Taking A Family Road Trip That Won't Make You Crazy

Jun 13 2014, 11:00am CDT | by

While America was originally traversed via stagecoach, covered wagon and on horseback, the advent of the automobile made the hallowed tradition of the recreational road trip a reality. Henry Ford’s Model T began rolling off the assembly line in 1913, and Americans never looked back. Whether headed to the lake for a picnic or to another city to visit relatives or see the sights, we’ve indulged our inner explorers ever since.

Anyone else old enough to remember playing “Auto Bingo” and/or counting down the mile markers on the Interstate to the next Stuckey’s (and their famous Pecan Log Roll) while packed into the back of Dad’s spacious 1960’s-era domestic sedan or station wagon?

Okay, so  maybe most families are now traversing the nation in SUVs, with the kids busying themselves with a Nintendo DS or an iPad, but the concept remains the same and it’s just as popular – not to mention stressful – as it ever was. A recent survey conducted by tire maker Bridgestone Americas determined that (of 2,000 adults queried) 83 percent of them would be taking the family on at least one getaway by car this year.

Not only is it usually cheaper for a family to drive to most domestic destinations rather than fly – even with gas prices again flirting with the $4.00/gallon mark – 58 percent of respondents said they choose to take the car because it gives them added travel flexibility. One might encounter traffic jams and tollbooths along the way, but there’s little worry about getting to the airport in enough time to get through security, having a flight canceled or losing one’s luggage.

“Our research confirms flexibility is king – it allows summer travelers to stay in control of their busy lives, even when they’re on vacation,” says Erik Seidel, vice president of branding for Bridgestone Americas. “In the land of Route 66, the Ventura Highway and Florida’s scenic route US 1, we know consumers enjoy the experience only car travel can provide, and we expect this trend to continue.”

Now some families may be comfortable with jumping into a car and hitting the road with little more than a destination in mind, but this is not typically the most prudent way to go. Taking a family road trip not only means having one’s sanity tested by being confined in a car with bored children trapped in the back seat for extended periods, there’s always the possibility of becoming lost or – worse – stranded at the side of the road with a flat tire or other mechanical malady, so it pays to be prepared before hitting the highway.

To that end, here are our top tips to keep the kids happy, parents sane and to ensure the next family road trip will prove to be memorable – and this time for all the right reasons. They’re culled from multiple sources including Consumer Reports, the AAA and our own experiences as the long-suffering family chauffeur:

  • For starters, get the whole family involved in planning the trip – especially the kids – so everyone has a say in the itinerary and they know what to expect.
  • Reserve all lodging accommodations in advance.
  • Plot a course ahead of time and bring along both a GPS or smartphone and a printed map to help stay the course. Try to drive during off-peak hours to avoid traffic or other delays, and don’t be afraid to leave the Interstate and explore some hidden treasures in smaller towns and along secondary routes. In the words of Yogi Berra, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
  • Estimate your travel times and don’t try to drive too far in too short a period, which can both be dangerous and have the potential to turn fellow travelers into raging psychopaths. Plan where to make fuel stops in advance, and don’t let your vehicle’s fuel level get below one-quarter of a tank to avoid inadvertently running out.
  • Get the family car checked out by a trusted mechanic before leaving home to ensure it’s up to the task. At the least have fluids changed or topped off, check the charge on the battery and have the tires checked to ensure they have sufficient tread to make the trip and are properly inflated for the sake of both safety and fuel economy – under-inflated tires can lower gas mileage by 0.3% for every 1 psi drop in pressure according to the Department of Energy.
  • Set aside sufficient time to pack your clothes, load your vehicle and get a full night’s sleep so you can start your trip refreshed.
  • Pack appropriately. Secure luggage in the trunk and keep toys and other objects in the passenger compartment to a minimum – these could become dangerous projectiles in a crash. Bring along a pillow or two so passengers can sleep.
  • Keep an emergency kit in the trunk that includes a flashlight and extra batteries, a portable radio, jumper cables, leather gloves, roadside flares or reflective warning triangles, duct tape, a roll of paper towels, can of “Fix-a-Flat” tire sealant, a rudimentary first aid kit, sunscreen and so on.
  • Don’t forget the necessities. Though it may be possible to stop along the way to replenish your stock, pack enough drinks and snacks to cover both travel time and for any delays that might incur. Don’t forget to bring any applicable prescription or over-the-counter medications, and be sure to carry garbage bags, paper towels, tissues, an extra roll of toilet paper, baby wipes, etc.
  • Pack the kids appropriately. Buckle all children ages 12 and under in the back seat. Make sure child safety seats for smaller kids are both properly installed and are age and weight appropriate. Have kids’ seats inspected before departing to make sure they’re safe; find a location near you at seatcheck.org or www.nhtsa.dot.gov.
  • Keep the kids busy. This can be just as much a challenge with toddlers as teenagers. Tablet or laptop computers, portable DVD players and portable board games can be invaluable here, though perhaps this would be a good time to introduce the family to good old fashioned low-tech options like playing I-Spy or 20 questions that might help actually create civil interaction among family members. Anyone up for singing a few verses of “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall?”
  • Check smartphones and in-car navigation systems for information on restaurants and places of interest at which to stop along the way. Also use Web-based services to check for the lowest gas prices and to check weather and traffic conditions along the way.
  • Play a strong “zone defense” while en route, by having the front passenger manage both the kids and the cell phone to minimize both the driver’s mental wear and tear and what could be potentially hazardous (“don’t make me come back there…”) distractions.
  • Don’t be in too much of a hurry. Stop every two hours for a bathroom break and to stretch your legs. Have lunch or snacks at a park or highway rest area to let the kids run off some steam. The AAA suggests road trippers plan on taking a rest stop every two hours or 100 miles.
  • Brush up on the law. Traffic laws vary by state, so read up on local traffic rules, especially those regarding right turns on a red light and speed limits.
  • Lock the vehicle when parked and keep all valuables out of sight.

Unfortunately, while following these tips will go a long way toward making any road trip more pleasant, the aforementioned Bridgestone travel survey determined that even the most thoughtful preparations may not be enough to ensure that one’s children are contented over the long haul. Nearly three-quarters of parents who take a summer road trip with their kids say it’s nearly impossible to drive for an extended period without hearing either, “I have to go to the bathroom” (74 percent), “I’m hungry” (73 percent) or “Are we there yet” (72 percent) coming from the back seat.

Follow us on Forbes.com, FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

 
 

Don't miss ...

 

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/30" rel="author">Forbes</a>
Forbes is among the most trusted resources for the world's business and investment leaders, providing them the uncompromising commentary, concise analysis, relevant tools and real-time reporting they need to succeed at work, profit from investing and have fun with the rewards of winning.

 

blog comments powered by Disqus

Latest stories

IPad Air Giveaway 2014 is Online
IPad Air Giveaway 2014 is Online
Our sister site I4U News is giving away a brand new iPad Air or if you can wait an iPad Air 2. This is an $499 value.
 
 
Your Parent Or Kid Moved In: Are You Covered?
A record 57 million Americans now live in multigenerational family households — double the number in 1980, according to a new Pew Research Center study. And I bet many of them have the wrong homeowner’s or renters...
 
 
Pandora Looks to Challenge Terrestrial Radio's Dominance in Cars
Pandora Media is one of the largest Internet radio providers in the U.S. with more than 75 million active users. While the company’s active user count has increased at a robust pace historically, it is likely to slow...
 
 
Are General Manager Salaries About To Skyrocket? Will There Be A Front Office Salary Cap?
Are General Manager Salaries About To Skyrocket? Will There Be A Front Office Salary Cap?
It’s January 2026. New York Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner gets out of his driverless car and triumphantly marches before the gathered press to introduce his prized new free agent. It’s a record-breaking contract—over...
 
 
 

Latest from the Network

Pistorius prosecutors to appeal verdict, sentence
Johannesburg, Oct 28 (IANS/EFE) South African prosecutors involved in the Oscar Pistorius case will appeal the verdict and sentence on the double-amputee Olympic athlete's manslaughter conviction, which resulted in a...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Racers from 24 nations to compete in Mexico's Baja 1000
Mexico City, Oct 28 (IANS) The 2014 Baja 1000 off-road race through Mexico's Baja California Peninsula will feature competitors from 24 countries, organisers said. The competition, now in its 47th edition, will take...
Read more on Sport Balla
 
Pakistanis protest India's 'occupation' in Kashmir
Islamabad, Oct 28 (IANS) Pakistanis across the world held demonstrations to mark the anniversary of what they termed as India's invasion and occupation of Kashmir Oct 27, 1947, media reported Tuesday. The Pakistani...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
New Zealand, US to hold joint military exercise
Wellington, Oct 28 (IANS) New Zealand and the US will conduct a month-long joint military exercise next month to test their deployment agility. The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) Tuesday said that its army and air...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Pakistan prepares to cope with cyclone
Islamabad, Oct 28 (IANS) Pakistan is gearing up to cope with a cyclone headed its way. National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has been asked to take necessary measures to meet the challenge posed by cyclone...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Future-focused women fight climate change better
Washington, Oct 28 (IANS) Future-oriented women are more likely to take concrete steps to reduce global warming, says a study. "They are more politically liberal and liberals are more likely to value the environment...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Infants know what your eyes tell
New York, Oct 28 (IANS) The ability to respond to eye cues develops during infancy - at seven or so months, finds research. "Our study provides developmental evidence for the notion that humans possess specific brain...
Read more on Business Balla
 
US concerned over Israeli decision on new homes
Washington, Oct 28 (IANS) The US is "deeply concerned" by reports that Israel would build more settler homes in east Jerusalem, the state department has said. "Israel's leaders have said they would support a pathway...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Malaysian diplomat on sex attack charge granted bail
Wellington, Oct 28 (IANS) A Malaysian diplomat accused of a sex attack on a young woman here in May was granted bail on his second appearance since his extradition in the Wellington District Court Tuesday. Former...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
NASA tool to identify drought-resilient plants
Washington, Oct 28 (IANS) The US space agency is developing a new space-based instrument to study how plants react to heat and water stress and identify drought-resilient plants. The instrument called the ECOsystem...
Read more on Business Balla