If you decide to take a road trip for your next vacation, here are some tips to help make a fun and stress-free trip.
One thing you may consider is renting a vehicle for your trip. It will save wear and tear on your own car, could save you gas money or give you more leg room/trunk space. If you can book last minute, or you are not planning on changing the dates of your trip, http://www.hotwire.com can save you a lot of money. However, once you book, you cannot get a refund, so make sure you really plan to take the trip! My husband and I traveled from Florida to Oklahoma for a few weeks, and we did not want to take our huge gas guzzler for just the 2 of us. We rented with Hotwire, and saved so much in gas, it was well worth the (cheap) cost of the rental!
If you are traveling long distance, plan your timing based on big cities you will be driving through. There is nothing worse than hitting Atlanta during rush hour (although if you have your family with you, you can use the HOV lane!), so plan accordingly, so you will not hit big cities during busy hours. Sometimes that means leaving at 4 AM to avoid traffic jams, on the plus side, sometimes kids will sleep for a few hours and make your trip seem that much shorter to them!
If you bring snacks in the car, just stick with healthy snacks and water. Your kids will be much less hyper than if you buy sugary snacks, and will need to stop a lot less for the bathroom if you avoid the red dye foods! Save that for a treat when you reach your destination, if they are well-behaved in the car.
Instead of just bringing DVD’s to zone them out, try to bring some stories on CD’s. My kids love Adventures in Odyssey and Jonathan Park CD’s. It really helps pass the time, and is interesting for the adults as well.
Let the kids help plan some fun stops either along the way, or at your destination. It will help build excitement for the trip, and will also be a good teaching tool for your kids to research and learn in advance about a particular place you want to visit.
When traveling with babies/toddlers, do not have too many expectations for your trip. Just plan to take that day or a couple days to get to your destination. Don’t worry if your 10 hour trip has turned into a 14 hour trip. Be flexible and don’t stress too much, that will not make for a very fun trip for anyone. If your kids are really bad travelers, consider flying instead of driving, or stop in a hotel halfway through the journey.
Consider signing up with AAA before your trip. That can save you time and money if anything were to unexpectedly happen along the way. They also have great deals on attractions and hotels, not to mention trip tickets that will map out your route, including any detours that you may not know about.
Do not just rely on your GPS to get you where you need to go. Always have a written copy with you, either on a map, trip ticket (from AAA) or mapquest. Make sure each leg of your trip is in writing, including the return journey!
Don’t overpack. You may feel that you can bring everything but the kitchen sink, but even when driving, a trip can be uncomfortable for everyone if the family is squished like sardines in the car for 16 hours. Also, make sure you have room for souvenirs for on the way home. Try to fit all luggage in the trunk, and give each child a backpack near their seat with age appropriate toys and healthy snacks. Don’t forget their own water bottle.
If your child is almost, but not quite completely potty trained, invest in some pull-ups. Nothing worse than riding in a car for hours after a child has had an accident. Another good item to bring is a portable potty/an old ice cream container with lid. If you get stuck in traffic, a 4 year old will not be able to hold it for hours.
I hope these tips help you to have a very enjoyable road trip with your family. Remember, that getting there is half the fun. It’s ok to stop at the little Ma and Pa store on the way, or stop for a break at a park if the kids need a rest. Enjoy your family!