Whether you’re traveling to see relatives, to explore new places or to revisit old favorites, road trips are an important part of life for most families.
My family does several big road trips each year. We’ve always lived several hours’ drive from relatives, so five- to 12-hour drives have been part of every family reunion (and we really value getting together with our families). We also love to do a big, family road trip somewhere new and exciting for spring break each year.
I used to see road trips as a necessary evil. The packing was stressful, and I often ended up bringing too much of some things and too little of others. And the time in the car was exhausting as I tried to keep babies, toddlers and preschoolers happy with songs, games and snacks. I felt like I was keeping a three-ring circus going for hours on end, and sometimes, despite my best efforts, there was crying and bickering galore.
But as with so many things, “That which we persist in doing becomes easier, not that the task itself has become easier, but that our ability to perform it has improved” (Ralph Waldo Emerson). I’ve persisted. I’ve learned a lot about what to pack and how to pack it. I’ve learned about how to make car time not only bearable but actually quite wonderful. And the kids have gotten older, which has certainly made many things easier, but adds its own challenges as well. I’m pleased, and somewhat surprised, to be able to report that those once-dreaded car trips are now some of our favorite family experiences.
And because road trips became such good experiences, we decided to do a three-week road trip all the way across the United States last summer. After that big trip, I have to say we’re pretty much experts on road-tripping.
Of course, different things will work for different families, but here are some hard-won tips that work for my family and that might help make your road trips less stressful and more joyful:
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