The Traveling Praters presents Travel Inspired Living.
I started road tripping with my kids when my oldest child was only months’ old; he’s now 24. Over the years we’ve traveled thousands of miles through our home state of Ohio, along the east coast and even across the country. Today I’m sharing a few tips on how to plan a road trip with kids that can be adapted for families with young children as well as teens.
I also want to introduce you to a fun sweepstakes where you could win over $3,400 in gift card prize packs by sharing where you enjoy select Road Trip Treats. Learn more about these snacks and get ideas for your summer road trip on the sweepstakes page.
Easy Tips to Plan a Road Trip with Kids
Start with your budget.
While there are tons of places I would road trip on any given day if I could, my bank account does not always support my wanderlust. Take a realistic look at your budget, determine how much money you can spend and make a commitment to stick to that budget. You can always spend more but the key that has afforded my family the ability to travel as frequently as we have is that we almost always spend considerably less.
Determine where to go
Choose your target destination based on your available budget. Some touristy destinations are known to be more expensive than others. If you’re heading to Walt Disney World then you probably already know you’ll need to have saved plenty of pennies. What some people fail to realize is if you’re heading to a big city, like NYC or Chicago, you can expect to pay more for hotel rooms as well. And when space is a premium you may also be required to pay to park which can really add up when you consider the hotel may charge in excess of $30 a day.
Map your route
After you’ve decided where to go, grab an old time atlas and map your route. You’ll be more aware of where you’re heading as well as any national parks or federal land that you may pass through (I’ll come back to this). Besides, while I use and enjoy my GPS 95% of the time, there is that 5% when it leads me astray and believe it or not there have been times on the West Coast where we managed to lose signal a few times.
Add in Fun Stops
You may have determined your destination but keep in mind that road trips aren’t about traveling from Point A to Point B but about the journey along the way. Use apps like Roadside America or Roadtrippers to find roadside attractions, historic sites, and national parks along the way. This allows you to break up your trip and gives your family time to stretch and get out of the car- key to keeping the peace and avoiding the incessant, “Are we there, yet?”
Make your reservations
When you know where you’re heading, begin to make your reservations. When in route to our destination and we’ll spend very little time at the hotel, I almost always book a stay at a budget hotel. Our motto has always been “The more we save, the more we can travel.” On the other hand, if you plan the hotel to be part of the road trip experience and plan to spend quite a bit of time at the property, you may want to spend a bit more or look for a property with amenities like a pool, evening snacks, etc.
You could also consider booking through Airbnb or VRBO as you can often rent an entire home and spend the same or just a little bit more than a standard hotel room.
Don’t forget to rent your vehicle when you’re making your other reservations.
Get your car road trip ready
If you plan to drive your personal vehicle you may consider having a mechanic look it over to make sure its road trip worthy. If that’s too pricey you can do it yourself. Look at your tires for wear, change the oil or have it changed if needed, top off the fluids, and look for signs of any cracked belts that may need to be replaced.
Load your phone with road trip apps
There are apps that will help you find attractions along your route, save money on gas, find the cleanest restrooms and even provide you with music and games for the road. Make sure these are installed and ready to go before you hit the road.
Save money and pack your own snacks
A common budget buster while on road trips is food. To avoid this, you can pack snacks from home. I always pack apples, oranges, nuts, carrots, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, crackers, cheese, hummus, and trail mix. Buy packs of soda, sports drinks, and water at your local store instead of buying individual bottles at service stations along the way to save more money.
Make gift bags for the kids
One way to avoid boredom is to pick up some inexpensive surprises to include in gift bags for your kids. It may be their favorite snacks, an instant camera to play with that allows them to document the trip through their eyes in a fun way, magnetic games, or custom made scavenger hunts and other car games.
Plan for family bonding
Road trips are all about bonding with the ones you love. Plan some time to turn off the devices and talk. Share family stories, play rounds of family trivia, or add in your favorite road trip game.
Pack for your trip
Make a list of everything you need for your trip and begin to pack several days before you plan to leave for your road trip. As you begin packing, you can have each family member (even the little ones can help with this), gather the items they’ll need and place them in a pile on your kitchen or dining room table so you can take a quick inventory. If you plan to stop at multiple hotels during your trip, it may be easier to pack the items you’ll need for that overnight stay in a baggie that you can quickly grab from your trunk instead of lugging all the suitcases and bags out each night.
Load the car the day or night before you’re ready to leave and despite your excitement, try to get a good night’s sleep before you set out.
Do you plan to road trip this summer? What tips do you use when you plan a road trip with kids?