The family road trip isn't easy to pull of perfectly.
(Photo by iStock Photo)

How to Plan a Family Road Trip: Without Wanting to Drive Off a Cliff

As a kid, family road trips were what I looked forward to the most every summer. Please keep in mind that I grew up as a child in the 80’s when hopping on a plane wasn’t as common as it is now. Family road trips were a staple of my youth. They seemed so simple. My parents didn’t need to take the time to think about how to plan a family road trip because it was something that you just did. It was second nature to them.

Somewhere along the way it feels like we have lost that mentality. It makes sense, we live in a society where we want immediate gratification with everything we do. Trips are no different. We want to just get there. So we stay focused on the destination, not the journey itself. We have traded in endless games of I spy for security lines. Kind of depressing right? 

Not to worry, I am breaking out of the current norms. I am encouraging you to take that family road trip. Say no to the flight and the easy way and say yes to the drive and unfortunately, the high gas prices. This article will give you some pointers on how to plan a family road trip successfully. You may make family road trips great again.

Learn how to plan the perfect family road trip.
(Photo by iStock Photo)

Start by Convincing Your Family

This will be your first and maybe biggest hurdle to get over. Like I said, we have been conditioned to focus on the destination. The journey is a complete afterthought. Your job isn’t to convince them that driving is better than flying. No, your job is to convince them of the memories that you all will make on the journey. Having said this, I am not above some light bribery, and you shouldn’t be either.

Pick a Destination

Once you have your family onboard and excited, it is time to pick the destination. Pro-tip you can use this as part of convincing your family to go. You can distract the kids with the destination of say… Disneyland. They are saying yes to that and not realizing they just agreed to a long road trip. Trust me, if you do it right, they will be thanking you.

Make sure that you are realistic with your destination and timeline for getting there and back. You don’t want to pick somewhere that is 18 hours away and you only have, say, 4 days for your whole roundtrip. Be sure to give yourself enough time to enjoy the journey and the destination. Both are equally important on a family road trip.

Set Your Budget for the Trip

This is another item that you need to make sure you are very realistic about. Key items to factor in:

  • Accommodations
  • Gas (unfortunately)
  • Attractions & Activities
  • Meals, Drinks & Snacks
  • Souvenirs
  • Daily Spending Cash
  • Emergency Funds

Plan Your Route and Identify Your Stops

You have your destination and your budget, now it is time to plan your route with those key elements in mind. Decide how long you plan to roughly drive each day. Then research where you want to stay each night to book your accommodations. Or if you want to be a wild card, there are apps like Hotels Tonight where you can book discounted rates on the same day of your stay. Once you have your days and nights mapped out, it is time to dig into attractions that you want to see along the way. Pro-Tip – if possible, try to plan your gas stops and attractions at the same time. This website has some of the best offbeat tourist attractions to really make your family road trip memorable.

Prep Your Car for the Family Road Trip

Before you hit the road, here are some key items to ensure that your car is family road trip ready:

  • Check the tread on your tires
  • Top off fluids
  • Get your oil changed
  • Get an end-to-end inspection
  • Replace your windshield wiper blades

Prep for the Family

You need to keep the family entertained and fed while on the road:

  • Start by packing plenty of road trip friendly snacks.
  • Freshen up on road trip games. Some game suggestions; I Spy, 21 Questions & The Alphabet Game.
  • Get your music playlists dialed in with family-friendly songs that everyone will like and sing along to.
  • Screens will be your friend in limited capacity. Make sure the devices are equipped with enough downloaded items (for non-service areas) to keep your family entertained when needed. Zero judgment here.
Packing for a family road trip doesn't have to be difficult.
(Photo by iStock Photo)

Pack the Car

Lastly, it is time to pack the car. Don’t take this task lightly, how you pack the car is very important. You want to think through items you will need while on the road, snacks and drinks need to be easily accessible. You might want to also pack a single bag or 2 for the family to use on the journey and another for the destination to limit how much you need to lug into the hotel on any stops. Pro-tip – if you pretend that you are playing Tetris while packing the car, it’s way more fun.

Hit the Road

You now know how to plan a family road trip and you are ready to hit the open road to make some memories! Just remember to enjoy the journey!

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