Anyone who’s ever been on a family road trip knows that it can sound like a better idea in theory than it is in practice. This isn’t because there is anything wrong with hitting the road with our families, but there is something wrong with our romanticization of this journey. These are the people you love, but they’re also the same people that can drive you a little batty. And then you put all these personalities into cramped quarters. It’s easy to see how the experience can get a little stressful.
Well, let’s decompress the situation with these 5 simple tips for road trip success.
1) Plan & Share
Creating a road trip plan is important, even if you are going it alone. Planning will allow you to reach your destination on time and stick to your road trip budget, since you will know where, when and how often you’ll be stopping for food and lodging. Of course, nothing needs to be written in stone, but having a course of action will help keep you motoring along.
However, what is different about going on a road trip with other people is that you have to share this plan (and budget), and accept any feedback. While there may be one person spearheading the trip, there are other people in the car and their voices need to be heard. Maybe no one but you want to stop to look at the country’s largest collection of fish-hooks. Maybe you haven’t allocated enough time for bathroom breaks considering small children or the elderly will be en route with you. Maybe your budgetary expectations for the trip are different from the expectations of others. These are things other members of your family will want to weigh in on if you give them the chance. So, have a plan, and share it with everyone so you can get their input. Adjust where and when necessary.
2) Consider Generations
As mentioned already, the ages of people on the trip are important. The travel needs of most 20-year olds will be drastically different than the needs of a 1-year old, or a 86 year old. While that 20-year old may be able to drive 18 hours without stopping, the very young and elderly members of a family can’t – or won’t want to – go that long in one haul. When you are planning, make sure to account for this. Allow time for people to get out, stretch and move around. In some cases, this may mean stopping every couple of hours, and while it will slow down your progress, you’ll have an infinitely happier family.
3) Prep Your Ride
Before you leave, make sure your vehicle is road trip ready. This includes:
- Having your car serviced: oil, air filter, engine and tire check – the whole thing.
- Making sure your spare tire is in working order and that you have all the tools you’ll need to change it.
- Having maps, as well as a GPS in your car and good to go. (Maps come in handy when signal reception gets spotty.)
- Cleaning your vehicle beforehand, removing anything you don’t require that will take up room you’ll need for luggage and supplies.
- Placing a first-aid kit in your vehicle in case of emergency.
- Bringing a spare canister of gas, especially if you are venturing off the beaten path.
Pro tip: Avoid having to have your upholstery detailed when you get home and get some quality car seat covers before the trip. Between wear and tear and spills and stains, road trips can take a toll on your vehicle’s upholstery. Make no mistake: it’s a lot easier to hose down or launder seat covers than it is to scrub car-sick out of the back of your head rest.
4) Pack Refreshments
People get hungry. It happens. But it doesn’t always happen at the same time. To prevent unexpected bursts of hostility from family members due to hunger, bring along some food and drinks. Healthy food is best, since you won’t be dealing with upset gastrointestinal tracts and severe sugar highs and lows. Not only will having smart food choices on board help keep the peace, but it will also save you money on road-stop snacks, and it will come in handy in the event you get stranded.
5) Bring Entertainment
Staring out the window can get old after the 9th hour, so be sure to pack entertainment. Travel board games are great, as are cards, books, toys and colouring for the kids, movies and music. The point is to keep your Aunt Millie’s mind off how much she hates it when your Dad clears his throat before he’s about to talk and on how happy she is to win her third consecutive game of Go-Fish.
You love your family, and you want to have a great road trip. Take these tips to heart and you’re guaranteed to have a more enjoyable time, one and all.