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Nothing says family vacation quite like a road trip. As an affordable and fun way to help your family tour the country, it’s something your family has to try at least once. Maybe you’ll love it, maybe you’ll hate it, but a lot of the disasters that can happen on a road trip come from poor planning, or reckless behavior on the road.

To ensure your family road trip goes as smoothly as possible, pay attention to the following tips and stop your summer vacation turning into the stuff of nightmares.

Think carefully about whether a road trip is appropriate

Sometimes, a road trip isn’t always the answer. Perhaps the distance is too long. Perhaps your kids won’t settle for hours on end. Perhaps you need to make more time for the destination itself, rather than the journey. You should weigh up whether or not a road trip is the most appropriate solution by checking out the pros and cons and coming to a sensible decision. A road trip might not be appropriate right now, but it could be for another trip in the future!

Plan your route in detail

A road trip isn’t simply a matter of getting from A to B. The purpose of a road trip is to take your time, explore multiple sights and take it all in. Think carefully about your route to help make it as enjoyable as possible. Factor in stops at different points of interest, decide where you’re going to stay and remember to add in some fun days out too. A road trip planner can be a useful tool to help you plot your route, using tips from others to help you decide what to see and where to go. While some people like to enjoy a more spontaneous road trip, it makes sense to plan in advance when you’re traveling with the family.

Ask everyone for a ‘road trip wish’

Your vacation should be fun and special for everyone. And what better way to make sure everyone has a great time than by asking everyone for their road trip wish? Have all of the family choose one thing they’d like to do along the way – this will help you fill up some of the days on the road while also making sure everyone gets to do something that they want. From choosing a specific restaurant to wanting to visit a certain place, this will be a cool way to get everyone involved in designing the road trip.

Make sure your vehicle is up to scratch

You’re not going to get very far if your vehicle breaks down on the side of the road. Dealing with a break down can be a quick way to end your road trip, so it’s important to make sure your car is up to the task before you set off. Take your vehicle for a service, carry out any repairs that are necessary and feel confident that your car is ready for the long haul. If your car isn’t really road trip-ready, consider renting a car for your trip instead.

Work out a budget

While a road trip can be a much more affordable way for a family to travel, it’s by no means cheap. From the fuel costs to accommodation to feeding everyone on the road, your costs can soon add up. You can budget for your road trip by working out your fuel costs, booking hotels in advance and making a realistic budget for food. Remember to add extra to whatever your budget is to cover emergencies as well as to treat yourselves.

A road trip can be expensive, but there are some money-saving road trip tips that can help your budget stretch further. Investing in some camping equipment will help keep your accommodation costs down, while stopping at grocery stores for supplies en route means you won’t have to eat in restaurants and diners each night.

Put safety first

Safety is very important when it comes to planning a successful road trip. If you’re going to be carrying equipment such as bikes or luggage, then you’ll want to learn how to use ratchet straps the right way to make sure everything stays secure. Keep some emergency supplies in the trunk to help you out if you have to stop because of an accident or a car issue. Some things that are useful include maps, sensible walking shoes, warm clothes, bottles of water, power banks for your phone, and torches. The safety of your family is the most important thing, so don’t take any unnecessary risks.

To help you stay safe on your road trip, consider having a plan of action in case of an emergency. From planning emergency finances to familiarizing yourself with different roadside recovery services, it’s good to have plans in place so that you know what to do if something happens.

How long should you drive for?

This is a tricky one when it comes to road trip planning. Driving for too long can soon turn dull, making you less alert on the road as well as being a bit irritable. Spending too long in the car can also be frustrating for the other passengers, even with entertainment to keep them occupied.

So how long should you drive for? Realistically, you should only drive for a couple of hours at a time, taking a break to stop for the bathroom, to stretch your legs or have a coffee. You should probably aim to drive for no more than eight hours a day, and if you can split the time with someone else – even better. Take a break whenever you feel tired – you don’t want to risk falling asleep at the wheel.

Handling the ‘are we there yet?’ questions

Road trips can be a lot of fun, but kids can start to get restless when they’re in the car for long stretches at a time. There are a lot of things you can do to keep kids entertained on a road trip, from car games to storytelling or even having a sing-song now and then. iPads and other portable devices are fantastic for helping the kids stay entertained and quiet, so make sure you pack some power cables to keep them going. Keeping the kids happy will hopefully put an end to the endless ‘are we there yet’ questions and will make you a much happier driver.

Be spontaneous once in a while

While it’s great to have your road trip thought out in advance, you don’t want to say no to some spontaneity. If you pass something interesting along the way that you didn’t know about, stop to investigate. Enjoy the recommendations of the locals to help you find some great restaurants and other places worth visiting to help make sure you see and experience as much as possible. While having a plan is useful, try not to plot every minute of every day – leave some room to see where the road takes you.

Settle disagreements quickly

Spending all of that time together crammed in one vehicle can soon lead to arguments and disagreements among the family. Road trips can be a trying time, but you need to learn how to navigate the stress of a family road trip to stop it spoiling your time. Kids can easily get wound up and start fighting, but taking some time out can help relieve tensions and help you keep your focus on the road. Try not to get too upset by fighting, simply handle it and move on or you could find your trip easily ruined.

Don’t be afraid to do it all again

When you reach your destination, all of the stress and long days will certainly have been worth it. It can feel like a team effort to reach the endpoint, and you can finally fully relax and enjoy your vacation together. Even though a road trip is a lot of hard work, you shouldn’t be afraid to do it again. You’ll learn new lessons each trip you take that can help make the next one even better, and as your family gets older, you’ll be able to enjoy amazing new experiences together too.

Long after the trip is over, take time to look back at memories and photos you’ve taken along the way. It’ll be fun to reminisce together as a family, and can help get you excited for your next amazing trip.

Say what you want about road trips, but anyone who’s experienced them will always remember them. As a cost-effective way to travel and see many places along the way, you can’t go wrong with a road trip to bring your family together and make some special memories. Make sure you’re prepared to have the adventure of your lives by planning carefully and not taking risks. A successful road trip will soon lead to many more, allowing you to tour the country in style. Start planning your summer road trip today.

Richard Melick
About the Author

Co-founder and Editor of FactoryTwoFour.com. I am a writer and photographer with global travel ambitions. I never shy from a new recipe, adventure, or experience. I write about what I love.

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