Last summer, as part of our move from Boston to Australia, we drove across the midsection of the US of A with the whole fam-damily. Crazy. Fun. Lengthy! That's a whole lot of together time. We researched routes and sights, routed ourselves through friends' and family members' hometowns as much as we could, and generally tried to spruce up our necessary, long trek into an adventure. It was a lonnnng ride with some bumps and squabbles along the way but we already catch ourselves reminiscing about it with fondness. Here are a few survival tips we gleaned for taking a road trip (long or short) with big kids and teens:
Include everyone in the planning. We started with a long wishlist of places to see, which included things like the Wizard of Oz museum, Laura Ingalls's house, the St. Louis arch, Graceland, Mt. Rushmore. Obviously we couldn't do it all but we started with everything on the table. Sam found a couple of good planning websites to try different route options and check to see if we were missing anything cool. We used Roadtrippers, which was good. (And here's a good Lifehacker post about apps and tools for making the most of roadtrips.) Then we mapped out a reasonable drive time (between 6 and 11 hours each day) and planned stops and made reservations but kept it pretty flexible.
Make a mega playlist. I decided to crowdsource it and asked friends on Facebook and my personal blog to make suggestions. They came through brilliantly with a bounty of 167 favorite traveling songs from 72 people, representing the best of many decades and musical genres. I can honestly say we all (ages 13-45 at the time) enjoyed them. Feel free to use our playlist on Spotify or make one of your own tailored to your own greatest hits. I also wrote down who made each song suggestion, which led to some really great storytelling sessions as an added bonus.
Pack a distraction box. Our kids were 18, 16, and 13 but that didn't mean they were too old for distractions along the way. Ours included a couple of balls and a frisbee to throw around at rest stops, some sudoku and logic puzzles, some audiobooks, books to read out loud, snacks, games. Bring an atlas, too, to trace the trip. Honestly, though, we ended up talking and listening to music and audiobooks for most of the trip.
Flexipositivity is our family's travel motto, a mashup of flexible + positive. It's a made-up word that draws eye rolls (and I'm sure it will be lampooned by our kids forever more) but it conveys what we hope will be the overall feel whenever we travel. Things will happen and the only thing we have control over is our response. No sense ruining the day over it. For instance, I lit my hair on fire in Kansas. Flexipositivity! Greg, who had been in Australia for a few months working in advance of our move, pulled onto the wrong side of the road. Flexipositivity time. Speeding ticket? Rained out? Have to take a turn sleeping on the floor? Flexipositivity, activate. (See? Now you're rolling your eyes, too.)
Embrace the wacky and the wonderful. World's Biggest Easel in Goodland, Kansas right next to the freeway? Yes, please. Ditto roadside dinosaur, stuffed penguins at Little America, and other oddities. Breaking up the trip with a little wackiness upped the adventure factor for us all. Build in a little time to be able to swerve off course and take a spontaneous stop now and then.
Take two cars. Ha! Just kidding, kind of. Last summer we needed to get two cars across the country and it was a fabulous--though admittedly spendy and un-green--way to go. I kid you not: For a lot of the journey, we had a kids' car and a parents' car. They could answer their own darn are-we-there-yet questions, right? It was practically a second honeymoon. As a more realistic alternative, shake things up by rotating seating throughout the trip.
- Along the Way looks like a cool road trip app, though I haven't tried it. Have you?
- I ordered this Journey Journal from Cracked Designs to jot some of our road trip memories. I also LOVE this one if you'd rather make your own trip scrapbook on the road.
Happy trails and safe journeys! What are your favorite trip tips?