7 Tips for a Successful Family Road Trip

Some of my favorite memories growing up are from family vacations and road trips (though there are some not as fun memories, too ;-) Here are 7 tips for a successful family road trip!

We take road trips all year long — summer, spring, winter, fall…there’s no real road trip season for the Clark Family. However, I know that most people aren’t really like us, and summer is generally when the majority of road trips take place.

And I imagine that when someone hears the word road trip, they have mixed feelings. Sure, there are almost always fun memories associated with them…but for every good memory, there’s also a memory of fights breaking out in the back seat, someone getting sick, and countless “are we there yet” comments made. And perhaps you even remember a certain occasion where a parent slammed on the brakes in frustration of their child begging to stop for lunch…or maybe that’s just me 😉

Either way, I think family road trips have the potential to bring everyone together a little bit closer, build lasting memories, and hopefully bring you to a fun destination. We obviously only have one child, who is only two, so we can’t give too much advice on taking road trips with multiple or older children…but hopefully you’ll find a few helpful tips here.

1) Audio Book or Fun Music

Growing up, we always listened to music during our road trips, and it was usually different from the kind we just listened to on the radio. I fondly remember this cassette tape we had that had all these fun, baseball themed songs. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to find it still, but I believe it is Baseball’s Greatest Hits: Let’s Play II. The songs were always so catchy, and we really only listened to it on road trips! I know we listened to other things (including inspirational talks on CD, and even the scriptures), but that baseball CD always stands out to me.

Forrest and I really have come to enjoy listening to audio books on our road trips. It really makes the trip go by faster, and I’ve even found myself wishing our trip would go on a little bit longer so we could keep listening to the book. We always have fun picking out a new book now before we leave. We’ve listened to the last two books in the Divergent series on car rides, and just started the Uglies.

2) Healthy Snacks

As tempting as it might be to stock up on candy bars, chips, and other delicious, yet very unhealthy, foods…try not too. Whenever we go on road trips, and we bring food like that, I feel so gross. Not only do I feel gross, but I totally crash after we get to our destination, because that’s what happens when you eat junk food.

Instead, bring along foods that are a little lighter and have more nutrients than a bag of Cheetos! I mean, you don’t have to only bring carrots and celery (believe me, celery is at the bottom of the list on my road trip food list), but finding a happy medium is a great idea. Here are a few ideas:

  • Pistachios. We love pistachios. You might remember this post where we talked about the health benefits, and how you can eat more pistachios without feeling guilty. They are so delicious!
  • Cutie clementine oranges. These aren’t always the best price, or even in season, but when they are, I think they are the perfect road trip food. They are sweet and easy to peel and eat. Perfect for adults and children.
  • Simple Chicken Salad Sandwiches. For me, it’s not a road trip without chicken salad piled on top of a flaky croissant. The recipe linked above primarily contains Greek Yogurt, and a little bit of mayo, but you can use all Greek Yogurt in order to make it healthier.
  • Fruit leather
  • Boom Chicka Pop Popcorn. This is a great snack to have to satisfy those cravings for something salty (or sweet.)
  • Special K Chips (we love the popcorn chips.) These are healthier than traditional bags of chips, and they are really good. We always have a box of these.
  • Grapes
  • Baby Carrots
  • Lots of water! It might be tempting (and perhaps, at times, necessary) to load up on caffeinated soda pop, energy drinks, and sports drinks, but water is a great way to keep you alert, hydrated, and not have a sugar/caffeine crash afterwards.
  • Twizzlers. Okay, this might seem random and not so healthy, but my mom always says that eating licorice while traveling is a good way to avoid getting travel bloat, which many people experience after sitting in a car or on an airplane for hours upon hours.

3) Plan Stops

There are some people who like to just drive as far and for as long as possible on road trips. I am not one of those people. If it were up to me, we’d never drive more than three hours at a time. But, that’s obviously not realistic (as much as I don’t like driving, I’m not about to spend money on hotels every three hours either!), so making stops every few hours is essential to maintain my sanity.

The stops don’t have to be for hours upon hours. In fact, ours usually aren’t. We usually make a stop for lunch, or dinner (depending when we started our trip), and one or two other times for just a few minutes. It’s just nice to be able to stretch your legs and get some fresh air. Sure, it may add 15-30 minutes on to your final trip time, but it might just save your sanity.

4) Don’t Drive Tired

I mention this simply because it’s not safe to drive tired. I’ve heard far too many stories about people falling asleep at the wheel, and seriously injuring or killing themselves and passengers. I believe that no destination is so important to drive tired — I think I read somewhere that driving tired is just as dangerous as driving drunk. So don’t do it!

5) Fun Bags

These are a must for kids! My mom always made “fun bags” for all of us kids every time we went on vacation, and it’s something I’ve started with Jack as well. It doesn’t have to contain anything fancy — just a few fun surprises and activities to keep your kids from getting too stir crazy in the car. With Jack, we usually just have a supply of puffs, books, and drawing supplies, and it seems to keep him occupied. Here are a few other fun bag ideas:

  • Crossword puzzles, Sudoku, Mad Libs, etc. (The dollar store is a great place to find things like this)
  • Magnadoodles — you don’t risk getting crayons or markers scattered across the room.
  • Crayons, markers, paper, coloring books — in case you don’t care if you get crayons or markers scattered everywhere
  • A new book
  • Snacks
  • A gallon sized plastic bag to put wrappers or other trash in
  • A new sippy cup or water bottle
  • Gum (if you are flying)
  • A few small pieces of chocolate or candy
  • A package of crackers, like wheat thins
  • Fruit and Veggies in containers

6) Prevent Car Sickness

I’m not sure anything ruins a road trip more than car sickness. Some people can’t even get in a car without getting sick, so let’s just consider them a lost cause (kidding), but for others, it may just be onset by being in the car for long periods of time. Here are a few ways to prevent car sickness (or at least prevent a mess.)

  • Keep air circulating. I think that heat, and lack of air circulation, is just a recipe for disaster. Try and keep the air conditioning on if possible, and, if all else fails, if someone starts to feel sick, roll down the window!
  • Sea-bands — they help prevent motion sickness, and help for some people
  • Even though essential oils make me sick, I know that they help a lot of people with car sickness. I think that peppermint is one that is supposed to help with nausea!
  • Avoid reading too much. This is something I have to do. As soon as I start to read something, I get sick. So…I don’t do it!
  • A friend of mine said they place a #10 can under the seat, lined with a plastic bag, just in case someone does get sick. It will still not have a pleasant odor (bring air fresheners!), but at least a mess will be prevented

7) Learn Some Car Games

Nothing makes a car ride go by faster than some good old fashion car games. Sure, there’s electronic devices to entertain people now, but we try to avoid using that as entertainment on car rides (try being the key word.) Car games are a great way to distract everyone and have some good laughs.

Bonus Tip:

If you are like me, your phone might die pretty quickly, leaving your without a way to get in contact with people half way through your trip. Or perhaps the tablet you are listening to an audio book from, or the eReader you’re reading from dies out. I highly recommend buying a portable charger — Forrest got me one for Christmas, and I love it

I’d love to hear any tips you have!

Where to go?

The sky is the limit with road trips (well…unless water is in the way.) There are so many fun destinations out there. I think it would be so fun to just go on a cross country road trip, eating at random little restaurants, and visiting random destinations. If you are wanting to go somewhere with more of a destination, be sure to check out Get Away Today for the best deals on many vacations, such as Disneyland, San Diego, or Las Vegas. Here are a few of their deals going on right now 

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San Diego Packages

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photo credit: Kay Gaensler via photopin cc

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