Make An Epic Family Road Trip Plan

Summertime is upon us, and what’s more fun than planning a vacation for your family? Longer days, a little less responsibility, and lighter schedules allow you to take a road trip and see parts of America you haven’t experienced yet. Our family has been on several road trips over the years and it’s always a great time to build some memories.

Whether you long for nature in national parks and campgrounds or are craving fun and adventure in the big city, road trips are a great way to discover new parts of the country or old favorites. The great thing about the US is that there are so many different geographies and areas of interest that you might not have explored. And since it’s a huge country, you can spend time every year exploring a new part of it.

But before you hit the open road, don’t forget to plan. I made that mistake once on an 18+ hour road trip years ago! Planning is important when you have kids, and travel is no different. If you put in the effort to plan a great getaway, you and your family will soon be saying, “That was the best road trip ever!”

8 Tips to Plan an Epic Road Trip with Your Family

Traveling with kids is fun but can also require a lot of planning and preparation. But don’t get bogged down or feel overwhelmed by travel planning. With these tips, you’ll be well on your way to planning the perfect road trip for your family.

1. Make a Road Trip Plan for Where You Want to Go

The first step to an epic road trip plan is to decide what type of vacation you want.

Maybe you’re hoping to spend some time in nature and go camping. You could plan a trip to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming and Montana or Arches National Park in Utah. Or if you’re looking to do some sightseeing in a city, maybe you want to check out Chicago or New York City. There’s a beach vacation where you could go to Florida, North Carolina, or California. Or you could visit the mountains in Colorado or Washington.

As you’re planning, also think about how many places you’ll stay. Will you have one home base where you take some day trips and then head home? Or do you want to make several stops and spend a few nights in each location? Do you need to fly somewhere and get a rental car for your road trip? That allows you to see a part of the US you can’t reach by car alone.

Another important factor is how long you can (and want to) be gone. Do you only have a week to go? Or do you have a whole month (or longer) for a cross-country road trip? The amount of time you have will determine where you can go. Don’t forget to factor in drive time when you plan how long you can be gone!

2. Plan Your Route

Now that you know how long and where you want to go, plan the route you’ll take. For this, use an online map like Mapquest to put in up to 26 different stops to create a route. Or use Google Maps if you’re going to fewer locations (up to nine). Choose your starting point, put in the places you want to go, and finish with your end stop. The software will do the work for you!

This is a good time to use online road trip planners. This one from AAA makes planning super easy! Look through their library of road trip itineraries and find the ones in your areas of interest. From New England to Arizona and even Hawaii and Alaska, it gives you directions and cool stops to make. They’ll even help you find pet-friendly hotels if you’re taking your furry friends.

One thing to consider is finding scenic routes to your destination. If there are any national forests or scenic byways on your route, plan to drive through them on the way. You can also drive one route to your location and then another route back. That way you can see even more parts of the country.

3. Find Great Places to Stay

Where you’ll stay will depend on what type of vacation you’re taking. Do you need to rent a camper or a campground site? You can look at national parks, state parks, or other campsites for places to rent. Or is a hotel more your thing? Some have packages where you can save money and get more amenities.

Want to rent a vacation home? These are a nice option when traveling as a family. You’ll have more space to spread out and even put the kids to bed earlier if you need to. You’ll also have a kitchen so you can save money on going out to eat. Some even have pools or playrooms with toys for the kids!

Use a wider search area to save money if it’s an expensive area. For example, if you’re making a road trip plan to Chicago, look at the suburbs to possibly save money. You won’t be in the city, but you can take the train into the city (that’s a fun experience!) and then explore the suburbs for some quieter days.

4. Find Fun Things to Do on the Route

Don’t forget that the fun is in the journey, not just the destination. Build in time along the way to stop and see cool things. World’s Largest Chest of Drawers? Check! World’s Largest Ball of Twine? Check! A quick Google search with the name of where you’re going (city or state) and “tourist attraction” will bring up some interesting things you can check out along your way.

This is also a great time to think about gas stations and rest areas. With little ones (and even moms!), bathroom breaks are super important. Stretching your legs is important for everyone too. Although it won’t always work out perfectly, and sometimes there are spontaneous stops that have to happen, it’s good to be somewhat prepared for stops.

5. Plan Meals and Snacks

Eating on vacation with a family can be challenging. It’s hard to take a big group out to eat. Sometimes it’s difficult to find quality food on the road, and meals out are not cheap! Planning for meals and snacks will help save you time, money, and frustration.

Snacks are a big part of road trips (my kids seem to always be hungry in the car!). I like to load up on healthy snacks that are within reach. It’s especially important when you’re driving through parts of the country where there aren’t many places to stop.

For meals, it takes a little bit of creativity and planning. If you’re staying in a rental home, camper, or hotel room with a kitchen, you can plan meals to cook. If you have a crockpot, you can have dinner waiting when you’re home after a day of exploring! In a hotel, you’ll have to be a little more creative with meals from your mini-fridge or cooler. But you can always pack your crockpot and set it up in the hotel too!

When I’m on vacation, I love to make a meal plan and have groceries delivered to my rental home (if it’s available) or stop at the store on the way. Or you can prepare your meals before you leave and take them with you!

When we do go out to eat, I like to search for restaurants that serve fresh, whole foods. If you have dietary restrictions, there are great apps like Find Me GF to find gluten-free restaurants that users have reviewed. They have eating establishments all over (even in Europe!).

6. Plan Your Entertainment

Don’t forget the car entertainment. Planning before you go will help keep everyone happier, although it won’t stop the “Mom are we there yet” questions!

Music is always a great way to pass the time in the car. Make a playlist of popular road trip songs or share your favorite songs from your childhood. Of course, there are endless kids’ playlists. Make several and rotate through them when you need a change of pace.

Podcasts and audiobooks are an amazing way to entertain the kids, too. There are so many great kids’ podcasts available like Story Pirates and Circle Round. You can find audiobooks for kids online or through your library.

A quintessential part of road trips with kids is car games. Think of the alphabet game where you find letters of the alphabet on billboards and signs on the road. Or the license plate game where you hunt for plates from each state. There are so many options for car games. This post has a ton of great ones!

7. Pack Your Essentials

When you’re packing your clothes and toiletries, don’t forget the car essentials. These are things you’ll want to keep close to you in case you need them.

I like to pack all the important essential oils I might need for car sickness or alertness. Trash bags are always good to have (especially if you have any kids prone to carsickness). Tissues are another good thing to keep handy, as are hand wipes and homemade hand sanitizer.

Chargers are a great thing to keep handy too. I like to take something with lots of ports with us in case we have a lot to charge. It’s nice to have one with AC outlets to charge things like laptops too.

8. Go with the Flow and Enjoy!

This last tip is probably the most important! Although you’ve put a lot of time into road trip planning, remember to go with the flow. Anytime you’re traveling, things are bound to go off course, especially with kids. The best road trip plans can unravel very quickly. This is when problem-solving and positive thinking come in handy so you can quickly make the best of any bad situations.

Remember your kids are watching how you react to adversity. This is a great time to teach them that things can go off course, but it’s not the end of the world.

Road trips are an amazing time to make family memories, good and bad(!). You’ll have stories to share for years to come, and the bonding is totally worth it.

Do you like to take road trips? What is your favorite road trip planning tip? Leave a comment and let us know!

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