Parents, you’ve got questions, we’ve got answers.

Or just as likely, we’ve got questions and you’ve got answers.

Challenge: Open Discussion

Tips for Planning a Cross-Country Family Road Trip

2
Vote up!
Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Email this article

Planning a cross-country road trip is stressful enough as is, but if you’re planning one with a family, that’s a whole different beast altogether. From creating an itinerary and packing to bathroom breaks and detours, family road trips are exhausting. Yet, the memories you create with your loved ones on a cross-country trip make it all worth it.

Even though you’re bound to face some unpredictable mishaps along the way if you follow the five tips below you can help avoid any unnecessary headaches on your next family road trip.

Have a final destination

It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey, right? Sure. Road trips are just as much about the physical trip as they are about the locations visited. But, when dealing with a group of people it can help to have a common goal in mind.

Having a shared goal or destination for your trip will help your family members stay focused and committed to the adventure. Goal setting can be a particularly useful psychological trick keep your kids upbeat and excited through the lulls that are imminent on the road.

In addition to keeping your family on track, having a final destination for your road trip will also help you plan the logistics of which stops to see along the way. After all, if you’re planning a road trip from Florida to California, you wouldn’t try squeezing a pit-stop in New York City. Knowing your starting and end point will provide some guidelines for what other stops are most feasible.

Prepare for the worst

Regardless of how well you plan, you’re bound to suffer an unforeseen incident on your road trip. The most important thing you can do is to make sure you have a plan for if/when the worst happens. Double check that your auto insurance coverage has roadside assistance in case your vehicle breaks down. Make sure you know where the closest hospitals at all of your overnight stops. Pack a first-aid kit, flashlight, extra water, blankets, and a solar powered battery source.

The last thing you want is for some tragic event to ruin your vacation, but the truth is, you can’t plan for everything. However, you can and should take precautionary steps to ensure that you have a plan for as much as you can.

Nail the packing

Packing is one of the hardest parts of a family road-trip. Not only do you have to pack for yourself, but a good planner will also help the rest of the family pack. The best way to guarantee no one packs poorly is to create a checklist for each member of your family.

Think about the essentials like:

  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Shampoo, conditioner, body soap
  • Medication
  • Phone charger
  • Plenty of clothes and underwear

Also, consider packing items that will make the trip easier for your children:

  • Games
  • iPad or tablet for movies
  • Pen and paper
  • Pillows and blanket
  • Snacks and bottled water

Depending on where you plan to visit will also dictate how and what you pack. Cold temperatures will require much more luggage because of the bulky clothes needed. You may also need to pack chapstick, earmuffs, gloves, and snow sports equipment like skis or snowboards. Warmer climate lends itself to lighter packing, but you’ll want to consider bringing sunscreen, swimsuits, towels, and beach chairs.

Have designated roles

Family members will take ownership when given a task. I find that cross-country road trips run more smoothly when every member of the family has a designated role. For instance, make it someone’s responsibility to ensure that everyone buckles their seatbelt before leaving a stop. As silly as this sounds, kids love being given responsibility and when they execute their task well, make sure to reward them.

By delegating small tasks to members of the family, you also help spread accountability which will help you get buy-in. It also helps relieve some of the tasks off your plate and can teach your kids how to become more responsible.

Find something for everyone

A great part of family road trips is the ability to see different areas of the country that you have always wanted to. However, it is important to remember that this is a family road trip and not a solo adventure. Therefore, it’s important to ask each member of the family what sites or activities they would like to see or do while on the trip.

This exercise will help you make sure that every traveler gets to see or experience something they want. This is also a great way to get your family to bond. Getting the whole family to participate in different activities based on what one family member loves or is passionate about will help the whole family build a stronger bond.

Family road trips are meant to be fun. At the end of the day, no matter how much planning you do it truly is about the experience. The five tips above are a great guideline for planning your family road trip, but it’s not a perfect list. In fact, what works for one family is not guaranteed to work for the next. However, by taking the first step by looking for ways to plan the perfect road trip, you’re on your way to a fun and exciting adventure with your family.

This post comes from the TODAY Parenting Team community, where all members are welcome to post and discuss parenting solutions. Learn more and join us! Because we're all in this together.