We have done a fair bit of traveling as a family and I have learned these travel tips along the way.
Pack basic snacks, preferably healthy ones, for the road trip. I suggest baby carrots, celery sticks, bottled water, cheese sticks, and pretzels. This will help cut down on costs and the number of stops. Eating healthy can also help offset the extra calories we all tend to eat on vacations, just because it IS vacation and we know we deserve to treat ourselves.
When you are planning a trip, unless you already get some sort of member discount for booking hotels, you might want to consider getting a membership to your local AAA Auto Club. This can often save you at least 10% off the cost of hotel rooms or attraction tickets. The savings from one trip could well pay for the cost of the annual membership and you would still have the benefit of the roadside assistance and towing to use the whole year which can again save you to cost of the membership if you ever need to have your car towed.
Book your overnight stays before you hit the road. While I am all for being spontaneous, there is something to be said for having a guaranteed place to sleep each night. I have been on trips where we spent hours driving from one hotel to another only to find out they were filled. Nothing sucks the fun out of a trip faster than taking care of this sort of thing while actually on the road. Save yourself the stress and headaches and book ahead of time. Trust me on this. If you want to be spontaneous while on your trip, you can always change your plans but again call and make reservations for the night before you go off on the new plan. Most hotels will let you cancel a reservation without penalty as long as you do so before 6pm. If they don’t then you should know this upfront so you can make an informed decision about whether or not you want to stay there at all.
This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience.
Please see this site’s Policy & Disclosure Page for more info.
Remember the games you played on car trips when you were a kid? Get the whole carload of passengers involved as you take turns trying to find the letters of the alphabet in order. There are many travel versions of family favorite games like travel bingo, checkers, chess, backgammon, Chinese checkers and more. One of the games we love playing on the road is called RubberNeckers. We picked it up at a Cracker Barrel store years ago and it stays in the pocket in the car door so it is at the ready.
For Parents with Young Children:
Get extra road maps and highlight the trip so your child can follow along. Talk about the places you are driving through as you are on the road. Get the kids interested ion maps and such early.
Consider wrapping small treats to give out every hundred miles or so. This helps keep them entertained because there is something new to hold their interest every so often. It helps the kids to track time. Discuss how many treats it will be before you arrive at your destination. This encourages counting and discourages the “Are we there yet?” whining that every child seems to feel is a necessary part of traveling.
Consider traveling at night so young kids will sleep through the better part of the driving. This can be hard for the parents because it could mean they are sleep deprived and cranky when the kids are wide awake, so use your own judgment here. You know your kids and how well they travel.
Again, consider healthy snacks and for heaven sake, avoid sugar unless you want the kids bouncing around the car for the entire trip. Think water instead of soda and fruit or raisins instead of fruit roll-ups or candy.
Keep baby wipes with you in the car at all times. These are great for so many things, but especially wiping sticky hands and faces.
For Parents with Teens:
Encourage your teen to pack their own entertainment. Headphones are your friend unless you enjoy the music your teen listens to.
Encourage them to bring along crossword puzzle books, electronic hand-held games or game systems (they may have these games on their cell phones). These can help pass the time. Our family used to bring GameBoys and Pokémon games. Don’t forget to bring books and magazines along to read. E-Readers can be great to keep them reading well after dark, but have them set the background to black or dark gray and the text to white so the glare won’t bother the driver so much.
Books on tape/CD/digital media are awesome. Have the family pick a couple of longer ones and consider listening as a group. They will be asking when you are getting back on the road again instead of are we there yet. Some of our favorites were the Harry Potter series (love listening to the accents!) and the Redwall series. Try to either make it something everyone is interested in and hasn’t read yet or a familiar favorite that you may have read but never heard read aloud.
Let the teens take turns navigating and choosing where you will stop for meals. Teens love to be independent and prove they have something to contribute.
One of our favorite apps to use while traveling is Interstate Exits Guide. This tells what restaurants and gas stations are at each exit on the major highways. It can be very handy. It also lists rest areas. Make sure your phone has a flashlight app when you travel, but it is also handy to have all the time. There is an app called HERE WeGo that allows you to download maps for entire states ahead of time and use the app offline so as not to use up your data while on the road. It goes without saying that you may need multiple chargers for the family’s electronic devices. We have used the sliding pencil cases to store cords and chargers in. These are cheap and easy to throw into a backpack or duffel bag while still keeping cords contained and tangle free.
Where ever you travel remember to be safe.