Planning a road trip this summer? Despite the sticker shock at the pump, my family will be taking a road trip this summer, and I'm hopeful that with a little planning, gas prices will be the only thing to leave me in tears during the trip. Here are my five favorite tips for surviving summer road trips:
1. Do a little digging. You may already have a destination in mind for your road trip, but before you pile all of the kids in the car, make sure you do a little research. Check out your destination as well as the potential potty breaks, food options and leg-stretching stops along the way. Be sure to check out points of interest that you might want to catch along the way.
2. Make a plan. Before you hit the road, it's helpful to have a general idea of where you will stop for lunch and breaks and how long you will travel each day. Don't forget to have a few alternatives lined up, too, so you can change things as the trip progresses.
3. But be ready to ignore it. Last year, I took a 12-hour road trip with my daughters and made two quick stops to hit the bathroom, stretch our legs and eat. Everything went exactly according to plan. A month later, we took what should have been a three-hour trip that turned into a five-hour slog. I knew we were in for it when my youngest daughter requested our first potty break before we got to the end of our block. But rather than fight it, we swung back around, let her use the bathroom at home and took more time for potty breaks along the way. Yes, it took a little longer, but in the end we still made it to our destination in time and by scrapping our original schedule, we saved ourselves hours of fighting and headaches.
4. Pack in the fun. Road trips are fascinating — for about five minutes. Then they become tedious. Don't expect your kids to enjoy themselves if they have nothing to do but look out the window and hope for the occasional excitement of an out-of-state license plate. Let each kid pack a small travel bag of her favorite stuff: toys, crayons, travel games, healthy snacks, etc. Do a swap with friends so that you have some "new" books, DVDs, or toys for your kids to enjoy. Pack some brochures for places they will see along the way as well as a kid-friendly travel map (try Google Maps) so they can follow the route.
5. Leave early. The very best thing you can do to make your road trip go smoothly is to leave as early as possible in the morning. Even if you and your kids are not "morning people," you will be doing yourselves a favor to get a few hours down the road while the traffic is light and everyone is a little quieter. That means having the car packed and gassed up the night before. You'll be glad you made the effort when you stop for breakfast and see how far you've already traveled.