Kids having fun the back of the car.

Road Trip Survival Guide

How to Get More Smiles Per Hour

Hey, we need to talk about the kids. You know, those ear flicking, “he’s touching my side” shouting, constantly bathroom needing, snack-wrapper tossing fidgeters in the back seat who have a knack for complicating every car trip, from a grocery story visit to weekend getaways. When it comes to a family road trip, many people assume it’s simply out of the question—unless you’re the Griswolds. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Taking the kids on a road trip not only opens their eyes to a world of natural and cultural wonders, but also provides the perfect opportunity for some serious family bonding. Plus, driving often makes more sense than flying—it’s more affordable, conforms to your schedule and allows you to pack as much luggage as you’d like without superfluous airline charges.

The key to a successful family road trip is staying upbeat and connected throughout the journey, which is easier than you think if you keep these tips in mind.

Slow Ride—Take it Easy
Embrace the idea of being on your own schedule. Give yourself plenty of time to arrive so you can stop and play a game of miniature golf or linger longer at a quality restaurant instead of darting in and out of a fast food joint. There’s nothing worse than driving through Cawker City, KS, without enough time to see the world’s largest ball of twine!

Kids looking in sideview mirror of a car
Local Attractions: Bordom may set in quickly for kids; so, don't forget to stop along the way to check out quirky roadside attractions. 

Stop and Throw the Frisbee

Make your pit stops count more by being active. Find a local park and throw a Frisbee, kick a soccer ball or glide around on a foldable scooter. Not only will these activities get your blood pumping and muscles loosened, they’ll also help the kids burn off some pent-up energy.

Father with his son who is holding a soccer ball.
Take a Break: Have fun with the kids. Throw a frisbee or play a quick game of soccer.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Miles

Many kids today have their own smartphones, so put them to use in a positive way. Challenge your kids to a photo contest with the best photographer of the journey getting a special prize. Give them chances to hop out of the car when they see something really intriguing. They’ll spend hours editing their pics to claim top-bunk privileges at Grandma’s house or an extra scoop of ice cream after dinner.

Boy taking a picture of the mountains using a smartphone camera.
 Photo Game: Challenge kids to a photo contest. The winner gets a special prize.

A Roadmap to Success

Children today think a map is just an app. On your road trip, pull out an old road atlas—bonus points if it’s one of those foldable ones that are impossible to re-fold correctly—and challenge your kids to pinpoint your location and keep track of your journey. National Geographic makes several atlas/activity books that turn your kids into miniature Magellans.

Boy pointing at a map with his father.
Pull Out the Map: Make the trip fun and let them pinpoint how far you are on your road trip.

Once Upon a Drive

Find an audio book the whole family will enjoy, like the Harry Potter series, a classic like The Count of Monte Cristo, or the ever-enlightening Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything. Pause the book often to openly discuss what you just learned. You can access audiobooks through Audible, a division of Amazon, or through your local library using the OverDrive app.

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