Last Updated on June 29, 2022 by Rebecca Huff
Tips: Family Road Trip
We're not the kind of family that takes a family vacation at the same time every year. However, we do a lot of road trips and the occasional international trip. We've driven all over Florida using the One Tank Road Trip books. It is not unusual for us to go on a last-minute getaway to visit a nearby city. Living near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park we do take little day trips on a regular basis.
My children would rather go kayaking or hiking than to Disneyland, but my sister was a big Disney fan. We've taken them to ride roller coasters and that sort of thing, but they prefer nature.
We have seen our share of campgrounds at state parks, cabin rentals, and small towns. One of my favorite road trips was to stay in some yurts along the blue ridge parkway in North Carolina. I have driven my kids from Tennessee to Texas with stops in states along the way. I've found plenty of kid-friendly AirBNBs in New York, California, and all over the states!
If you've decided to drive cross-country with your whole family, you'll want to plan in advance. It's best to make plenty of stops along the way. This can be at roadside attractions, parks to see waterfalls, grab an ice cream, or just to get out of the back seat!
Things to do Before you Leave
- Pray – I always pray when I get in my car. There’s so many things that could happen. Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
- Buy postcard stamps BEFORE you leave *see activity below
- Buy tiny books with blank pages, passport size *see activity below
- Misc. items you may need *see list below
Activities for the Road Trip for Family
- Give the kids a map (printable) on a clipboard and let them follow our progress
- When you see a postcard, buy it, send it to yourself with a little message about how it’s going. I did this once in China and didn’t receive the postcards till 3 weeks after I returned home. It was AWESOME to open the mailbox and find it after I had completely forgotten about it. It took me back to the memories of that day riding bikes on the City Wall at Xi’An. Later, I found out that I’m not the only one who does this. It’s a great idea for honeymooners (hi Brad-n-Macey!)
- Food Passports: In a small blank notebook, let kids record stops, where, how many hearts 1-5 they give it, what they ate along the way, or even a drawing of what they did for younger travelers.
- OFFline Minecraft Games – I love playing Minecraft with my kids, but these games can be played #screenfree including Minecraft ABC’s, Minecraft I-Spy and making up Minecraft Parody Songs
- Fill a balloon with playdough for kids to squish (it’s a great stress reliever for kids AND adults) *not for kids under age 4
- Get some books, puzzles or other sit down activities from Amazon.
- No road trip is complete without the *printable* license plate game
- For older kids origami can help pass the time
- You can do a printable scavenger hunt (unless you are the driver…but even then you can find things while you are driving)
- Come up with some type of reward system. I kept it simple. I just cut out eight square shapes in blue for my son and eight flower shapes in pink for my daughter and put them in a small box. They could earn one per hour for good behavior while we are on the road. I cut out eight because I rarely ever drive more than eight hours straight anymore! Then, allow them to use the shapes as vouchers to buy special trips while you are wherever you are going! One blogger did it like THIS which I absolutely adore.
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” – Neale Donald Walsch
IMPORTANT THINGS TO DO
- Share your location with someone who really cares about you. I do this with my iphone. Simply click on your text messages, pick the person you want to share with and open the thread, now tap —>details —>send my current location (or Share my current location—>select how long to share)
- Keep your tank half full (for you optimists) or at least above 1/4 tank (just part of being a prepper) not only is it safer, it’s better for the maintenance of your vehicle; click here to read more
- Wear full coverage shoes. Not flip flops or sandals, or even high heels. Sorry, but it is proven to be safer while driving and could save your feet if you are in an unfortunate accident. We learned this at Driving School (which I have sent three children to so far). Also, if you ever have a problem with your car and end up walking, you’ll be glad. Stranded woman in heels? That's for the movies.
- Stick your business card in your kids pockets and/or
- Write your phone number on their inner arm in permanent ink (trust me) or if you have time you can order these “tottoos”
- Take a photo of your kids right before you get in the car each day, if for some reason you get separated you will have a recent photo (plus you'll be able to describe what they are wearing) I know you don't want to think in this direction, but it is very important, especially in theme parks or hiking trails.
- If you’re using credit or debit cards you might want to contact the bank to let them know you will be traveling. I once tried to use my bank card in Atlanta only to discover that “area” was blocked for frequent fraud! It took about an hour to get the bank to unlock my card. Something that could have been avoided if I had let them know I was traveling.
Family Travel: Things to Take
- Healthy Snacks so you don’t have to buy overpriced, stale junk at the gas stations. I know this goes without saying, but you never know.
- Ginger Candy (in case anyone feels sick) or Nausea Relief for those who don’t care for Ginger
- Case of water bottles (if you have room) or a handy Berkey water filter bottle
- Essential oils, I take Chill Pill and a diffuser (you can make your own car diffuser)
- Electronics (but save them till extreme boredom sets in…kinda like let them build up the anticipation of using them, then let them have “time-in’s” for good behavior
- Road trip pillows (need I say naps?) and tiny blankies (for when one person is cold but everyone else is hot). I saw this cool idea to make a travel pillow http://www.mrsfrugalfranny.com/post/40640275255/roadtrippillow
- Multi-way charger – trust me, if you have more than one device you’ll need this
- Keep a stash of cash (1’s and coins) for incidentals like toll booths, parking meters, etc.
- Clip boards and box of markers, pens, pencils, tape
- First Aid Kit
- Tissues and Baby wipes
- Small trash bag or box (we use a cereal size storage container lined with a small garbage bag)
- Power / battery back up Here’s the one I took to China and still use, other colors available
- Car emergency kit
- Continue Food Passports: name of eatery, address, how many hearts 1-5, what you ate along the way
- Use TripAdvisor to check out local attractions, places to eat, where to stay, etc. I do this before I go then ♡ SAVE them on the app. You can even download the city to your phone so as not to use data while you are there. Make sure to take note of local parks so the kids can burn off energy. TripAdvisor now even has a timeline so you can look back at your trip and remember all the cool places you visited.
- My favorite way to travel is Airbnb, each home we visit has some new and interesting things about it that are fun to explore.
- No matter how long you've been traveling, it's never too late to start making lists of where you've been and where you want to go! We bought a book called “Travel Listography” for our travel bucket list. We need to explore the Pacific Coast Highway area, Oregon, and we'd love to see the rock formations in the Grand Canyon area and the Redwood National Forests. We haven't been as far north as Maine or as far south as Miami, but they're on our lists!
Packing Tips for successful road trips
Just a couple of tips that have helped me over the years when I have traveled with my kids. These are road travel packing tips. I would pack completely differently if I was traveling by air. I'll actually be sharing a video demonstrating this soon on my YouTube Channel.
- If more than one child is going, pack one outfit per person into one grocery bag, including socks and undies. Put the entire stack in the grocery bag. You can label it however you like: “day one” or “red t-shirts” or “dressy outfit” or “play clothes” you get the idea. This way you only have to pull out ONE bag per day. If your child wears clean pajamas every night you could also include one pair of pjs and just lay them out of the bag in the morning.
- Don’t pack ALL of each person's clothes in separate suitcases. If multiple people are traveling, pack as indicated above, then put several bags into however many suitcases it takes. This way, it will not be necessary to bring in every single bag at every single stop. Get it?
- Pack all your bathroom and shower stuff in one bag. Even if multiple people are going. Each person can pack their stuff into individual (hopefully clear) bags, but all those bags can go in one bag designated for the bathroom.
- Keep paper towels, disposable gloves, extra baggies, and baby wipes in the car for spills and other messes.
You can see what this looks like on my YouTube Channel:
Don't forget to pin this post to your travel board, mom board, how to board or wherever you will find it the next time you plan a road trip!