In today’s age of long commutes and family transportation, most people have set up their lives to be as functional and hassle free as possible. While this is incredibly effective for navigating the workday and whizzing kids to any number of afterschool and weekend activities, it may not support you when the time comes for the American tradition of the family road trip. The common belief is that you can just pack some bags, jam them between the kids in the back seat and take off for fun and travel. It’s not so easy, but don’t stress. Here are some tips to help make sure the adventure doesn’t turn into a disaster:
Rent Your Peace of Mind
First and foremost, make sure you have the right vehicle. The family car that you spent months researching and test driving may be perfect for your city commute, but there are several reasons to consider a rental. Road trips, while fun and exciting, are often filled with hours and hours sitting, not to mention snacking and slurping. With a rental, there is something liberating about knowing it won’t be you scrubbing that CapriSun out of the upholstery or vacuuming up crushed Goldfish Crackers.
Upgrade to Bigger
Not only do you have the usual assortment of family members confined to an enclosed space, you also have a plethora of bags and equipment required for the various stages of the trip. Bigger vehicles, such as a minivan or an SUV, will provide you the room needed for all the luggage while allowing each person their individual space. Anything to minimize cries of, she’s touching me! He’s looking at me!
Do your due diligence before you leave. Check tires and fluids, make sure you have a spare and a first aid kit. Join a travel club and/or purchase roadside rescue service. Make sure you are fully insured and have all of your required documentation with you. Not all regular policies cover rental cars, and when the first drink spills, you’ll be glad you purchased rental car coverage. In addition, should the unfortunate happen, supplemental insurance can often preclude the necessity for you to involve your personal insurance, saving you money on premiums in the future.
Know the Road
Have at least a rough outline of where you want to go. Bring maps of the area, digital and paper. Download one of these travel apps to help you navigate and locate points of interest. If you are travelling through major cities, avoid rush hour and high traffic areas.
Plan the Time
Plan ahead for the long hours of open road. iPads and iPods are great, but they distract from one of the main points of the family road trip — the family. Alternatively, car games can be fun and educational while giving the opportunity for the family to interact and maybe even forget they’ve been in the same car for five hours. Make sure to have plenty of snacks and water, as time between stops can be deceptive, and you want to stay healthy and full of energy.
Remember, the family road trip isn’t about the destination; it’s about the journey. Robert Lewis Stevenson said it best, For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.