Reviving the Lost Art of the Family Road Trip

April 2016

Family road trips can be exciting and wonderful opportunities for the whole family. They can also be a challenge. It’s tricky to keep everyone engaged and enthused without losing them all in tablets and recorded entertainment. It can be done! And it’s easier than you might expect.

Preparation is KEY. This is one of those times that it absolutely pays off to invest a few extra minutes in planning to make sure that everyone has what they need on the road. First of all, if you don’t own a vehicle large enough for the entire family to have a little “personal space,” consider renting one. Work with each child, pack a bag of activities and snacks for them. Make sure your reader gets a new book or two and the artist gets a couple of new coloring books and fresh Crayons. Magnetic travel versions of classic board games, including bingo, tic-tac-toe, snakes and ladder, checkers, etc., are invaluable if you’re a game-playing family. Tuck a different game into each child’s bag as a surprise to be revealed once the trip is underway.

This is a great opportunity to make sure that each child gets their favorite snack too. Of course, we’re partial to Go Organically Fruit Snacks. It’s easy to throw them in your child’s bag as a special treat. If they’ve never tried them before, it can be a new surprise for them.

In the packing and planning stage, make sure that you have a good first aid kit or emergency bag on hand with antibiotic ointment, allergy cream, sunburn treatment (and sunscreen), and hydrocortisone cream, plus an assortment of bandages, gauze, etc. It’s critical to make sure that any needed medications, including epi-pens, are packed in this bag.

If the trip is multi-day, with a final destination, it’s a good idea to have an “overnight bag” available that is more easily accessible than the main stash of luggage for the end game.

While on the road, action is necessary. Change seats at every pit stop – it means a lot to kids to have Mom or Dad in the back with them for a while.

Disposable cameras are cheaper than ever – get one for each child and give them a chance to serve as photojournalist of the trip. Let them look at the map – use a real paper map with historic sites and such marked on it – show them where you are and where you need to be at the end of the day. Allow them to pick out the sites on the way where they’d like to stop, and encourage selfies and family photos at each one.

Don’t forget to schedule in lots of pit stops. If you need to stop at fast food places, try to find ones with playgrounds or enjoy your pre-packed lunch at a park with lots of space to run around. Children need to burn off energy. If you can’t take the time to stop at places with room for action, see if you can book a hotel with a pool along the way – anything to work off some of that energy.

The family road trip, with all the wonder and learning that it entails, isn’t dead! Use the drive to re-engage with your family and discover new things about each other.