Family Travel and Road Tripping

Family Travel and Road Tripping

Posted on April 26, 2017   •   Written by

Buddha famously believed that “Happiness is a journey, not a destination.” While Buddha’s words were, for centuries, primarily an explanation of how to embrace joy — it’s a process, not an outcome — one meaningful modern corollary has shifted the emphasis to travel. The phrase has thus become a reminder that a journey may be all the satisfaction a journeyer needs, not its culmination.

Family travel and road tripping: the California Coast

The California Coast – a perfect place for family travel and road tripping. Photo courtesy of Tracks & Trails

A great many people who have embraced travel, momentarily unbound by time and place, know this to be true. At base, this approach is the spirit that guides anyone who loves road trips and other excursions that are as much about how you are going as where you are going. And, these days, also with whom you are going, a role increasingly filled by family.

So let’s examine both the magic and mystery of family travel and road tripping.

Finding the Right Balance
Today, the family road trip is a vacation pastime during which at least two generations pile into transport and follow the painted line.

But whether a regular occurrence or a special event, combining family travel and road tripping is actually no easy feat. “A great family road trip offers something for all ages,” says Anna O’Donnell, Public Relations & Earned Media Specialist of the Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development. The mix of moving and stopping has to be just right and the “stops should include entertainment and attractions that everyone can enjoy, including beautiful and interesting locations where families can choose from a variety of activities.”

The right alchemical mix involves many ingredients, but two special elements leap to the fore: taking into consideration the needs and desires of all parties, including any kids; and a balance between fixed plans and room to play things by ear.

Consulting the Kids
For kids these days, a road trip “needs to be their vacation too,” emphasizes Jara Haas, Tourism Sales Manager of Visit Anchorage, which attracts and serves visitors to Anchorage, Alaska.

For this to happen, “Unless you want the trip to be a surprise, allow the kids to be part of the planning,” advises Shellie Bailey-Shah, the editor of KidTripster, a website about families traveling the world together.

Family with an RV

The KidTripster family and their home on the road. Photo courtesy of KidTripster

This may involve pulling out and reviewing maps, researching places, landmarks, historical sites and other attractions, and working together to identify what’s best for the whole family.

“The level of involvement of course depends on age,” reminds Tamara Gruber, the writer and podcaster behind We3Travel, a family travel blog. And yes, it is likely even to involve screens and technology, both before and during the trip; however, never fear, “There’s a way in which technology can actually be used to enhance a family road trip experience,” promises Natasha Keller, Community and Communications Manager of Bound Round, publisher of a peer-to-peer travel platform by kids, for kids.

The guiding principle remains that “It’s better to get [your kids’] buy-in before you set off,” says Deborah Dickson-Smith, a writer focused on family travel.

Plus, keep in mind that “Letting a kid pick a few of the major highlights of the trip can help parents determine a driving route,” counsels Sarah Leonard, President and CEO of the Alaska Travel Industry Association.

Planning Versus Improvising
Once everyone’s input has been assembled, the next trick is to figure out how to cater to all needs and not spend too much time in a vehicle. The adults have a bit more power in this than the kids, as sometimes “It’s hard for kids to understand timing,” reminds Kimberly Tate, the owner of Stuffed Suitcase, a blog about travel and family lifestyle.

In general terms, “One of the easiest ways to keep everyone interested [in a road trip] is to have regular stops,” suggests Maria Giannouli, Chief Editor of Kids Love Greece.

As a guiding maxim, this is sound, but the devil is decidedly in the details. The frequency and location of stops is what needs to be reviewed as a family, remembering that some things should be planned in advance, while plenty of room needs to set aside to “Test the limits and push the boundaries a bit,” as Katlyn Richter, Global Media and Public Relations Director of the South Dakota Department of Tourism encourages families to do.

Mother and kids with a dinosaur roadside attraction

Lissa Poirot (of Family Vacation Critic) and her kids, all just having a little road trip fun. Photo courtesy of Lissa Poirot

This isn’t as hard as it sounds. “I just let [the kids] be kids and have some fun,” says Lissa Poirot, Editor-in-Chief of Family Vacation Critic, a family vacation planning tool. Schedules can always be adjusted afterward.

Tips for the Road
Some of the hardest hours during a road trip are spent in motion. By definition, a road trip requires road travel, sometimes over long stretches.

Needless to say, families have developed many strategies for passing car time in relative harmony. In addition to the many standard car distraction tricks (“I spy,” license plate games, sing-alongs etc.), one very frequently referenced fallback is the use of audiobooks. “If we find a good one that captures our attention, the miles fly by,” says Gruber. The more relevant to the area through which the travels are taking place, the better.

Another is to prepare “road trip packages” that contain games, worksheets and other distractions relating to the places being visiting, as well as snacks and pillows for getting comfortable.

Finally, quick-stop roadside attractions are not to be discounted. “Kids find them hilarious, and parents often enjoy them for their quirkiness too,” remarks Keller. Plus no one ever objects to a stretch of the legs.

Using a variety of tricks, “Road trips in our family have evolved from long car rides to enjoyable vacations and we look forward to each and every one,” enthuses Kirsten Maxwell, founder of Kids Are a Trip, a family travel resource.

When Night Falls
A final big decision is where to take shelter at the end of every long day. The range of choices is quite large, from camping and RVs to home exchanges, vacation rentals, motels, hotels and resorts.

There is no one best solution. Some families love to camp or are devoted to RVs (“Your hotel room travels with you!” says Bailey-Shah), while others believe that “motels, hotels and resorts provide the most mobility and flexibility,” (a representative of the Empire State Development Corporation – I Love NY and help meet the interests of multiple generations, especially when they have a pool, free wifi and free breakfast.

Kids asleep in a car during a road trip

Kids asleep in a car during a road trip. Photo courtesy of Inspire World Travel

Thinking across boundaries, “We like and recommend a variety of accommodations, preferably building in terms of comfort as the trip progresses,” reports Julia Slatcher, owner and principal of Inspire World Travel, a travel agency.

Whatever happens, it is important to set up lodging in advance, particularly in areas attracting many travelers and during high season. This should all be sorted out during the family travel planning stage.

Know and Respect All Needs
Family road trips are about spending a lot of time together, so when all is said and done, the most critical thing is to “know all the family members going on the road trip,” urges Dan Wulfman, President of Tracks & Trails, a company focused on western driving experiences.

Then next step is to respect them all equally. This is helped through collaborative planning, something that “The whole family should play a part in,” reiterates Mike Varndell, Managing Founder of Malawian Style, a specialist tour operator.

Regardless of what happens, always remember that “Children are wiser in the ways of the road trip than we often give credit,” concludes Erin Kirkland, the publisher of AKontheGo, Alaska’s only family travel resource.

Working and planning together as a family, it is possible to seek out the happiness of journey on a road trip. Or maybe it’s the journey of happiness. Only Buddha knows.


In Their Own Words
To develop well-balanced understanding of family travel and road tripping, I reached out to a collection of Family Travel Association members with strong knowledge of cruise experiences.

Seventeen of those experts replied. They have all been introduced above, but what follows below is more of what they had to say about why road tripping can be such a superb family bonding experience. They also shared some key considerations when planning a drive along one of the earth’s great ribbons of highway.

A family visiting Makoshika State Park, Montana

A family visiting Makoshika State Park during a road trip in Montana. Photo courtesy of Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development

WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO ENSURE A ROAD TRIP IS INTERESTING FOR ALL GENERATIONS?

Research and Planning

Research your destination thoroughly in advance to truly understand what a particular area has to offer families. That way, you don’t miss out on something that perhaps requires advanced reservations.
— Shellie Bailey-Shah of KidTripster

It’s all in the planning. Some of the best parts of a vacation can be the planning and excitement leading up to the trip. Allow everyone a say in what interests them the most. What are their non-negotiable and must see places? Learning about each other on vacation and seeing what makes each other happy can be some of the biggest delights for everyone in the family.
— Katlyn Richter of the South Dakota Department of Tourism

Let each member of the family pick an adventure to do along the way. Get everyone involved in the planning! Grab a road atlas or, in our case, The Milepost (https://www.themilepost.com/), and have everyone get excited about the journey. Book those activities that you just MUST do in advance and plan the rest of your trip around those activities.
— Jara Haas of Visit Anchorage

Family road trips are most enjoyable when everyone has a vested interest, and one of the best ways to do that is involve the entire group in mapping routes, sharing information/landmarks, and picking a “special” attraction to visit.
— Erin Kirkland of AKontheGo

To really make a road trip great, I use Mapquest to plan my trips. I start by entering the start and stop destinations, and then I look at what is in between: Are there any cool little towns we’ll pass, any attractions we should see, etc.?
— Lissa Poirot of Family Vacation Critic

Using maps to decide stop-off points along the road is a great way to get the kids involved in the decision making process – and keeps them entertained while in the car. They can focus on the route being driven and request towns, parks, mountains, or attractions to stop and see based on what’s seen on the map. This adds a level of excitement and novelty to the journey. Some of the best experiences come from the surprise destinations you discover while road tripping.
— Natasha Keller of Bound Round

Include a Mix of Activities

Keeping a road trip interesting is the same as any trip, and that involved a mix of activities. I always try to blend some cultural/educational/historical stops with some activities, which may include hiking, kayaking etc.
— Tamara Gruber of We3Travel

A road trip should: be a combination of a few important factors such as cultural experiences and learning to appreciate what you have by spending time in a local village, eating a local meal and seeing how the third world lives; have a challenge like hiking a mountain, kayaking etc. – maybe something that you learn, like doing a dive course or other course of interest; have some really good experiences, like the safari aspect of an African trip, as well as some relaxation and down time, like enjoying a beautiful beach or lake somewhere.
— Mike Varndell of Malawian Style

A family on an African safari road trip

A family on an African safari road trip. Photo courtesy of Kafunta via Malawian Style

A great family road trip offers something for all ages. Stops should include entertainment and attractions that everyone can enjoy, including beautiful and interesting locations where families can choose from a variety of activities like day hiking, kayaking or biking.
— Anna O’Donnell of the Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development

Roadside attractions are a quirky and fun way to get the whole family engaged in a road trip – and a tactic that many small towns in the US and Australia seem to have adopted to drive tourism interest. And why not? Kids find them hilarious, and parents often enjoy them for their quirkiness too. Keeping a look out for the Big Banana, the Big Merino or the Big Pineapple (to name a few) has kept many kids entertained on many a road trip. In fact, these quirky attractions are often what determine the agenda for a family road trip, due to their intrinsic entertainment value.
— Natasha Keller of Bound Round

To keep it interesting for everyone, a good mix of stops along the way for food and wine, magnificent vistas, a few adrenalin fixes for big kids and playgrounds for little kids. And equal turns on choosing music.
— Deborah Dickson-Smith

Blend a road trip and active endeavors with learning elements.
— A representative of the Empire State Development Corporation – I Love NY

It’s important that all travelers feel that their needs are being met, that their input and interests matter, or you’ll wind up with some happy campers (er, RVers) who can bring down the vibe of the entire road trip. It’s key that everyone shares ideas and what they’d like to do in order to ensure that all generations have a great time. Even just a basic idea of what they like to eat, types of accommodations they prefer and how much they can handle as far as planned activities can go a long way toward ensuring a group of happy travelers.
— Dan Wulfman of Tracks & Trails

Alaska is all about getting out into nature and there are so many opportunities along the roads for scenic pull-offs, hikes and even wildlife viewing. Plan extra time for stopping along the drive to break up the trip and keep everyone entertained.
— Sarah Leonard of the Alaska Travel Industry Association

Your family can map out what traditional desserts to eat in each place – or keep a record of how each place’s ice cream compares. We had fun visiting a gelato factory in Bologna; the adults enjoyed learning about the process, the kids enjoyed making it, and we all enjoyed eating it! It’s also great to bring bikes – or at least schedule some hikes or other physical activity to get fresh air and muscles moving. Many places rent bikes, which is a fun way to explore an area. Bring a soccer ball, frisbee, jump rope – anything you can pull out easily for some physical activity but especially items that may increase interaction with other people nearby.
— Julia Slatcher of Inspire World Travel

We always stop at the local visitor bureaus in every community we pass through; these folks are experts at picking attractions that mesh with multiple generations and interests.
— Erin Kirkland of AKontheGo

Kids with lots of road signs

Given the chance, kids can choose the way to go. Photo courtesy of AKontheGo

Structure the Day

One of the easiest ways to keep everyone interested is to have regular stops. In Greece this is very easy, as there is always something to see and do every hour. Every village has a cafe or taverna, so pull over, grab a coffee, and meet the locals!
— Maria Giannouli of Kids Love Greece

Make sure that you stop at least once every two hours to see something interesting, like lakes/rivers for a dip or boat ride, places to hike, water parks, historical sites, museums, parks, cities.
— A representative of the Empire State Development Corporation – I Love NY

I try to create places to stop every 3 to 4 hours that allow us not just a bathroom break, but a chance to see and do something different. It really breaks up the trip and gives you a more enhanced vacation versus going from here to there. And no matter what, we always stop and eat at a restaurant or place where we have to get out of the car so we get a break. We skip fast food for mom and pops and delis.
— Lissa Poirot of Family Vacation Critic

We like to let the kids pick where to eat at our next stop. It’s a good give-and-take arrangement so they’re willing to make stops when we want… and smile in photos!
— Kimberly Tate of Stuffed Suitcase

Remember that a lot of lodges have age limits of between 6 and 12 and above; however a lot are kid-friendly, so you’re best to work with the family-friendly lodges. Additionally, some activities have age limits, like walking safaris are generally limited to 12 and over. So I think Africa is best for kids between 12 and 18. Anything younger might struggle to make the most of the trip.
— Mike Varndell of Malawian Style

Set Guidelines About Technology

While many parents are trying to decrease screen time, there’s a way in which technology can actually be used to enhance a family road trip experience. Before you go or when you’re on the road, kids can watch videos, play games and read fun facts about the places you are passing, as well as the destination you’re travelling to. This helps them have a say in the activities you do once you arrive in your destination. It’s productive screen time that’s both educational and fun, which is a win for the kids and a win for parents. Kids can also capture their own e-journal and send e-postcards to family and friends.
— Natasha Keller of Bound Round

Set clear limitations on technology, if you’re going to allow technology at all. It is possible to road trip without electronics; parents have to abide by the same rules and set the example. Bring card and board games. Make up games. Be creative.
— Shellie Bailey-Shah of KidTripster

Make the Drives Interesting

To help my kids enjoy the long drives, I purchased 10 classic books like *Black Beauty* and *Treasure Island* and then, yes, I bribed them! For every book they finished, they were given $5 to use at a gift shop. They could only read in the car, so it kept the drives quiet and got them reading. Both my kids read all 10 books!
— Lissa Poirot of Family Vacation Critic

A kid in a car with an activity board

Activity boards and other tricks can keep kids busy on road trips. Photo courtesy of Stuffed Suitcase

Audiobooks are a great family activity that can be interesting for all ages. Pick a great family-friendly series and listen away. Bonus tip is to find an audiobook that was made into a movie, so you can listen and then later watch the movie.
— Kimberly Tate of Stuffed Suitcase

To keep us entertained during long hours in the car, we depend on audiobooks. If we find a good one that captures our attention, the miles fly by. I’ve also found it helpful with younger kids to prep a road trip package with games, worksheets, etc that relate to the places we are visiting. It is easy to find free printables on Pinterest to come up with some fun activities. My brother taught me a good trick and that is to offer kids an incentive. For each activity they complete, they earn souvenir/treat money to spend on the trip.
— Tamara Gruber of We3Travel

We like to listen to audiobooks or podcasts. In Italy, we listened to *The Thief Lord* (set in Venice); when we drove across the Midwest, we listened to *Little House in the Big Woods*; now, we listen to Carl Hiaasen’s children’s books when we drive to Florida.
— Julia Slatcher of Inspire World Travel

Another great idea would be to play the Percy Jackson audiobooks whilst driving. This contemporary twist of Greek mythology is fun for people of all ages! We also have an excellent series of audio stories about Knossos to keep the kids engaged.
— Maria Giannouli of Kids Love Greece

MAKE SURE THE KIDS ARE INVOLVED IN ORGANIZING THE FAMILY ROAD TRIP

Kids should be very involved. It needs to be “their” vacation too… so keep them involved in the decision-making process, activities, meal choices etc.
— Jara Haas of Visit Anchorage

Unless you want the trip to be a surprise, yes, allow the kids to be part of the planning. The older they are, the more buy-in you’ll need.
— Shellie Bailey-Shah of KidTripster

Involving kids of any age in the planning of a trip can pay dividends, increasing their enjoyment – and patience for the long driving days.
— Julia Slatcher of Inspire World Travel

Better to get their buy-in before you set off, so absolutely involve them in planning!
— Deborah Dickson-Smith

Kids in front of the The Big Banana, a famous roadside attraction in Australia

Roadside attractions are a quirky and fun way to get the whole family engaged in a road trip. Photo courtesy of Deborah Dickson-Smith

Children have gone from the back seat to the front seat in holiday planning, with technology and social connectedness playing a key part. It’s a sentiment that was echoed by a recent Nickelodeon study (2016) that showed that pester power has been overtaken by the family ‘board of directors’. Family travel decisions are made based on input from all members of the family. In fact 75% of Australian parents say that they will consider a new holiday based on the recommendation from their kids. So now is the time to focus not only on reaching the parents and engaging with them, but also finding a way to resonate with the kids.
— Natasha Keller of Bound Round

Many children love to be involved in trip planning, depending upon their age. The parents will probably have to determine the length of the trip and number of stops that are feasible, but it would be great to have the kids select from a list of destinations, stops and activities.
— a representative of the Empire State Development Corporation – I Love NY

I believe very strongly in involving kids. The level of involvement of course depends on age. When they are younger, getting to pick from a list of activities may be the best involvement. For my soon-to-be teenager, we look over the map together and talk about possible stops and attractions and I let her have a lot of say in determining our itinerary.
— Tamara Gruber of We3Travel

My kids were 9 and 10 at the time and were a priority when we were planning out the route, from what was available to do in each park to finding the hotels with pools.
— Lissa Poirot of Family Vacation Critic

Kids should have a say in their travel plans. It’s tempting to travel quickly in order to experience as much as possible. But in order to make the most of a road trip, everyone in the family – including the kids – should have a say in what to do, where to go, and how long to stay.
— Anna O’Donnell of the Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development

Children are wiser in the ways of the road trip than we often give credit, and they will be active participants in this journey, so why not involve them in the entire process? Hold a family meeting before the trip to determine everyone’s level of understanding about the destination(s), activities, and route, and check in with each member. Giving kids the power to participate in decision-making can go a long way toward family harmony.
— Erin Kirkland of AKontheGo

Make the Trip Educational

Kids should definitely be involved in planning a road trip. We’d recommend that parents open a map with their children and talk about the attractions in each region to help focus in on where they’ll want to spend more time. Letting a kid pick a few of the major highlights of the trip can help parents determine a driving route.
— Sarah Leonard of the Alaska Travel Industry Association

If your kids aren’t already helping you to plan your vacation, then they should be! They can get involved right from the start by checking out google maps, helping to work out the distances between places, and finding interesting things to do. It’s a perfect means of having them engaged and enthusiastic about the vacation before it even begins.
— Maria Giannouli of Kids Love Greece

Kids on a road trip in Knossos, Greece

Kids on a road trip in Knossos, Greece. Photo courtesy of Kids Love Greece

Have the kids read (or read with them) books related to the place that you’ll be traveling to in order to increase their understanding and anticipation. The *Discover America State by State* books are great for younger kids.
— Shellie Bailey-Shah of KidTripster

We like to print out a map showing the route and have our children choose specific destinations along the way they might find interesting. The entire family becomes involved in the research process. We look at time and distance between stops, interesting historical sites or attractions along the way, and even must eat local cuisine. By involving the kids, we find they are more invested in the journey and less focused on the final destination.
— Kirsten Maxwell of Kids Are a Trip

Finding ways in advance of the trip to increase buy-in from the kids is important. Before the trip, get out maps so your kids understand where they will be going – and why. Watch movies in advance that are travel-oriented or take place in some of the destinations. When our kids were younger, I’d put together mini-packages for them to open every day of the road trip with a map of our route for that day, a book or two, a small game or toy and maybe a coloring or activity book.
— Julia Slatcher of Inspire World Travel

Make the Trips Reasonable

I think it’s important for the planners to be cognizant of what kind of stops will keep the kids interested. It’s hard for kids to understand timing, so planning the length of time to drive is a bit nebulous for them. However, as much as kids like to stretch their legs and get out of the car, I also know kids can get tired of jumping in and out at too many stops.
— Kimberly Tate of Stuffed Suitcase

With younger kids, timing the longer drives with naptime is best – IF your kids cooperate. More important, though, is to plan stops at strategically-placed playgrounds. If you get lucky, this may even give you a glimpse into local life that you wouldn’t otherwise get. We always try to reach our destination when it’s still light out so the kids can get out some energy before having to calm down for the night.
— Julia Slatcher of Inspire World Travel

It’s definitely good to give kids a couple of options in terms of daily activities, but to not overwhelm them with too many options. You’ll also want to be flexible and read their cues when on a trip so you know whether it’s better to settle in for the afternoon rather than go on one more hike, for example.
— Dan Wulfman of Tracks & Trails

[My kids] were not completely involved in the pre-planning, but during the trip, if there was something that they wanted to see or they wanted to spend more time in one place, we would always adjust our schedule. We spent extra time at Zion, for example, because a local told us about a secret watering hole. It took some time to find it, but the kids loved jumping off the rocks and swimming (they weren’t even in swimsuits!). I just let them be kids and have some fun and we adjusted the rest of the schedule later.
— Lissa Poirot of Family Vacation Critic

Let Technology Matter

I think with the access to smart phones, tablets, wifi these days, this is becoming more and more a role of the kids to research and contribute to what they want to do on family holidays.
— Mike Varndell of Malawian Style

Kids at Montauk Beach, New York. Photo courtesy of I Love NY

Let kids help decide what to do and they’ll be much more excited about doing it, like these kids at Montauk Beach, Long Island, New York. Photo courtesy of I Love NY

Free content for the younger travellers helps them earn a vote in family travel decisions and gives parents valuable insight into kid-friendly locations to visit. The result, a more informed and better holiday for the whole family.
— Natasha Keller of Bound Round

WHERE TO SPEND THE NIGHT?

We like and recommend a variety of accommodations, preferably building in terms of comfort as the trip progresses. For example, it’s great fun to camp, but it’s best to occasionally intersperse a more comfortable hotel or AirBnB with real beds and – even better – laundry. It’s even better to end the road trip with a really special place to stay. That way, everyone ends on a high note and the trip feels more like a vacation. If possible, staying more than one night in a place provides a much less stressful pace and allows kids to develop memories that will stay with them longer. We like accommodations with great views, their own playgrounds, pools or at least some outdoor space to get some energy out.
— Julia Slatcher of Inspire World Travel

Accommodations truly do depend upon the travelers and the length of the road trip. We like to mix it up – spend a night or two at a hotel or resort with kid-friendly activities, and on other nights, spend time together at a cabin or vacation rental. Remember, you’ll all be in one vehicle together for a lengthy period of time, it may be wise to allow everyone space now and then.
— Erin Kirkland of AKontheGo

Families should decide which accommodations work best for them. For those looking to spend time outdoors, camping is always a great option. But for those looking to enjoy excellent and comfortable accommodations, visitors can choose from a variety of options, including lodges, inns, hotels and ranches that can comfortably accommodate families.
— Anna O’Donnell of the Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development

There is something nostalgic about going to familiar and comfortable places, but a new cabin, campground or hotel opens the potential for new discoveries, unexpected adventures and a chance to meet new people. These opportunities can enhance the stories and memories you come home with.
— Katlyn Richter of the South Dakota Department of Tourism

Hands down, the best road trips are done in RVs. There’s no unpacking. Your hotel room travels with you.
— Shellie Bailey-Shah of KidTripster

Of course, we’d say that an RV is the best type of accommodation for a family road trip. You’re able to be so close to nature and the outdoors.
— Dan Wulfman of Tracks & Trails

RVs are very popular for road trips in Alaska and many RV campsites exist, as well as regular campsites, especially in Alaska’s many national and state parks. Take a look at campgrounds along your route and call ahead to make reservations.
— Sarah Leonard of the Alaska Travel Industry Association

An RV on the highway at Cooper Landing, Alaska

An RV on the highway at Cooper Landing, Alaska. Photo courtesy of State of Alaska/Brian Adams

Holiday parks and YHAs – cheap and cheerful with self-catering facilities and plenty of activities for kids.
— Deborah Dickson-Smith

Boutique hotels, small guesthouses and apartments are great options for a family road trip, as they are quite often family owned and operated, which adds that friendly, personal touch. They also provide the opportunity to get to know the people that run them, and find out more about the area. Interaction with the locals is what a road trip is all about after all!
— Maria Giannouli of Kids Love Greece

If families base themselves in one location where they can take a different day trip each day, they can choose a vacation rental or home exchange. But most road trips entail 1- to 3-night stays in each location, so camping, motels, hotels and resorts provide the most mobility and flexibility. All suite hotels or apart hotels are great for families since they often have a full kitchen, living room and 1-3 bedroom units. Staying in a motel or campsite also increases the potential of having access to a swimming pool which is so popular with families when traveling.
– a representative of the Empire State Development Corporation – I Love NY

I will usually book hotel rooms. Unless we are staying a few nights, which is unlikely during a road trip, I wouldn’t bother with the hassle of checking in and cleaning up a vacation rental, and chances are we wouldn’t have time to really enjoy a resort, so I stick to a reliable mid-tier hotel chain. Preferably, we will pick one with free parking, WiFi and breakfast (and maybe a pool!).
— Tamara Gruber of We3Travel

We searched for family-friendly hotels near the national parks with two requirements: a swimming pool and free Wi-Fi. After a long day in the car between the national parks, having a chance to splash and play in a hotel pool was just the break the kids needed. Of course, staying connected to friends and family back home (as well as work) was important, so we needed Wi-Fi. If we could, we also chose properties with free breakfast so we could get a head start on the day and save time and money.
— Lissa Poirot of Family Vacation Critic

Pools are a great reward after a long day in the car, bonus points that the driver(s) can soak stiff shoulders in a hot tub. And free on-site breakfast means getting back on the road quicker. Another tip is to see if any chains are running promotions for multiple stays. Road trips are a great way to accrue multiple night stays to earn a bonus reward or promotion offer.
— Kimberly Tate of Stuffed Suitcase

Typically camping is not top of the list, but a lot of the lodges we work with have family rooms, with two rooms and a shared bathroom and this seems to be the most popular.
— Mike Varndell of Malawian Style

OTHER FAMILY ROAD TRIP TIPS

Pack Smart

I’m a big believer in packing smart and organizing your car before you hit the road. It can make a huge difference for all parties when everyone has what they need at their fingertips.
— Kimberly Tate of Stuffed Suitcase

Road-tripping family at Bird Point, Alaska

Road-tripping family at Bird Point, Alaska. Photo courtesy of Visit Anchorage

My biggest tip is to be sure to bring a cooler and one that plugs into an adapter to act like a mini-fridge is even better! That way you can keep drinks cold and make full use of any leftovers you might take with you along the trip.
— Tamara Gruber of We3Travel

In a hot country, we would suggest always having plenty of water to drink in the car, and to cover the windscreen with a reflective blanket to keep heat out when parking.
— Maria Giannouli of Kids Love Greece

Control Your Budget

An RV is a great road-trip vehicle option for families that can often save money on accommodations and meals.
— Sarah Leonard of the Alaska Travel Industry Association

A big money saver for us while on road trips is to pack our own snacks. A local Costco run can help you get some great snacks, that can be healthy too. And another money saver can be to stop at grocery stores to grab meals versus fast food joints.
— Kimberly Tate of Stuffed Suitcase

The biggest piece most people forget to factor in is gas prices. Yes, it can be cheaper than flying, but it also depends on how many miles you are logging. It was the number 1 reason we chose not to rent an RV; it only got 9 miles to the gallon. Other times, I’ve rented a car for big drives knowing a good car could get me better gas mileage than my SUV.
— Lissa Poirot of Family Vacation Critic

Greece has a toll system on the highway roads. Don’t forget to factor this into your budget!
— Maria Giannouli of Kids Love Greece

Be Safety Conscious

When considering family holidays, obviously safety is a concern, so you need to pick the countries that are very safe. In Africa, Malawi is at the top of that list.
— Mike Varndell of Malawian Style

Alaska has few roads, some not paved, and some with few amenities. Plan your stops in advance, including stops for food and fuel.
— Jara Haas of Visit Anchorage

Prior to visiting national parks, make sure to check road conditions and availability on the park websites. If you plan to travel off the beaten path, make sure you know where you are going and have plenty of fuel to get there.
— Anna O’Donnell of the Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development


Read More!

AKontheGoAKontheGo
* Iowa to Alaska: What 4,000 Miles Taught Us
* Iowa to Alaska, Days 4-5
* AKontheGo Tag Archives: road trip

Visit here for more about AKontheGo. Read more of Erin Kirkland’s road trip recommendations.

 

AlaskaAlaska Travel Industry Association
* Alaska Driving Guides
* The Milepost
* Alaska Official Information Guide

Visit here for more about the Alaska Travel Industry Association. Read more of their Alaska road trip recommendations.

 

Bound RoundBound Round
* Things to Do in Country NSW
* America’s Whackiest Roadside Attractions

Visit here for more about Bound Round. Read more of their road trip recommendations.

 

Deborah Dickson-SmithDeborah Dickson-Smith
* 8 Top Tips for Road Trips with Teens

Visit here for more about Deborah Dickson-Smith. Read more of her road trip recommendations.

 

I Love New YorkEmpire State Development Corporation – I Love NY
* New York Travel Tools
* New York Scenic Drives
* Category – road trips

Visit here for more about I Love NY. Read more of their road trip recommendations.

 

Family Vacation CriticFamily Vacation Critic
* Touring the National Parks with Kids
* 12 Tips for Mastering the Road Trip
* 15 Roadside Attractions Worth a Stop

Visit here for more about Family Vacation Critic. Read more of Lissa Poirot’s road trip recommendations.

 

Inspire World TravelInspire World Travel
* Italy, Part II. On Top of Spaghetti
* Spain, Part II: Catalunar Landing
* Category Archives: Road Trip

Visit here for more about Inspire World Travel. Read more of their road trip recommendations.

 

Kids Are a TripKids Are a Trip
* 20 Awesome Road Trip Activities for Kids
* How to Survive a Holiday Road Trip with Kids
* Search Results for: road trip

Visit here for more about Kids Are a Trip.

 

Kids Love GreeceKids Love Greece
* Ideas for Your Two-week Family Road Trip in Crete
* Planning Your Mythological Family Road Trip in Greece
* The Guide to Car Rental in Greece

Visit here for more about Kids Love Greece. Read more of their road trip recommendations.

 

KidTripsterKidTripster
* Road-Tested Advice for First-Time RVers: 10 Lessons to Learn Before You Hit the Road

Visit here for more about KidTripster. Read more of Shellie Bailey-Shah’ road trip recommendations.

 

Malawian StyleMalawian Style
* Malawi & Zambia Family Holiday (note four different budget levels)

Visit here for more about Malawian Style. Read more of their road trip recommendations.

 

MontanaMontana Office of Tourism and Business Development
* Trip Ideas in Montana
* Between the Parks: Two-Day Road Trips Across Big Sky Country
* Montana: 10 Ultimate Road Trips

Visit here for more about the Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development. Read more of their road trip recommendations.

 

South DakotaSouth Dakota Department of Tourism
* South Dakota Vacation Guide
* South Dakota Itineraries
* South Dakota Road Journals

Visit here for more about the South Dakota Department of Tourism. Read more of their road trip recommendations.

 

Stuffed SuitcaseStuffed Suitcase
* How to Pack Your Car for a Road Trip
* Road Trip Essentials
* Search results for: Road Trip

Visit here for more about Stuffed Suitcase. Read more of Kimberly Tate’s road trip recommendations.

 

Tracks & TrailsTracks & Trails
* Tracks & Trails specializes in custom family road trips by RV. A specially tailored Adventure Kit includes vouchers, travel tips, maps and customized day-to-day trip itineraries.
* RV Trips

Visit here for more about Tracks & Trails. Read more of their road trip recommendations.

 

Visit AnchorageVisit Anchorage
* Road Trippin’ Around Anchorage
* The Milepost
* North to Alaska: The Ultimate Road Trip

Visit here for more about Visit Anchorage. Read more of their road trip recommendations.

 

We3TravelWe3Travel
* 10 Best Audio Books for Family Road Trips
* Summer Family Road Trip Travel Gear Guide
* Tips for Family Road Trips (podcast)

Visit here for more about We3Travel. Read more of Tamara Gruber’s road trip recommendations.

 

Other Road Trip Links from Our Media Center:

* Adventure by Daddy: How to Survive the Ultimate National Park Road Trip
* All Over the Map: Near Luddites Hit the Road: How to Survive (and Even Enjoy!) Long Family Car Rides Without Electronics // What Makes for Great Family-Friendly Lodging on the Road? // Our Favorite Audio Books for Long Family Car Rides
* Ciao Bambino! search results for: road trip
* Family Travel Forum: Top 10 Family Road Trips USA
* Globetrotting Mama: Road Trip Pit Stop: Kennedy Space Center, Florida // Family Road Trip in an RV // Preparing for Take Off: How to Plan for a Road Trip
* Trekaroo: Search results for “road trip”

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  1. […] The Family Travel Association conducted a survey of over 700 families who travel. The organization said 75 percent of them have taken road trips, and a whopping 94 percent are planning to take them again. It’s clear that road trips ROCK! […]

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