When it comes to travel nostalgia, there is perhaps no greater shared memory than the family road trip. Whether a station wagon or minivan, the entire family piling in to embark on a new adventure is something we all remember.
When my brother and I were about 8-9 years old, our parents took us on an epic road trip from Milaca, Minnesota to visit relatives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The four of us in a car with no headphones, iPads or iPhones, is definitely something I’ll never forget. I still recall many of the sights and sounds with great fondness as well as how we entertained each other, played games (roadside bingo was our favorite) and talked as a family. I’m sure we fought as all brothers do, but I really don’t remember any of that.
One very special moment was crossing over the Royal Gorge. It’s Colorado’s highest suspension bridge and was absolutely awe inspiring for my brother and me. With my dad’s passing over a decade ago, it’s these memories that keep him alive with me. I will definitely be bringing my boys to the Royal Gorge by car as soon as we can extend the time between potty breaks, you know, to keep the trip less than a month long.
The reason the road trip still endures today is that just like in my personal experience, it allows for moms, dads and their children to bond, discover new places just outside the car window and have an experience that can be unpredictable, where the journey might be just as remarkable as the destination. As I wrote in my last post, gas prices are some of the lowest prices they have been in a decade. Combined with the fact that 55 percent of Americans did not use all of their vacation days last year, it’s time to take action and not find ourselves in the same situation come January.
Pack up the car and hit the highway. Men, here are some tips to help plan a well-executed road trip.
Bound by the small dimensions of your automobile, hours in the car are a genuine opportunity to interact with your family. Consider this:
- Bring out everyone’s competitive spirit – Who doesn’t want to be a winner? Playing age-appropriate games with your family during the ride gives everyone the chance to interact and passes the time.
- Story hour – Since this is likely not your first road trip, leverage this as a chance to ask your kids to unplug and learn about the adventure you took growing up.
- Be prepared – Bring anything that can help your child get through a period of impatience or crankiness. From snacks to a favorite toy, keeping things copacetic should always be the top priority.
Choose Your Own Adventure
Hitting the open road is full of possibilities. When planning your route remember to:
- Take the road less traveled – Sometimes the most direct way to reach your destination is also the most boring. Think about the scenic route, especially if the time difference is negligible. What sounds better: the ocean views of the PCH or concrete corridors of Interstate 5?
- Plan to stop – Whether an interesting lunch spot, quick exploration of a small town or impromptu round of mini-golf, getting out of the car for an hour can help to recharge everyone’s batteries and be a vacation highlight.
Know Your Limits
Don’t stray too far from home or push through to complete an overnight drive if not necessary. While as a man you might be proud of the feat, as a dad it could be a potential failure. Keep in mind:
- Gas guzzler: Part of the reason to take a road trip is to be budget-conscious. Consider a one-tank trip as this will be wallet-friendly and help keep your kids on their best behavior. Which reminds me…
- Countdown clock: How long is it before your kids get antsy, need to stop to go to the bathroom or have to eat? Time your drive based on what can best suit you’re the little ones.
Avoiding Destination Consternation
Picking the right place to travel to on a road trip is obviously one of the most important decisions you will make. Here are some criteria:
- Drive time, drive wise – After setting a maximum time you want to spend in the car, leverage a website like Google Maps to see what destinations stick out and fall within the time frame.
- Make it interesting – Picking a place that has an interesting history, personal relevance or is known by everyone in the family leads to more things to talk about en route.
- Always have a backup plan – You can’t predict a flat tire, poor weather or a variety of other road trip ruinations. When picking a destination, see what places might fall between your journey’s end and beginning.