If you are looking for a way to beat boredom, get some new experiences and get the kids out of the house, I highly recommend you take your family on a road trip. There’s no better way to spend a day by packing everyone into a car and hitting the open road.
The best road trips are fairly inexpensive alternatives to a more elaborate vacations and are a great way to discover your nearby surroundings. And the best part of all is that all you need is a car, an afternoon, and an open mind.
Here are some things to consider before taking your next road trip.
Don’t overthink it – If you are going to do a road trip pick a spot and go. Don’t take a Facebook poll or obsessively research on the internet. Just pick a town or city that seems interesting, figure out the route to get there and go. It might suck or it might be awesome. Who knows? One of the great joys of a road trip is to truly keep yourself open to wonderful surprises. I like to tell my kids that we are on a secret reconnaissance mission and are scouting out cool things that they can talk to their friends about at school the next day.
Give yourself enough time – If you're travelling with little ones, it’s best to work on their schedule. It’s generally a good idea to spend more time out of the car than in, so keep the driving one way to 1 or 2 hours. A late morning start after breakfast (especially if travelling on a Sunday), is a good time to start. Aim for a lunch out and time to get back by or before dinner time. It’s best to be home before the sun goes down so the kids don’t fall asleep in the car and you have to carry their sleepy, half confused butts in the house.
Sometimes it’s the journey and not the destination – Recently when we were on our way to a small, nearby city, we were captivated by a roadside business that sold used hot tubs. What was fascinating about the place was that between the various tubs were life sized dinosaurs. We took 10 minutes off our trip to marvel at the prehistoric beasts and wonder what kind of marketing genius would use a fiber glass diplodocus to lure in customers. Keep your eyes open for whatever fun and unexpected thing that might cross your path along the way.
Stay away from the chains – When in an unfamiliar place, it is natural that you might want to stick with what you know. McDonalds is always cheap and reliable. If you are on vacation for a week, you might get homesick and indulge in a Big Mac. If you are on a day trip, you should walk on the wild side and just give in to the local eateries. There are a million McDonalds but only one Big Rick’s Ribs Emporium. Try the special and don’t forget to tip your waitress.
Let the kids navigate – When I say navigate, I am not talking about driving and figuring out which exit to take. Kids should never be trusted to do either (and, according to my wife, neither should I). What I mean is that once you have arrived and parked your car, you should be open to letting the kids decide where to go. You might have a couple of stores and attractions that you might want to check out, but be open to your kid’s taste and whimsy. If your 9 year old wants to check out the flavours of ice cream at the local candy store and your 4 year old wishes to indulge her princess fantasies by perusing a bridal boutique, let them. You’ve got time and the trip is as much about them as it is about you.
Be prepared – Road trips are great when they feel spontaneous but if you have kids they should be anything but. Water and snacks are a must as are a full tank of gas and a charged iPad. I also recommend plastic bags, paper towels and wet wipes. Why you ask? Well let’s just say, a body in motion can sometimes be prone to puking. We learned this the hard way recently when our 4 year old threw up all over herself a mere 10 minutes from home. The horrible feeling was multiplied when we realized we only had a handful of handiwipes with which to clean her and her sisters off. Needless to say, we are prepared for the next time the girls play show and tell with their lunch.
So the next time your house is driving you nuts, you want to get away and can’t wait (or afford) that exotic getaway vacation, consider getting in your car and taking a drive. You’d be amazed at what cool things you and your family can enjoy just an hour or two away.
So what about you? Are you a road or day tripper? Have any travel tips to share?