The family vacation is famed as the highlight of the year. A chance for everyone to take some much-needed R&R and reconnect with one another. It is family time at its best when stress levels are low and the to-do list unimportant. Unless, of course, you plan on embarking on a family road trip. For many, the thought of spending hours on end together in a car does not scream fun and relaxing, but a road trip is one of the best ways to see the country, to explore towns and cities you might not have. What is more, it can be fun, and it can be the relaxing vacation you dream of; you just need to be prepared. Follow these simple tips, and with a little bit of luck, you will be able to have that fun family road trip you dream of.
Most importantly you need a reliable and comfortable car. You are going to be spending long stretches of time sitting in the car and covering some considerable miles. The last thing you want is for it to let you down when you are your farthest from home or the children moaning that they don’t have enough room. Is your car suitable for a long drive? Is it comfortable for all the passengers? Is it mechanically sound? It is a good idea to get your car checked over or serviced before you embark on your family road trip, particularly a lengthy one. A reputable car garage such as Hancock County CDJR will be able to service your vehicle and provide you with the reassurance you need in the car before undertaking a long drive, or maybe even sell you a new one.
To be sure you are not caught unaware, start a savings account well in advance of your road trip. You could have the most thought-out plan going, but the unexpected can still happen. Be prepared and save a contingency fund, just in case. If you don’t use it, roll it over into next year’s vacation budget.
Speaking of budget, it is also a good idea to plan a budget. Give yourself a daily allowance of expenditure for food, accommodation, activities, and fuel. Living on the road can get expensive if you don’t budget accordingly. A top tip to keep the daily costs down is don’t eat out all day, every day, or even every day. Buy a loaf of bread and a sandwich filler and make your own sandwiches, don’t buy a pre-made sandwich for each member of the family. If you stay somewhere with cooking facilities – use them. It doesn’t have to be every day, but boiling your own pasta one night can really help keep the budget in check.
Plan plan plan
While spontaneity is the spice of life, when it comes to traveling with kids, preparation is key. Plan where you want to visit and when. Plan the route to get there. Plan how long it will take. Plan the rest stops. Plan what you want to do when you get to the destination. Plan where you are going to stay. At peak times, certain attractions will require pre-booking, plan the activities, and pre-book to avoid disappointed children. You may even get a discount for paying in advance.
A top tip is to research pre-planned itineraries. Lots of families have already undertaken road trips and shared their routes, pitstops, and experiences online. Learn from those who have gone before you and see what worked for them and what didn’t.
If you want to keep some element of spontaneity, pre-book your accommodation with free cancellation. This will give you the best of both worlds. You have somewhere to stay if you need it, but should you take a spontaneous detour or stumble across a must-stay boutique, you have the option to cancel your pre-booked accommodation and change your plans.
A couple of top tips when planning your route with children is to involve them in the planning. Get them excited about the trip and allow them to have input on the activities and destinations. Also, try and keep time on the road down to 2-3 hours at most. Regular breaks will keep the mood in the vehicle lighter and enthusiasm high.
Pack with purpose
No matter how much space you have available in the trunk, you will still have limitations on how much luggage you are able to take. You want to ensure everyone is comfortable and the drive is safe. Overloading the car with luggage will achieve neither of these things. Not to mention it will cost you more in fuel. Booking accommodation with laundry facilities will allow you to keep your clothes to a minimum as you can wash and go.
It is also a good idea to have a family bag that is easily accessible and contains all the essentials you need without having to rummage through all your cases to find what you need. Things that you may want to include are toiletries, chargers, and pajamas.
If you are taking iPads and phones, which you will be, ensure you take an in-car charger to keep them topped up. Also, download books, movies, and TV programs ahead of the journey as the internet connection may be unreliable on the route.
Something to note; watching screens when traveling can cause travel sickness. Either be prepared with anti-sickness meds, sick bags, or an alternative form of entertainment.
Snacks and trash
Kids eat all the time, and a road trip will be no exception, especially when they get bored. Be sure to pack a variety of healthy and accessible snacks. It might be a good idea to invest in a smaller cooler that can ride in the car with you to keep fresh food fresh. Also, be sure to pack a trash bag. A lot of snacks come wrapped, and you don’t want those wrappers mounting in the footwells. Keep a trash bag handy, so all rubbish can be deposited in there and easily removed on arrival.