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Planning a Better Family Road Trip

Matt Villano

It’s no secret that Labor Day Weekend is one of the busiest travel times all year. Experts from AAA predict that more than 33 million people will travel at least 50 miles from home this year, a 2.9 percent increase from last year. Nearly 85 percent of these folks will travel by car.

This means many of you are about to embark on a family road trip. Here are a few tactical keys to making your next roadie one of your best.

No. 1: Let them choose
From the very beginning, make the road trip as much about the journey as it is about the destination. Get a map (online or off) and show the kids what route you’ll take. Inform them of potential sights and diversions along the way. Finally, let them choose where they want to stop. This strategy doesn’t only make the little ones feel like they’ve had a hand in planning; it also usually leads to some serendipitous finds along the way.

No. 2: Stop often
This blog is named after the one question we parents hear more than any other on road trips. One way to combat the incessant needling: Stop as frequently as possible. Yes, technically, this strategy will prolong the trip and keep you on the road longer than anticipated. But the more you stop, the more chances your kids will have to stretch the legs, which a) makes all that sitting more palatable and b) tuckers them out.

No. 3: Ease into new foods
For better or for worse, vacations are full of new foods. With this in mind, it’s usually a good idea to start the kids gradually. On a road trip, especially for parents of finicky eaters, this means bringing food from home or sticking to restaurants with familiar food. To be clear, I am not suggesting that parents feed the kids chicken nuggets for every meal of every trip; I’m saying that familiar foods along the way might make kids more willing to try new stuff once you’ve arrived.

No. 4: Give everyone a job
Between pumping gas, organizing receipts, keeping things clean and recording stops, every road trip involves important tasks. Instead of micromanaging this stuff with your partner, get the kids involved. Have the toddler be in charge of garbage. Encourage the teen-ager to fill ‘er up. The more responsibilities you give your children en route, the more excited they’ll be about the journey overall. Of course this strategy helps you, too—with them working, you can sit back and enjoy the ride.

In case you’re wondering, this isn’t the first time I’ve written about road trips. For more suggestions on how to manage a road trip with the kids, click here. Think I’ve missed any good advice? Please leave a comment.