Summer is in full-swing, which means families across the nation are hitting the road for fun-filled vacations. Of course, road trips don’t always go as smoothly as planned-especially when you have your food-munching, giggling, bickering brood in tow.
Before you load up the family truckster and head out on the highway, take some time to prepare for all the possible bumps in the road ahead. If you want to ensure a low-stress excursion, consider these ten smart road trip tips:
Road Trip Tip #1: Book well in advance.
If you’re loading up the car and still haven’t made hotel reservations, you may have a problem. When you wait until the last minute to book a room, you run the risk of seeing “No Vacancy” signs everywhere you turn.
The sooner you make your vacation reservations, the better. Not only are you more likely to score a great bargain earlier in the game, but you’ll also have plenty of time to do some research. Hunt around for fun hotels that will best suit your family’s wants and needs, whether it’s a pool, a fitness center or a complimentary breakfast.
Road Trip Tip #2: Get the kids involved.
As you plan ahead for your family road trip, try to get the kids in on the action. Sit down together and take a look at the map so you can discuss where you may want to stop along your journey. Not only will the kids feel like they have a hand in the vacation planning, but they’ll also be much more excited about the trip.
Road Trip Tip #3: Load up with snacks.
“Are we there yet?” and “I’m hungry!” are probably the two most common exclamations parents hear from their kids on any road trip. While there’s not much you can do to get to your destination faster, you can keep your kids’ bellies full.
Pack a variety of car-friendly snacks like fruit, crackers, juice and water. To keep the peace, you may consider offering your kids a special sweet treat they don’t usually get to eat at home. This makes road trips seem much more exciting for the kids.
Road Trip Tip #4: Pack plenty of games.
Another common road trip phrase? “I’m bored!” Fight road trip tedium with a big bag full of games, toys, coloring books, electronics and even a portable DVD player. These fun activities will help the time pass by more quickly and keep the kids happy.
Road Trip Tip #5: Make some pit stops.
Don’t expect your kids to sit contentedly in the backseat for a full 10 hours. Be sure to plan some stops along the way, whether it’s a state park, a fast-food playground or a museum. This will make the trip more exciting and give everyone a chance to stretch their legs and burn off some energy-which will make the rest of riding time much more bearable for everyone.
Road Trip Tip #6: Give kids some space.
Try not to pack your car so tightly that the kids have no wiggle room in the backseat. Make sure they have some personal space so they can stretch out their legs and arms. Bring a pillow for each child so they can take a nap along the way.
Road Trip Tip #7: Bring a camera.
Be sure to pack a digital or disposable camera for the kids so they can take lots of photos to document their journey. After the trip, you can help them make travel scrapbooks.
Road Trip Tip #8: Plan carefully to avoid major disappointments.
If you’ve ever seen the classic Chevy Chase movie, “Vacation,” you probably remember the parking lot scene. After a long, difficult road trip, the Griswold family happily races across an empty parking lot only to discover their final destination, the Walley World theme park, is closed. The Griswold kids’ miserable faces are enough to drive their dad Clark into temporary insanity.
Steer clear of these terrible family disappointments by doing you research and planning ahead. Carefully check the operating hours of all the places you plan to visit. The smiles on your kids’ faces will be well worth the extra effort.
Road Trip Tip #9: Play it safe.
No matter what kind of challenges you may face on your journey, always put safety first. Make sure that all of the passengers in your car buckle up and double-check all your child safety seats before you hit the road. While it’s easy to get distracted by the commotion in the backseat, make sure the driver always keeps their eyes and full attention on the road. If you’re driving, let the other adult handle backseat requests, spills or squabbles.
Road Trip Tip #10: Be prepared for emergencies.
Always keep an emergency kit in your car. Stock the kit with first-aid supplies, blankets, flares, flashlights, extra water, non-perishable snacks and any prescription medication your family would need if you were to become stranded.