When a trip goes from two to four, it often makes sense to hire a car instead of taking buses. This is especially true if you want to pack in sights or your “plus 2” are your parents for whom the backpacker lifestyle was fun…about 40 years ago. Here’s how to make the most of family road trips when the kids have moved to the front seats.
I don’t know when it happened, but sometime over the last few years going anywhere with my parents meant that the keys were in my hands. This doesn’t really bother me, in fact, it’s easy enough for me to do and let’s be honest, they spent plenty of time being my chauffer before I could see over the wheel. Driving brings about special complications in the family roadtrip: navigation and focus. While it’s easy for those in the back to spend their day peeling oranges for themselves, the driver is hopefully keeping the car on track.
In this day and age navigation should be a breeze. Usually pairing Google Maps on our iPhone with free tourist maps has the information we need to get there, but there needs to be a quality connection between these maps and the driver’s hands. Too often it’s like the dropped call commercials though, while passengers are debating which juice they should drink or who’s going to make sandwiches, miles are clicking away without me knowing where I’m heading. To save a lot of hassle, always position the person with the best radio, iPhone and map skills in the passenger seat.
More importantly than the actual act of driving though is the planning. Reading guidebooks, travel agency websites and free publications make everything sound exciting and nearby. In reality though, “attractions” are often further apart and less worthy of limited trip time than advertised. Make sure that everyone in the car agrees on what should be seen, what is to be skipped, and how long they are willing to be in the car daily. Make sure the driver(s) accept the distances and realize potential issues such as arriving in major cities during rush hour. While having a great navigator is essential, choosing few destinations that are manageable in the time available, will save the driver from shouting, “I’m turing this car right back around” when you’re continents away from home.
I love road trips! I have always enjoyed them because due to my poor navigational skills and less than desirable driving habits I am relegated to entertainment, packing the food and planning the stops. For me these things are much easier than trying to determine speed limits in a different language or read a map. However, these things are equally important for a successful road trip.
When traveling as a family entertainment can simply be conversation, we’re all adults now, but you might want to consider listening to a book on tape or bringing a book about the places you will be going to share fun facts. Keeping everyone entertained isn’t as important as making sure no one is hungry. If there is anything easier to control and will help keep the peace more than preventing a hungry crew, I don’t know what it is. I always make sure to have lots of snacks on hand to keep everyone happy.
Next to being hungry another easy way to keep everyone happy is making regular stops. Planning where you stop is key to a successful road trip, try to stop at fun places so you have something to look forward to and make sure your stops have free bathrooms. If you keep these easy tips in mind you’ll enjoy family road trip bliss. Of course if you have more tips please share as we’re always keen for new road trip ideas.