You and your family want to spend a vacation together this summer yet you do not have a lot of money? Do not be worried, as there is always a classic getaway for you to rediscover any time: road trips.
Imagine the endless possibilities presented by all those roads stretching out in every direction from your home; scenic drives so beautiful they rekindle your love of the land; cute little towns and oddball road side attractions; missed exit ramps; spilled drinks on the cloth seats; cranky young’uns who just want to go home to their computer.
Is it possible to take the whole family on a car trip without tears or tantrums?
After many hundreds of road trips across this great land, I’d like to share with you some tips for increasing the fun and reducing the frazzle on family trips.
Tips for Better Road Trips
Keep it short and sweet. Make a list of destinations within 100 miles of home where your family has never been. Get the kids involved in whittling it down to their favorites and plan to tackle one or two every weekend. If you run out of ideas, pick up some brochures at the local tourist information center. Maybe you’ll discover there’s a river offering tubing adventures just a few towns over. Or a pioneer fort that lets visitors participate in “olden days” activities. Perhaps a scenic drive through a state park you’ve been meaning to show the kids for years. Family outings close to home can be fresh and fun if you experience them with your favorite people. The upside to these short jaunts is you won’t be stuck in the car together long enough to pick fights.
Leave the mobile media at home. Yes, this will spark World War III but if the kids drive you crazy with their video games and obsessive texting at home, imagine how annoying it will be in the back seat of the car. And if you haven’t been observing your kids lately, just check out the headlines:
“Tech Use Up In Kids, Parents Losing Ground”
“More Teens Obsessed with Texting”
“Kids Spend 8 Hours a Day on TV, Internet, Texting”
Yes, going cold turkey will cause withdrawal symptoms (pouting, whining, unconscious twitching of the thumbs). But as compensation…
Give them a low-tech challenge. Get a small digital voice recorder and turn the kids into reporters. Invite them to ask things about their parents and each other that your family has never talked about. Assign them a “story” to cover about each person during the drive. Spin some ancient family yarns that your parents told you. You’ll all learn something about each other and have a great souvenir to share with grandparents and friends back home.
Spark their creativity. Hold a photography contest on family trips. Create enough categories so everyone can be a winner. Categories like: Tackiest Roadside Attraction. Best Morning Bed Head. Ugliest Bug Splat on the Windshield. If your kids have to be rivals, the friendly rivalry of competition may help keep the peace.
Eat al fresco. Ah, the lingering smell of fried onions… it just seems to cling to car upholstery, doesn’t it? So why not drive past those drive-throughs and have picnics along the way. Pack a cooler and top it up at a local grocery store with enough fixings for a simple but yummy lunch. Even if you have to resort to fast food, take it somewhere nice, spread out a blanket, and pretend you’re the smiling all-American family in one of those postcards from the ’50s. Sure it’s sappy. But fun. Plus your gang will eat better and experience a quaint old tradition: having family meals together. And that may be one of the best memories you bring home from your family outings on the open road.