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Family Road Trips: Blast or Bust?

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For as long as I can remember, my family has been hitting the open road during the summertime.

family on a road trip

Lucy Riles: Most of my favorite childhood memories have involved those road trips; from tubing in Zion Canyon National Park to hiking the Grand Canyon, climbing mountains in Colorado to coasting the waves in California. So why would this summer be any different? New husband. New dog. New tradition. Based on years of experience, here are my tips to ensure your next family road trip is a blast ... not a bust!

Life Is a Highway: Sit down with your family to decide which places you want to visit. Since the summer is peak season for most national parks, you should really try and make hotel/camping reservations months in advance. Although hitting the open road and landing where you land sometimes sounds like a fun adventure, it won't be after the kids have been in a car for eight hours and it's dark and the GPS is wrong!

Little Deuce Coupe: Make sure your AAA membership is renewed, the car is checked, and you have packed a roadside kit along with a first-aid kit ... just in case! Don't pack so much that it weighs down the car, try to fill up every time you stop to avoid running out of gas in remote areas, and if you are driving through the desert, keep the windows rolled down and put on the heat instead of the AC. I know it sounds crazy, but this can really prevent your car from overheating!

Can't Buy Me Love: No need to stop at every fast food restaurant along the way (although a local diner every once in a while is a fun place to mingle with the locals). Fast food is both unhealthy and can get expensive fast. Instead, buy in bulk ahead of time -- pack some good snack foods/fruits/veggies for the car, and staple breakfast, lunch, and dinner items. Make sure the meat and milk do not go bad after a certain amount of days ... the last thing you need is someone getting car sick!

On the Road Again: Now that the car is packed and the kids are buckled in, it's time to hit the road. Be prepared with crossword puzzles, sudoku, Mad Libs, and sketch pads. For the adults and teens, great books are key.

R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.: Our country has some of the most beautiful landscapes, sunsets, wild life ... explore it all. This is a great way to visually expand your child's mind, exposing them to mother nature in all her glory -- the colors, the textures, the pure air and clear skies. If your family camps, build campfires, tell stories, and roast marshmallows. If you're more of a hotel family, ask the front desk for hidden local treasures to explore.

This Magic Moment: This is a perfect opportunity to capture your family together in unique places, so be sure to take lots of pictures and videos. Try to be creative with your shots, and be sure to take some candid pics, which always capture a classic moment!

Thank You for the Music: Before the trip begins, each family member gets to create an iTunes playlist of all their favorite music. Then, on the road, everyone's playlist will be rotated in. This is a fun way to let everyone feel special, and expose yourself to music you would otherwise not have given a chance. In 1994, my older brother Tony played country music the entire trip from California to Chicago. I thought it'd be pure torture, but the opposite happened. I have been a huge country music fan ever since!

What family road trip suggestions would you make?

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5 comments so far | Post a comment now
Jenny August 13, 2009, 4:43 PM

You’ve got the road trips down, girl!

nancy August 13, 2009, 10:35 PM

We just came back from a road trip. Every year we plan in February make our reservations and have a count down. Last year we started In lancaster Pa, next stop Pittsburg to the zoo, then to Cleveland to the rock and roll hall of fame, and a boat tour. then to Iowa for a few days visit with family. then to CHicago for 3 days next stop Virginia to see some old friends and home again. took us a total of 19 days. We did the hotel thing this trip, packed our clothes in plastic containers so we didn’t have to carry suitcases in and out, had a container of snacks, lots of bottled water and found stores to buy lunch supplies in. we ate dinner out 1 time in each city other nights we found a local park that allowed small grills which we brought along. portable dvd players, books,coloring supplies and lots of silly games pass the time.
this year we started with about a 2 hour drive to an amusement/water park for the 1st day, then drove to scranton for the next stop the coal mines and a samll park for the day then we went on to herkimer ny where we had a cabin, went tubing, mined for diamonds, took a day trip into vermont, a boat ride through the locks of the erie canal, the camp grounds were great pool, playground, movies on the rainy evenings which we only had one!
we cooked at the cabin nightly, took the kids for some local lunches and a local diner for breakfast the morning we left. again, lots of good snacks, bottled water, and a good cooler filled.

Jinny October 23, 2009, 7:22 AM

We always have ziploc bags in the car! More advice for the long and whining road: great road trip tips at

susan April 28, 2010, 12:46 AM

hi all,
i like your article
pop top caravans

Nilda Lutz April 7, 2011, 4:31 PM

Thanks for sharing that on your website.

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