Every family has been there: trapped in a car with screaming kids, miles of traffic, and the needle edging dangerously close to “empty”.  Road trips can either provide an adventurous burst of freedom that allows you to see parts of the country you’ve never beheld, or they can make for a torturous test of your sanity.  It all depends on how you plan and the choices you make.  So before you opt to strap your family in the car and set off down the road to nowhere, here are a few things you might want to consider.

DO:

  1. Make a plan – but keep it flexible.  You need to have a rough idea of where you’re going and the progress you’ll make each day.  But beyond that, keep it loose.  When traveling with kids there are bound to be delays, so make sure you keep that in mind when you set the schedule.
  2. Travel during the summer.  There’s no better time to hit the road than when the sun is bright and the birds are singing.  So get out there and enjoy the balmy weather while you can – this is also a great reason to load up the camping gear and save on the cost of hotels.
  3. Provide snacks and entertainment for kids.  There’s nothing worse than hearing “I’m hungry!” and “Are we there yet?” every five minutes.  So bring along plenty of snacks and a variety of games (board games like Battleship, mind games like Mad Libs, and portable video games like those for the Nintendo DS).  You’ll keep the kids happy and entertained and create a peaceful environment for you and your spouse to interact.
  4. Pack appropriate clothing.  If you’re heading to an area where the weather fluctuates frequently, be sure to pack appropriately (rain gear and so on).  But if you’re on your way to the beaches of southern California, you probably don’t need much more than a swimsuit and flip flops.
  5. Bring a GPS.  This modern tech gadget will not only get you where you’re going (with a charming female voice); it will also show gas stations, rest stops, hotels, and eateries along the way.  In short, it provides a lot of added value over the old-school map.

DON’T:

  1. Schedule down to the last minute.  This is always a recipe for disaster since delays are bound to pop up.  By keeping the schedule loose (more like a guideline than a rule), you’ll have time for both unexpected catastrophes (a kid with a fever) and fun departures from your course (World’s Largest Ball of String, here we come!).
  2. Travel during peak dates.  It’s great to get out on the road when the weather is fantastic, but if you decide to do it on 4th of July weekend, you’re going to hit nothing but headaches (read: traffic).  Instead, opt for off-days that won’t present problems; you’re bound to have a better time (and waste less on the road).
  3. Bring sugary snacks.  Unless you want your kids bouncing off the walls and professing tummy aches, skip the sugary sodas and preservative-laden snacks.  By giving them crunchy fruits and veggies, all-natural granola bars, and juice boxes, you’ll keep them satisfied without sending them into the atmosphere.
  4. Pack for every climate.  You’re going to have limited space in the car and it’s better to let the kids stretch their legs than fill every available nook with clothing for weather conditions that are unlikely to occur.  If the weather is warm, plan for that temperature.  If it ends up getting chilly you can always buy a sweatshirt.
  5. Rely on one method of mapping.  Just in case your GPS craps out, be sure to have a paper map on hand.  It may seem redundant, but you’ll be glad you have it when your GPS is on the fritz in the middle of the desert.

Jennifer Kardish writes for Trucker to Trucker where you can find box trucks, a section called sell my truck, and browse through classifieds to find a dealer near you.

Image source:  suitetrip.com

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