Family vacations not only provide much needed getaways and time together but can be a fun way to learn about a new place. After last year’s international escapade that involved a 14 hour plane trip to China and stops in Hong Kong and Japan, we decided to keep it more local and do a road trip to explore the wonders over the Bay Bridge on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. As someone who is very used to plane travel, I found our road trip to be a refreshing change and a chance to get to know an area just a few hours away.
Whether you’re planning one last summer trip during Labor Day weekend or have one in your future, here are 7 things to do to prepare for a family road trip.
Tip #1: Build background knowledge. Having some context about where you’re going and what you’re going to do while there is helpful for excited kids. Get out an atlas and show them where you live in relation to where you’re heading. Point out major roads you might be taking, things you might be stopping to see along the way, look at some photos of the area, and if possible, read some books about where you’re going to know what to expect. As you learn about where you’re going, you can also work together to develop a list of things that are musts on your vacation along with the wish list items that you hope to see or do while away.
Tip #2: Prep your vehicle. Since you want to be sure that your car is in the best condition possible to prevent any breakdowns or mishaps from occurring while you’re on the road, schedule an appointment with a vehicle professional to have them check your brakes, air conditioner, tire pressure, and windshield wiper blades. Also check your vehicle to ensure that you have jumper cables, flares, tools, a flashlight, and any other emergency supplies you may need in case you get into trouble on the road. While you’re on the road, a helpful tool like AudioVox’s Car Connection monitors driving habits and reports to provide fuel saving tips and also alerts you to what needs to be repaired under the hood before taking it to a mechanic, potentially saving you hundreds of dollars in diagnostic fees.
Tip #3: Secure your home. Before you leave the house, ensure that it looks like someone is home to discourage thieves. Arrange lawn care, connect interior lights to timers, leave exterior lights on, hold your mail and newspapers, and have a neighbor monitor your front door for any unexpected packages that may arrive. Additional tips for home security include:
- Hire an elementary-aged neighbor to check your front door daily. Not only does this teach responsibility, but the added incentive of a minimal amount of money per day provides great budgeting and money management skills.
- Turn your video baby monitor into a home security system. If your baby monitor publishes feeds you can access through a web client, you can keep an eye on your home too. The Samsung Wi-Fi Video Baby Monitor and Motorola’s MBP 36 Remote Wireless Video Baby Monitor can do double duty as home security systems when your family is away.
Tip #4: Download apps for your phone. Forget the guide books. These days everything you need to experience your destination like a local is on your phone. Here are three of my favorite apps that are free for iPhone and Android:
- Google Maps— Even if your vehicle has a navigation system, Google Maps can be incredibly helpful around town getting to know the local area especially if you’re walking or biking during your stay.
- Yelp— Eat like a local by finding favorite places with this easy to use app that not only uses crowdsourced ratings to find the best restaurants, coffee shops, shopping, delivery joints, drugstores, deals and more but allows you to bookmark places of interest as you’re browsing and then guides you to your location of choice.
- WeatherBug— Unexpected weather can put a damper on the day’s plans and WeatherBug’s hourly and 7 day forecast features lets you take a peek at the weather to plan accordingly.
Tip #5: Learn about where you’re staying. Whether staying with friends or relatives, renting a house or condo, or occupying a hotel room during your trip, it’s helpful to know where you’re staying and what kinds of things are at your destination to figure out what to bring. If you’re renting a house or a condo, get in touch with the property owner or rental management company to see what items will be provided to determine what things you should bring from home. While laundry machines, a dishwasher, and a stove may be provided, you may need to bring laundry detergent and dish soap. Hotels will furnish linens but rental properties may ask you to bring your own sheets and towels so be sure to ask what size the beds are to bring the right size sheets from home. If staying with friends and relatives, bring a gift as a thank you present or be sure to send something soon after you return home.
Tip #6: Bring along snacks and stay hydrated. Nothing brings on the crankies faster than low blood sugar or being too hot and thirsty. Here’s a list of things that we always love to take along with us on longer road trips:
- Durable fruits and vegetables like apples, oranges, and carrots along with kid-favorites like grapes, cucumbers, and strawberries packed in a cooler kept in the back seat provide necessary fruits and vegetables to snack on as kids get hungry between meals.
- Frozen water bottles. Filling reusable bottles halfway with water and freezing the night before provides ice cold water for the ride and keeps cooler contents colder.
- Healthy versions of favorites. We’re big fans of Walker’s Shortbread and their new Mini Crunchy Oatmeal Cookies are new favorite because they have the same shortbread taste we love but the bite sized cookies feature whole grain oats and are GMO and corn-syrup free. If bringing along snack items like Goldfish or chips, opt for multi-grain varieties for the car because we all know that anything goes once you reach your destination!
Tip #7: Pack favorite activities for the car. Besides DVDs and downloading new favorite songs from iTunes, have your kids help pack favorite items that will keep them occupied in the car. Crafts, books, auto bingo, journals, and card games are portable and quiet activities that can keep them busy en route and while there.
I was compensated for my participation in the State Farm Road Trip Safety project (#SFRoadTrip) and received a safety kit for our family’s road trip. Additional product samples were also received for testing purposes and affiliate links are included in this post but all opinions are my own and based on personal road trip experience.