Road Trip Tips

Road trip! You’ve planned the ultimate vacation for your family and half the fun is going to be getting there, at least that’s your plan. Keep that plan on track by making sure you don’t make these road trip mistakes. And don’t worry, solutions are included!

Happy family in car

It's time to pack the car and the kids for a road trip adventure. To make sure you have fun, here are five mistakes to avoid. I can't guarantee it still won't wind up like Clark Griswold's vacation but dodging these will get you off to a good start.

Mistake #1

You're leaving later than you planned. When you travel by airplane, you're on someone else's schedule. You have to be on time or they'll leave without you. Taking a road trip gives you lots of flexibility, which is great. However, it can create a lack of urgency to get out the door.


Save your yelling voice for breaking up your kid's car-ride disputes and pad your departure time by 30 minutes -- even an hour if you have really slow movers or toddlers. And be sure to fill the gas tank the night before!

Mistake #2

You realize something you really need is stuck in the back of the van or trunk of the car and you can't get to it. Making the situation worse is the trash strewn about and the impending carsickness!


Give each child three bags that remain close to them. One should include all their toys, books, snacks, etc. (including an extra outfit, so you won't have to unpack the whole car to change them). One is for trash. The last is for queasiness. Explain how to use the last one. Accidents usually happen because you can't get to your little one in time and they don't know where to point their mouth. With their own bags and instructions, these situations can be avoided.

Mistake #3

Everyone is a mess, uncomfortable (and complaining). Someone's nose is running, another just spilled some juice and a third has cookie-crumb hands. Things are getting gross, legs are getting cramped and tempers are getting short.


Be sure to pack -- in easy reach -- tissues, paper towels, and wipes. You may want to consider toilet tissue and hand sanitizer for those emergency pit stops. Also bring blankets, pillows, and other favorite comfy things from home. It's cool for kids to have that stuff in the car because it's unexpected. It's also helpful when one person is hot and another is cold. And if they are comfy, clean and relaxed … maybe they'll sleep (fingers crossed).

Mistake #4

Traffic is bad but the GPS alternate route is worse. There are times when you'll want to go off the GPS' main route and unfortunately the alternate routes offered can be confusing and frustrating.


Have a road atlas or at least a printed map of the area. You can then get a big picture of where you are, where you want to go and possible alternate routes.

Mistake #5

Everyone wants to stop but you're completely off schedule.


You are going to have to stop. You are going to want to stop. You need to let those little beasties out to run around! Map out playgrounds or even fast-food places with playlands ahead of time. Check your GPS -- most can locate parks and rest stops closest to the route you are driving. More important, face this fact: You can't control everything, so don't try. Plan for as much as you can and enjoy whatever happens. You might arrive later than you wanted, you may have gotten lost, you may have gotten sick – who knows – but whatever it was, it will probably wind up being the best story of the trip. Try to enjoy it all – while it's happening and forever after.

Wherever you go, whenever you leave, whatever you decide to do, use these ideas to make getting there a little more fun!

Road trip: 1 mom, 3 kids & 8 hours

OHmommy of drives from Cleveland to Chicago alone with her three children....

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Comments on "5 Tips for a fun family road trip"

Brooke May 23, 2012 | 12:17 PM

I couldn't agree more with this article. Usually I plan all of this the night before, by making a list. We always have two bags in the back seat that contain everyone's headphones, ipod, water bottles, pillows and blankets. Another thing I have found to always have, especially with younger children is a game called Road Trip Bingo. There are about five different boards and they all contain pictures of what you would usually see on the road. It's quite entertaining and a time sucker when you're looking for a state license plate or a 65 MPH speed limit sign. What I have also found successful is making a couple CDs that includes a few of everyone's favorite songs. This will make the first hour fly by with everyone in a cheerful mood excited for the road trip ahead. I agree having an extra map nearby. There have been times, especially when driving through LA that our GPS takes us on routes that lead us to more traffic on their "secret shortcuts". Although it's a good change of scenery, if you are trying to get to your location at a specific time, definitely bring an extra map preferably from MapQuest or any other reliable map site!

Lisa C. Delizia May 04, 2011 | 12:41 PM

Great advice! Thanks!

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