity and listen to some suggestions from your family that you'll include next vacation. That can help you plan future trips and ensure everyone has fun and feels included.
Road Trip Tip: Consider making a scrapbook of your trip. Include pamphlets, photos of your destination, receipts, and other small souvenirs from your journey.
Final Thoughts on How to Keep Kids Happy While Planning a Family Road Trip
Pack up the family car and hit the open road for your next family vacation. Whether you’re looking for a beach town to relax on the sand, an adventure in the mountains, or a trip to visit friends and relatives, a great road trip destination will please your whole family.
Just make sure to do your research and plan a road trip in advance so that everyone has the best time possible.
This post originally appeared on Savoteur.
Sara Conklin is a Certified Financial Coach, wife, mama, Grammie, and founder of Frozen Pennies, a site that she started after a year-long spending freeze. She’s passionate about frugal living, budgeting, and helping others. She writes about ways to save money, get out of debt, and intentional spending. When Sara is not working on the business, you can find her reading, drinking coffee, and spending time with her family.