Whether traveling for holidays, summer vacation, or to a family gathering, there is no time like the present to start planning for your family’s next road trip. Though road trips can be incredibly fun and great experiences, they can also be stressful, tiring, and tedious, especially when things are not properly planned out. And heading out during a holiday season can make things even worse, thanks to poor road conditions, extra traffic, and the sometimes difficult to manage family dynamics.
Thankfully, there are a few steps you can take to ensure the smoothest possible trip, no matter the size or temperament of your family. There’s no reason to be worried – spending time on the road (even in winter) can be fun!
Start With Basic Strategizing
Making a plan is important for every family get together, whether it’s planning a birthday party or a family vacation. Even a loose plan can help give the family direction, peace of mind, and a good idea of how long your trip could take. (No more “are we there yet?”s).
Although most families are free during the holiday season thanks to winter break, not every family member may have the same schedule. Double check to make sure everyone has the right amount of time off – parents included!
Christmas time is one of the most popular travel times of the year and leaving just a day or two earlier may help to save some extra time on the road.
Plan the Entertainment
There’s nothing worse than a car full of bored kids. The crying, fighting, and whining alone can be enough to ruin any family vacation. It’s important to have an arsenal at your fingertips.
Start with the basics: Coloring books, toys, stuffed animals, and car games. If your kids don’t mind using their imagination, playtime can be perfect for the backseat. If you’re looking for a way to interact with the kids, consider playing a game together, like spotting license plates or karaoke.
If the basics don’t cover it, bring out the big guns: Tablets and phones. Technology has evolved to allow us to bring Paw Patrol on the road, ready to keep your children entertained for hours on in. Just remember to bring plenty of chargers!
Prep Your Car
If you live in or are traveling to an area that has drastically different road conditions at different times of the year, it is crucial to ensure that your vehicle is ready for different weather conditions. Winter travel can be very dangerous because of the increased amounts of traffic during the holiday season.
Start by making sure that your vehicle:
- is in good running condition
- has proper winter tires
- has a fully charged battery
- has tire chains, an ice scraper, and shovels for the wintry areas
Even if your vehicle is equipped with all wheel drive or four wheel drive, your vehicle is only as good in the snow as your tires are!
Make Everyone Comfortable
The next thing to consider is the comfort of people traveling. Comfort is a huge part of a good road trip so making sure that both you and your passengers are comfortable for the long haul is key.
Before heading out, make sure to pack plenty of blankets, pillows, and cushions. Try to pack as many large items in the trunk as you can, and make sure everyone has enough leg room.
Also, be sure to dress everyone in as comfy clothes as you can. If you’re heading out early in the morning or late at night, keeping the kids in their pjs might even be best – no reason to fight the kids into dress clothes for a 10-hour drive!
Pack Plenty of Snacks
A road trip would be nothing without snacks. Depending on your family’s diet, snacks can be anything from healthier foods like fruit and sandwiches to a candy extravaganza.
Though stops along the way are necessary, minimizing the amount of times you exit the highway can help to ensure an efficient trip. Stocking up on snacks and drinks prior to leaving can help keep “hanger” at bay, while also keeping both drivers and passengers full, happy and energized. Don’t forget to bring along a cooler with plenty of water bottles.
Make Plenty of Stops
Try to plan stops where you can kill two birds with one stone. Rather than stopping at a rest area, plan stops where you can re-fuel, buy snacks and hit a bathroom all at once. Minimizing stops will get you there on time and will stop the constant loading and unloading.
During your initial planning, look up different places you can stop along the way. Using navigation tools such as Google Maps can help you find easily accessed rest areas and gas stations. This way, you have a pre-planned answer for when your child is insisting on stopping to potty.
A little preparation goes a long way when it comes to road trips. Long days on the road are stressful enough as is, so taking just a bit of time to plan can make the stressful holiday season a memorable one. Remember, half the fun is getting there!