My childhood is filled with memories of road trips around Europe and the joy of long journeys never really left me. Now that I pretty much road trip for a living, I’ve got the planning down to a fine art.
Planning a big holiday is a great way to build excitement for a trip and it’s good to get your kids involved in this aspect. Not only will it have them eager to explore the world but it’ll teach them valuable map reading and research skills.
Here are some tips for planning the perfect stress-free road trip.
Plan the planning
We all get on better if we know what’s coming so if you usually plan crafts or activities for your kids, add in some road trip planning time. Whether you use a chart or simply tell your kids that you’re going to be sitting down and looking at some exciting travel stuff, make sure you plan it into your day.
Start with the basics
You might be road tripping from one specific place to another, or you might be road tripping for the joy of it. Either way, start with where you want to go and how long you’ve got to do the journey.
If you know you’re going from New York to San Fransisco then the world (well, the USA) is your oyster and you can start to think about where you might like to stop along the way.
If all you know is that you’re hiring a car in Berlin and have two weeks to drive and explore before flying home, then you’ve also got a lot of flexibility.
Choose some places you’d like to stop
Your children might want to get involved in this part too. My road trips tend to be a mix of places that I’ve wanted to go for years (Dubrovnik springs to mind) and places that have cool names (hello, Kalamazoo!).
Gather up suggestions and then start to think about the logistical side of getting from place-to-place.
Give yourself enough time
Of course, it’s totally possible to drive for six hours a day to keep your trip short but it’s not fun. Whenever I road trip (even without children), I try to keep most days to three hours of travelling or less. I might have the odd day where I drive for five hours or so but only if absolutely necessary.
With children in tow, you’re not going to want to be travelling for more than three hours a day. A road trip isn’t about getting from A to B as quickly as possible, it’s about exploring places along the way.
This means that you need to give yourselves ample time to explore a place. Aim for two nights in each stop as you’ll then have a full day to really fall for a place, experience its culture, eat its food and refuel for your next driving day.
Give yourself the opportunity to be flexible
I’m not saying you should charge into a road trip with no car or accommodation booked but keep your options open. Maybe don’t book accommodation past the first week of your trip, or look for hotels that offer free cancellation so you can change your plans if it suits. This how real adventures are created.
Go off the beaten track
While a comfy chain hotel might seem like the safe choice, it’s not always the most exciting. Airbnb is the best tool for family road trippers as it gives you the ability to rent full apartments, houses or villas. Not only will you have a lot of space and privacy but you can find some really amazing, quirky properties this way.
Take a map and satellite navigation
It doesn’t hurt to have a backup. When I road tripped around America, we drove onto Manhattan through the Lincoln tunnel, which wiped out our navigation signal. Thankfully we had a map that helped us to navigate this tricky, busy city.
If you’re going abroad, it’s possible to hire satellite navigation that has all the correct maps. This can be cheaper than buying your own or upgrading the maps on an existing device.
Plan fun activities
If your kids are restless in the car, make sure they’ve got plenty to keep them occupied. Car games that take in the outside world are a great way to get them involved in the travel but if you need to focus on the road, you can’t go wrong with a portable DVD player or iPad.
Make sure you have the right supplies
Blankets, car sickness medication, favourite teddy bears, snacks and a first aid kit are all important. You should also consider what items you need to keep in your car by law. For example, France requires you to have two breathalysers in your car at all times and Germany requires you to carry a hi-vis vest and a fire extinguisher.
In short, take your time over planning your trip and use it as an opportunity to get excited about where you’re going and what you’re going to see.
How do you plan family road trips?