Road trips can be a rewarding way to travel as a family, thanks to the flexibility of travel times, the ability to stop when needed, and kids being familiar with the family car. However, sometimes long hours on the road make for cranky kids and parents. Take some time to anticipate the unexpected and properly prepare for your time in the car with these tips for family road trips.
Family road trip essentials
Create a family road trip packing list
Before you head out on a road trip with kids, it’s important to create a family road trip checklist of all the items you’ll need to pack. You’ll want to pack car essentials and have your kids choose a few items to keep within arm’s reach that can keep them occupied in the car and quiet activities that can keep them busy during your travels.
- Antibacterial wipes
- A small first aid kit
- Cozy blankets for trips in cold weather
- Charging cables and USB plugs
- Favorite movies, apps, and books
- Crafts, journals, washable crayons, and card games
- Car seat
- Jumper cables, tools, and flashlights
Snacks and water
On a road trip with kids, you’ll also want to pack snacks and liquids to stay hydrated. Packing your snacks ensures you have your child’s favorite items when hunger strikes and can help your family eat healthier when on the road.
- Apples, oranges, carrots, grapes, cucumbers, and strawberries
- Frozen water bottles
- Healthy versions of favorites like multi-grain crackers or chips
Prepare your car for a family road trip
Begin with scheduling an appointment with an automotive service technician. Ask them to inspect your brakes, air conditioner, tire pressure, windshield wiper blades, and other maintenance checks to ensure your car is prepared for a road trip. A little preventative maintenance can help prevent breakdowns or mishaps while on the road.
If you are planning a road trip with a baby or toddler and have a car seat, ensure that you have installed it correctly. Take an inventory of the items in your car to be sure you have a car emergency kit in case you get into trouble on the road. If you’re in the market for a new car, find out what the best cars for road trips have in common.
Download apps and maps of your trip
With various apps available to download that can make your road trip with kids easier, you can pack lighter and leave the travel books at home. You’ll find apps that will provide real-time traffic information, and help you find the best places to eat so you can say you ate like a local. An app can help you find the least expensive gas around, know where to find your next caffeine fix, and more. Learn more about what RV travel apps RVers use when traveling.
Turn your family road trip into a geography lesson by pulling out an atlas for older kids. A road can be used to show them where you live in relation to where you’re heading. Point out major roads you might be taking, and things you might be stopping to see along the way. Look at some photos of the area, and read some books about where you’re going so they know what to expect when you get there, especially if you haven’t visited your destination before.
As you learn about where you’re going, you can also work together to develop a list of “musts” on your vacation and wish list items you hope to see or do while away.
Research where you’re staying
Whether staying with friends or relatives, renting a house, condo, or hotel during your trip, it’s helpful to know where you’re staying. Knowing what kinds of things are available at your destination helps you know what to pack in the car on a road trip with your family. If you’re renting a house or a condo, get in touch with the property owner or rental management company to see what items will be provided. Even though laundry machines, a dishwasher, and a stove may be provided, you may need to bring laundry detergent and dish soap or pick some up when you arrive.
Family road trips can be a fun way to experience the country, thanks to different scenery and interesting stops along the way. Even though your first car trip may seem daunting, you can ensure it is a success for every family member by exercising patience, being flexible, and preparing a family road trip checklist.