The Road Trip has become a rite of passage for many families. Many of us have fond memories of visiting friends, family, and strangers in far away places. Fortunately, most of the bad and boring times don’t get cataloged like the good times do. This adds to the difficulty when we plan family road trips as parents though. With these fond memories we plan “the perfect” road trip in our mind, but once we get started, reality sets in.
Our family business takes us traveling to many places. So far, we’ve taken road trips to 44 states and 2 provinces in Canada. We’ve racked up somewhere between 30,000 – 40,000 miles so far. These MBIntel Safety Tours have provided very fond memories, but not every moment was a positive one. Here are a few ideas to survive the family road trip and still like each other when it’s over.
#1 Plan, but be flexible
You need to have a good plan. Know where you are going, how you are going to get there, where you will stay, and what you want to do. This will be your road map, but you can bet there will be many detours along the way. Some of these detours will turn out to be better experiences than your original plan.
#2 Perform scheduled and expected maintenance before you leave
The last thing you want to have is a problem with your vehicle. Change the fluids, check the tires (get new ones), how are your brakes, any major fixes coming soon? Do them now. You are going to spend this money anyways, just get it done before you leave. It is no fun sitting in an unexpected town for a couple of days while your vehicle gets fixed. You have more import things to be doing than that.
#2 Your road trip experiences as a child are lies
That may have been a little harsh, I don’t mean to say your experiences were a lie, just that they were viewed through a different lens than you have now. Remember playing punch buggy with your siblings? Lot’s of fun right? You don’t remember that it ended with mom and dad yelling at everyone to stop because someone started crying. If you were bigger and stronger, I’m sure you took great pride in making your sibling cry, that was part of the fun. As a parent though, there is a very different lens. Everything is new and exciting when you were younger and we had the ability to go from tears to having the time of our lives in seconds. Very few adults have that same ability. Once we are mad, sad, or board, it sticks around a little longer.
#3 Plan mini stops along the way
Take a look at what activities are coming up as you are driving. Is there a fruit stand or beef jerky hut. Take a short stop to stretch your legs and use the restrooms. If you have little kids, they will need to break. This is a great way to see the country. Take in the flavors of where you are going. The stop doesn’t need to take long. Maybe only 10 minutes, but that will recharge your batteries.
#4 Know your limits
Some families can drive all day and night, others top out in a few hours. Little babies provide different challenges than toddlers, and teenagers. Try to take everyones needs into consideration, but don’t think that you will be able to make everyone happy.
#5 Electronic devices are not the devil
I know, you didn’t have electronic devices when you were a kid. Grandma made you a travel bag with art supplies and bought you a book. You were perfectly content to count telephone poles and recite the alphabet with the first letter of license plates. Remember #2, “Your road trip experiences as a child are lies”? This is what I’m talking about. Your kids are not going to become zombies and their brains will certainly not come out of their ears if they use electronic devices. Sure it’s a good idea to limit the time and vary the activities, but don’t lose your sanity over this.
#6 It will suck sometimes
You might as well accept this right now. There are going to be fights and you will have vehicle troubles. There will be traffic. It will take much longer than you thought. Your kids and significant other are going to drive you crazy and you aren’t going to want to see their faces. These will all pass though.
#7 You will lose it at some point, maybe more than once
Vacations are a lot of work and can be very hard. Your patience will be stretched and you will not get enough sleep. It’s okay if you lash out, just make sure you go back later with a big hug and talk about it. Don’t worry, they will lash out a time or two as well. If you have a teenager, good luck and much patience and love.
#8 Take time to clean the vehicle out every couple of days
It is amazing how much crap accumulates when you are driving for hours. Get rid of the cups, Cheerios, art work, sunflower seeds, yarn, and anything else that has accumulated. You will feel much better having things cleaned up a little bit. Don’t expect it to be perfect, but get rid of the excess.
#9 Home cooked meals are the best!
If you are making stops along the way at family or friends houses and they offer to cook a meal for you, take them up on it! On the road you will be eating out a lot. A good home cooked meal will do you well and meeting with friends and family will hopefully recharge your soul.
#10 This trip will become a lie someday too
As time passes, the good things will stay in your memory and most of the bad will be forgotten. The bad things that remain are usually the best stories that will be recounted for years to come.
Now go out and have some fun, make some memories, and continue the lie of the Family Road Trip.