Tips to Make Your Road Trip an Awesome Adventure!

The Open Road

Ah, the good old fashioned road trip – it seems like every family has fond or maybe not-so-fond memories of a vacation that involved packing up the car and hitting the open road. Take my cousin for example. She can tell you in great detail about the time 40 years ago when she was sitting in the back seat of their 1967 Ford Fairlane, a couple of hours into a day-long road trip, when my uncle, who was driving, decided to open the window and spit. Eewww, can you say YUCK? Grossness aside, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out what’s gonna happen if you open the window to spit when you are going 60 miles an hour on the interstate. Unless you have spittle that can defy the laws of physics, it’s gonna end up squarely on the forehead of the person sitting in the back seat.

My own road trip memories are much more pleasant. I remember things like stopping at a lake for a quick swim and the picnics my mom made. I also remember a lot of music in the car. It was always a fun adventure. It wasn’t about the destination but the journey to get there! Consequently it’s something we love to do with our own kids, although we rarely seem to have enough uninterrupted vacation time to hit the road instead of the airport. Which leads me to my first tip:

Be realistic about how far you want to travel in the time you have. No one is going have fun traveling for 12-hour days, only to get there and have to turn around and go back home. Take the time to plan your trip and include time to stop and smell the roses!

SRC

Stop at roadside attractions and points of interest. It’s good campy fun to pose for pictures beside the World’s Largest Oil Can in Rocanville, Saskatchewan or at the Snake River Canyon in Idaho. At a recent stop at the SRC, my husband realized we were at the site of Evil Knievel’s failed jump attempt in 1974! Of course the kids had no idea who Evil Knievel was, and that took some explaining. “Ahhh…, he was a guy who liked to jump over things no one ever jumped over before.” The look of bewilderment on my daughter’s face was hilarious. The best part of stopping at points of interest is the folks you will meet. Take some time to say hello; everyone has a story to tell.

Take time before you leave to figure out where you are going to stop each night, and book ahead. You don’t want to end up in Elko, Nevada thinking there will be lots of motel rooms, only to find out you arrived smack-dab in the middle of their annual Cowboy Poetry Festival, and there isn’t a motel room to be found this side of the Montana border. With websites like tripadvisor.com it’s easy to find a nice, clean oasis, even if it’s just for one night.

music Break out the tunes! Before heading out on the road, each member of our family gets to put together a playlist of their favorite songs. I even have a playlist of the songs I remember my folks listening to when I was a kid. Hello Buck Owens and George Jones! We have sing-along songs, sad songs, inspirational songs. We have an eclectic taste in music, let me tell you. In this age of personal music listening devices, it’s a fabulous opportunity to find out what kids these days are listening to!

Pack a picnic! Even if it’s just for the first day, pack a nice little lunch. Doesn’t have to be fancy. Even sandwiches and some fruit taste fabulous when on the road. Be sure to take some hand sanitizer and wipes for cleaning up a roadside picnic table. I always like to take a good selection of healthy snacks and drinks along on the road – it saves time and money. Urbanspoon.com has also led us to several out-of-the-way cafes and restaurants where we have found some good local eats when on the road. Eats

There you have it. A few tips to help you enjoy your trip. Remember, don’t drive like an idiot, and don’t spit out the window, and you are sure to have a great time.

Be sure to include your road trip tips in the comments!

 

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Comments

  1. says

    So many great ideas here. We usually take a picnic lunch with us.. weather permitting. We stop on the way, eat our lunch, do our business and are back on our way. One year on our way to Las Vegas, we stopped at every casino there was on the way…. took us awhile to get to Vegas.

  2. says

    These are some great ideas! We’ve been on quite a few mini road trips and it’s always important to be prepared so that you can enjoy the experience. Promise not to spit out the window ;)

  3. Jen says

    Music was a staple on our road trips as kids. We were suckers for listening to the Disney soundtracks. I can still probably sing all the songs to Lion King and Junglebook. Oh, and the Dirty Dancing soundtrack too. That was so much fun!

  4. says

    Those are some really great tips. I’m planning a 23hr drive to Canada this winter so will definitely keep this in mind. With kids especially plan for bathroom breaks and make sure you have some fun entertainment available as well. Much better than hearing “are we there yet” for the millionth time.

  5. Lily@IW says

    What fun! Seeing where Evil Knievel jumped. Lol, I remember that day well. All the kids were excited about it and disappointed that it was on close-circuit Tv. Those road-side attractions are a good time. They call out to you stop as you are driving by. I used to love those little country souvenir shops when I was a kid.

    I love the playlist idea. Music makes the trip. Jen, I did the Disney soundtracks when the boys were young. Everyone can sing-a-long and it makes for a good mood.

  6. says

    Great tips, especially about bringing hand sanitizer and wipes. I keep those two things in my car at ALL times–it’s a necessity when traveling with kids.

  7. Montana says

    Nice article! I’ll have to remember the urbanspoon.com site . I think road trips are more fun when you discover gems along the way.

  8. says

    Road trips with my parents were not much fun, so we worked hard to make trips with my daughter more fun. We sang, played word games and listened to books on tape!

  9. says

    Those are great tips! I am one for having music all the time, I don’t care if it is a 2 hour drive or 14 I have my music planned. I also love to stop at silly little attractions those are great memory makers!

  10. snickers says

    Growing up we didn’t take many summer vacations, but did take one of those fold down campers to Texas one summer. I also got car motion sickness, so I always had to take a pill before leaving. Slept away many miles, but had so much fun at Six Flags over Texas and the ocean. My Mom cooked almost every meal while we were on the road, even making fried potatoes! Our camper had to be packed just so, taking food for a large family was a job.

    Now when taking weekend trips, we go off the beaten paths to check out small towns just to see what is there. Hidden treasures can be found in quaint little shops all over the country.

  11. says

    Great tips! I do not have any good road trip memories unfortunately. My former step father was a {insert expletive here} and he made our road trips horrible, whether he screamed, or sped too fast, or wouldn’t stop for bathroom breaks- it was all about getting to our destination as quick as possible, and it STUNK. I need tips like this because my children are still young, so we haven’t done many road trips.

  12. Shauna says

    You know, we used to pack lunch in a cooler when we drove from MD to MA every summer. It was so nice pulling into a park and enjoying the weather eating a nice picnic… plus it gave us kids time to run around and get fresh air… Great post, BTW!

  13. JennieIW says

    Lots of good advice here. I confess I’m not good at road trips. When I get in the car for a long trip, my mind tends to switch over automatically to: “get there as fast as possible!” I need to learn to enjoy the journey.

  14. says

    Great tips, we go on road trips a lot and these will come in handy. We love to enjoy the journey and will often avoid expressways and take the roads that go through towns and cities because it makes the trip more interesting.

  15. says

    these are great tips! as kids our parents did the picnic on the side of the road but not much else. when my kids are old enough for these things, i think we will try to make things more fun. Great tips! :)

  16. says

    I remember how much fun family trips were when I was a kid. My sister and I loved singing in the car together- but my dad always seemed to be in a hurry to get to wherever we were headed, so we never got to stop off in neat places for very long. Now I love taking road trips with my husband and son- and we stop wherever we want. Love these tips- they’re great!

  17. Ann@IW says

    A 2 hour trip to the shore is long enough! I pack sandwiches and desserts with a drink and fruit for lunch…and I want to eat it at 9:30 AM. I don’t know what comes over me!

    We took a trip out to Pittsburgh last year and stopped at the 9/11 memorial in Shanksville on a whim. We did not realize it was not too far off our course so we went near dusk. It’s a moving, solemn site, and I am glad we stopped.

  18. Pam@IW says

    Great post! We have taken several long road trips over the years and it is best to always be prepared. Lots of fun but also lots of somewhat nasty motels out in the middle of nowhere. We have been on a few trips where we were lucky to get a motel.

  19. Pam@IW says

    I do remember one time when we took my son and his girlfriend to New York City on vacation. We rented a car and were driving up to Cooperstown to see the Baseball Hall of Fame. Everyone fell asleep in the car except my husband because he was driving. He missed our exit and just kept on driving towards upstate New York and Montreal. I have no idea what he was thinking. I woke up and said, “Where the hell are we?” It was before we had GPS. Wasted a whole day with that one.

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