Summer means taking a road trip. There is something totally fun, insane, and all-American about loading up a car and hitting the road for a few days or weeks of seeing the country. People love to make comparisons about the U.S. versus other countries, but really it is a comparison between their little window on the U.S. and a romanticised vacation glimpse of another country. Yes, there are Starbucks and Targets dotting the country, but that doesn’t mean regions are similar. Before you get out there to see a bit beyond your neighborhood, here are some of our best tips for a road trip with kids. It was originally posted last year, but they all hold true, and it’s the best way to kick off a week full of road trip destination posts. Buckle up and let’s roll!
Here are some of our best tips for a road trip with kids:
1. Charge everything. Make sure phones, iPods, Kindles, Nintendo DS, cameras, and anything else that runs on a battery is fully charged before you walk out the door. Then pack labeled chargers (label them just in case…). Bring a charger that can be used in your car, too, if you have one.
2. Download fresh entertainment. Get some new music, a few new books for the kids (paperback and electronic), some podcasts, and games. Discovering new entertainment is something my kids look forward to, and when the road gets long and attitudes are stretched, it’s a great time to trot out the new stuff.
3. Clean your car before you go. This seems odd because your car is going to quickly get dirty. Most people factor in a car wash post trip, but not before. If you are going to be practically living out of your car for awhile, start with a clean car. My kids thrash things so quickly that it makes me feel more relaxed when my environment is clean, including my car. Also, think about whether it’s time for an oil change or any other maintenance before you go.
4. Don’t pack everything. This is difficult because it is so tempting to throw everything you just may need into your car. Don’t. It makes it difficult to get out what you do need, it adds to weight in the car which decreases fuel economy, and if you are like me and insist on not leaving anything worthy of being stolen in your car, it means you have to unload and load a lot of stuff at each overnight stop. Plus, you want to keep room for fun treasures you find along the way.
5. Map out your route ahead of time to search for points of interest or fun stopping places along the way. GPS is great, and while we rely on that, too, our friendly voiced lady doesn’t tell us about the gorgeous Elk viewing area, and it’s too late to stop once we blow by it at 65 mph. Last year’s side trip to a drive thru redwood tree is something my kids still talk about excitedly. It was five minutes off of the main road on which we were traveling, but had we not know about if before, we never would have stopped.
6. Wear comfy clothes. I always have the kids dress in comfy shorts and t-shirts, and I make sure to have a back up set that is easy to reach. Spills happen.
8. Arm your kids with cameras! This is the best electronics gadget to give them. My kids love framing photos and trying to take pictures of what they see from their backseat vantage point. Usually, these turn out as blurry landscape photos, but sometimes they get great landscape photos, or fun family pictures documenting the trip. Most everything comes with a camera. My kids used to shoot with their Nintendo DS, but now they prefer the cameras in their iPods. Cameras help make the trip memorable for them as they get to document it all from their perspective.