A family cross-country road trip is an excellent way to see up close the beauty of the outdoors while creating precious memories.
Whether you're preparing for a week-long journey or a month-long trip, these nine tips can help make your family’s next road adventure a memorable experience for everyone.
Plan your route
Since cross-country road trips tend to be longer, it is essential that you plan your driving route extensively.
Do your research beforehand and scout every possible route. Take note of possible stops, where you can safely stretch, refuel, rest, eat, and take bathroom breaks.
Consider driving short distances daily and setting a time or distance limit between stops.
While modern navigation applications are extremely helpful, make sure you bring an actual road map in case you run out of reception.
You can also start your road trip at night so that your children will be asleep most of the time.
Have your vehicle serviced
Schedule a vehicle check-up a few days before your road trip to ensure that it is in top condition.
Check your fluids, tires, battery, brake, and safety systems. It is also vital to store a well-stocked roadside emergency kit in your trunk.
Regardless of how prepared your vehicle is, a breakdown or malfunction is still possible.
According to the National Safety Council, your roadside emergency kit should include:
- Bright clothing or reflective triangles
- Jumper cables
- Inflated spare tire, tripod jack, and wheel wrench
- A multipurpose utility tool/ tool kit
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- Duct tape
- Fire extinguisher
- Cell phone charger
- Rain poncho
- First-aid kit
Make sure you're well-versed on how each item works, and remember to keep a list of important contact numbers.
One of the biggest challenges when preparing for a cross-country road trip is packing.
While no parent wants to overpack, certain items are non-negotiable when traveling with kids.
Create a checklist of the essentials and non-essentials for the long journey. If your kids are old enough to make decisions, have them pack their own bag and instruct them to fill it with their favorite items.
Your children will likely become more excited about the trip, reducing the chances of tantrums.
Aside from clothes and food, some of the things that will prove invaluable include:
- Medication for motion sickness
- Baby wipes
- Toilet paper
- Barf bags
- Extra clothes and diapers
- Paper towels
- Plastic bags
Since you'll be spending a lot of time on the road, bringing more than you normally would need is essential.
Messes are inevitable when traveling with children, so make sure you're fully prepared to handle them.
Stock up on food and drinks
Bringing plenty of food and drinks is essential when taking a cross-country road trip, as stopping often to buy snacks is not only expensive but also inefficient.
Ask everyone what food and drink items they want to consume while on the road.
It would be best to bring non-perishable food products that are mess-proof. Only carry a handful of processed or sugary snacks, as overeating can cause your kids to feel cranky and hyperactive.
Have your kids bring their own spill-proof water bottles to prevent them from drinking from questionable water sources.
Encourage your little ones to drink frequently to keep them well-hydrated throughout the long journey.
Make sure that your kids' car seats are in excellent condition. Check the harness straps and inspect the car seat for any signs of wear and tear.
Ensure that the car seats are correctly installed and suit your kids' age and weight. Remember that most car seats can only be used for up to six years from the manufacturer's date.
In addition, some have been recalled due to safety concerns, so make sure to double-check before traveling.
If your children are old enough to switch to booster seats, choose a trusted brand such as Diono to ensure that your little ones will be safe, secured, and comfortable while on the road.
Driving for long hours can be mentally and physically exhausting. If you're the sole designated driver, make sure that you're fit to drive.
Get quality sleep before your trip and stay away from alcohol. Follow the basic road safety rules and remind your family not to distract you while you're behind the wheel.
Since you'll be passing through different states, try to educate yourself on the local traffic rules and regulations.
If there's another capable driving adult, remember to switch driving roles, so you can both get adequate rest.
Telling your kids what to expect in advance is necessary for a successful road trip.
Sit down with your little ones and discuss the itinerary. Get their suggestions on what they want to see and do while on the road.
For kids, the experience or journey is sometimes more important than the destination itself.
They also thrive on routines, so creating a realistic daily schedule might benefit them.
Inform your kids about the break schedules and if you'll be passing by interesting stops. Your children will likely be more behaved if you set their expectations early on.
Plan the entertainment
While it is perfectly fine and healthy for your children to get bored while on the road, you must have a plan in place for their entertainment.
Avoid overloading them with toys and technology within the first few hours of your trip so that they can genuinely appreciate the outdoor surroundings.
Do a practice run
If this is your first cross-country road trip, it would be best to take a test run first.
Take a short trip over the weekend to get your children used to being in a vehicle for long periods.
Doing a practice run can help you determine your limits, especially on how long you can patiently drive without experiencing an adult meltdown.
Planning a cross-country road trip can be challenging, especially if you have little ones in tow.
Follow these tips on your next family road travel to ensure that it runs safely and smoothly.