If you’re considering taking a long road trip this summer, you may have conflicting feelings. On one hand, you might be excited about your destination and what you’ll do for fun. On the other, being confined to the car with family or little ones is understandably anxiety-producing. While a long road trip has the potential to be challenging, there are steps you can take to drop the dreadful parts.
Make a Long Road Trip Fly By With These Tips
These 8 survival tips will ensure the experience is more enjoyable and relaxing for everyone. Whether you’re visiting relatives or sight-seeing in some beautiful part of the country, a road trip can be an absolute blast if you have a couple tricks up your sleeve.
Tip 1. Vehicle Cleaning and Maintenance
While this does add some time and effort to the preparation process, cleaning your vehicle is an essential task. You’ll need all the space you can get for luggage, food, entertainment etc., so decluttering and de-gunking your car is a great start.
While cleanliness will boost morale to a degree on your trip, a broken down car will not. For this reason, it’s a good idea to schedule your vehicle’s maintenance before your trip.
The mechanic should check the car’s fluid levels, breaks, tires, and anything else that could give you a problem on the road. Ensure your spare tire is inflated and in good shape. It’s also good to have emergency essentials such as jumper cables.
Pro-tip: Keep a can of cola on hand to dissolve corrosion that builds up on your battery. We swear it works.
Tip 2. Allow Time for Delays
Summer is two things: peak travel season and peak road work season. As a result, you can expect that delays will happen during your trip.
Prevent additional stress and make travel easier by allowing some buffer time for these delays in your schedule. A good rule of thumb is to have a flexible 30-minute window for all points along your destination.
Some smart ways to allow for delays include making a “Plan B” for your accommodations, and researching where the next services are on the road. This prevents you from getting into a tight spot with dinner or lodging if delays do happen.
Pro-tip: Traffic apps such as Waze can help you foresee major road blockages as reported by other users. This foresight can help you devise a backup route if necessary.
Tip 3. Consider Taking the Backroads
If you’ve got kids in the car, consider keeping them entertained by getting off the highways and checking out the scenic routes. Country and small-town areas offer unique attractions, specialties and roadside stops that can make for some truly interesting memories.
Before you plan your trip, check out Time’s list of the top 50 American roadside attractions and make a plan to visit a few. While these funky little attractions may seem like a diversion, they’re a great way make richer memories as you travel the miles.
Tip 4. Entertainment On-the-Go
If you’ve got kids in the car, (or a buddy with the attention span of one,) be sure to bring along plenty of books, puzzles, games, and media to keep them busy.
If your car doesn’t have a built-in television system, DVD players and a case to hang on the seatback can be found for roughly $75. This may be the perfect opportunity to invest if you have little ones.
If you prefer not to go the electronics route, there are tray tables designed for cars so children can color and do other car-friendly tasks. For a low-cost alternative, use a cookie sheet for their travel desk.
You can also play some road trip games if the entertainment runs short. Here’s a list of the top family-friendly games you can all play while on the road.
Once the kids are quiet, what about your entertainment? Now is a great time to purchase some new audiobooks or download some podcasts you’ve been meaning to listen to.
Tip 5. Use Podcasts to Bond with Teens
Naturally, teens will disconnect unless you have some way to keep the conversation going. You may want to try listening to something thought-provoking with them like the iTunes award-winning podcast “Lore.” Lore is a secretly-informative historically educational podcast that is disguised with a spooky narrative. Once they’re hooked, pick their brains on how they would think, feel, or act based on the narrative in the story. (Shhh, we won’t tell them they’ll learn something.)
Tip 6. Pack Wisely
Before you leave, have every family member lay out their belongings and use packing cubes to keep them organized in bags and suitcases. As you pack the car, do it strategically and keep luggage below the seat level. All those years of playing Tetris will finally pay off here. Keep in mind to pack your bags into the car in an order that allows you to access the items you need first. This will prevent having to repack your car after each stop.
For the sake of saving space, consider bringing things like an activity book that offers a variety of games, art, and mental puzzles in one booklet. Tablets are another tech-savvy way to gain some leg room while keeping everyone entertained.
Tip 7. Snack Smarter
During a long road trip, it’s nice to have some energy-boosting food on hand. Pack a cooler full of snacks and drinks so you don’t have to stop unless it’s potty or gas time.
Package everything in pre-portioned, easy-to-grab baggies. Popular options include pretzels, cheese sticks, pre-sliced fruit, hard boiled eggs (already peeled, of course), and small hummus cups.
Be sure to stop by the dollar store and grab these convenience items:
A plastic cereal container:
Leak-proof trash can for messier contents
Shower caddy with handle:
Easy access lunch container for small children
Shower toiletry containers:
Suction to the window to help organize toys/crayons.
If you’re trying to keep costs down, you might also want to pack lunches or at least some finger-food the whole family likes. Your family will eat healthier on the road while preventing senseless spending and reducing a stop or two.
Pro-tip: Save room in your cooler by packing frozen water bottles in place of ice packs.
Tip 8. Keep Attitudes in Check
It’s tight quarters when you are packed in a vehicle. If you’ve provided entertainment, snacks, and comfort, then you deserve a peaceful ride for yourself. When kids act up, put them in check with this simple tip:
Each child gets a clothespin with their name on it, clipped to the front visor. If someone acts out of line, his or her clip is taken down and they miss out on the next fun event along the trip. It could be ice cream at the next stop or choosing the next movie along the way. It’s a visual reminder for them to be on their best behavior during the road trip.
Road Trip Survival Made Simple
If you’re gearing up for a big road trip with the family, these tips can help it stay fun and stress-free (or at least as stress-free as possible).
Whether you’re traveling with young kids or a group of friends, preparing for your road trip pays off. Planning for the unexpected, bringing plenty of snacks, giving yourself a bit of extra time, and remembering to slow down will definitely make the process more enjoyable.