Summer Travel Tips – Family Road Trips

nationallamppoonvacation-660x438Summertime means lots of family vacations…well hopefully! Whether you’re trekking from Philadelphia to California or visiting your sister two hours away, those summer road trips are precious family time and it’s important to make the most of them. Be prepared for a few bumps in the road and be sure to not only survive the trip, but enjoy quality time with your kids. Here a few tips for smooth summertime travels courtesy of

Lower your expectations.

Far and above, the most popular piece of advice from moms is, “lower your expectations.” This doesn’t mean you should expect the worst or that your trip is going to suck. On the contrary, it just means you can’t get too worked up if your schedule gets thrown off by traffic, a carsick kid, a missed turn, or the thirty-seventh potty break.

Make sure your car is prepared.

Before taking a road trip, have your favorite trusted mechanic give your car a check-up. Tell him or her that you’re taking a road trip. Change the oil, change the filters, fill up fluids, check the tires. If your mechanic thinks anything looks dubious, fix it before the trip.

Let your kids help with everything.

Even very young kids should help pack the bags and load the car. If you’re taking this kind of trip, make it a family adventure, where everyone participates and feels like a part of the team. When little things inevitably go wrong, everyone can help problem-solve. Let your kids order for themselves in restaurants. Show them how you calculate the tip. There are constant opportunities for learning during road trips, and they’re not just in learning about state capitals and historical sites.

Some day, your kids will grow up and travel without you. Now is the time to teach them those skills: reading maps, planning, dealing with curve balls, finding hotel rooms, being safe while travelling, being polite and respectful to hotel and restaurant staff. Those real-life skills while help your children be more confident and independent long before they’re off on their own.

The  importance of snacks.

Pack as much of your own food as possible, including bread, peanut butter, and plenty of fruit. Sure it’s okay eat out and hit some fast food places, but that can get both expensive and tummy-trouble-inducing.

A possibility: driving through the night.

Quite a few families start their trip after dinner the first night, and drive through the night. The kids zonk out in the back, and you don’t have to stop every 10 minutes to use the bathroom.

Bring quiet stuff to do independently.

Great choices for kids of all ages:

  • An inexpensive composition notebook to serve as travel journal, doodle pad, tic-tac-toe board, stickers, Twistable colored pencils (no sharpening needed)
  • Lots of books and audio books with headphones

Plan to make lots of stops.

I don’t know what it is about road trips. Is it the potholes? I don’t know, but it doesn’t matter. Just plan to stop a lot, and don’t try to get your kids to “hold it a little longer.” It’s not their fault they have tiny little bladders.

Stop at places where your kids can run around.

Look for outdoor space for the kids to run around. If you stop at a regular highway rest stop, even if there’s nowhere to run, have your kids stretch and move around. Do jumping jacks at each stop to get the blood flowing and burn off some energy.

Slow down and enjoy the ride.

The best piece of advice we’ve heard about road tripping for parents is to simply slow down and enjoy the ride. Don’t hesitate to stop at quirky roadside attractions (world’s largest ball of string? yes, please!) and local places to eat. Sure, you could do 13 hours of driving in one day, but it’s not going to be fun for anyone. Break up your trip into manageable distances so that you’re able to see things along the way besides highway and more highway. Do at least one picnic lunch along the way. Which do you think your kids are going to remember: yet another Happy Meal, or that you stopped and had a picnic?

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