There isn't quite anything like a road trip. It offers a sense of freedom and level of adventure that taking a plane or a train doesn't offer. Where a person goes and how they get there is up to them. The trip is just them and the open road, the wind blowing past them as their speeds on by. In 2015, 39% of people in the United States took road trips, as reported by MMGY's Global report. It's more affordable to travel by car, and with the growth of roadside hotels and the influence of social media, the road seems to be the growing preferred way to spend a vacation.
But what if someone has kids?
In the United States, packing the family up for a road trip almost seems like a national past time. There are tons of road trip ideas, tips, and trips for families that want to travel on the open road together. It can be an enjoyable vacation, full of fun and warm memories that will be cherished for a lifetime. Or... it can be a nightmare. We've all seen movies like Are We There Yet? and National Lampoon's Vacations where a family road trip spirals into (admittedly hilarious) disaster. It has kind of given vacations with kids a stigma that makes quite a few parents consider booking the family plane tickets instead of driving.
There are tons of lists of things to do to make a road trip with kids as easy and as fun as possible. Here is a list of 25 things parents should 100% avoid on a road trip with kids.
25 Not Checking The Weather Forecast
Expecting a clear and sunny day of travel and getting a grey and rainy one can really dampen a mood, especially if a person isn't prepared for it. No parent wants to leave the house with their kids prepared for hot weather and then end up cold or wet.
Checking the weather forecast is always a good idea.
And even the best meteorologist isn't right 100% of the time. So packing an umbrella or clothing to better suit the weather wouldn't hurt either.
24 Expecting The Kids To Be On Their Best Behavior
Kids are people too. Sometimes they have off days and being stuck in a car for hours, or even days, can make even the most well-behaved kids cranky. Sometimes when parents get stressed out on trips they raise the expectations they have for their kids and if the kid fails to meet them they get in trouble.
Just like big people, the little guys get tired, and grumpy.
Now, it is important to not let them run wild, but having patience and taking time to let kids vent or talking to them when they seem upset can help with behavior.
23 Not Dressing The Kids Comfortably
Everyone wants to look their best, especially when they're on vacation to a new place. Especially in the summer months, when floral dresses and khaki shorts seem to be the uniform for vacationers. But it might be best to put comfort over "cute" for road trips. Messes and accidents aren't as much of a big deal if it isn't a kid's "Sunday's best". Loose fitting clothing made of breathable materials like cotton are good choices. A comfortable pair of shoes is also recommended.
22 Not Keeping The Inside Of The Car Clean
It is inevitable that the car is going to get a little messy while the family is on the road, especially with kids. And that messiness might be one of the factors that leads to a less than fun family road trip.
According to HuffPost, research shows that clutter raises levels of cortisol, which is the stress hormone.
And stress will quickly ruin any fun and dampen the whole mood of the trip. So taking the time to stop and tidy up the inside of the car will help reduce stress and keep the good times rolling.
21 Not Bringing Pillows And Blankets
Even with plans to stay in a hotel, it never hurts to bring along some pillows and blankets. For most people being on the road for a long time really makes them miss some of the most basic comforts of home. Bringing along a simple blanket and pillow is an easy way to travel with some of that comfort. It is also helpful to get kids to sleep in the car too. A car full of napping kids is a golden opportunity for a little peace and quiet for any parent.
20 Not Packing Extra Clothes
Most parents know that kids, especially younger ones, seem to be magnets for all sorts of spills and messes. There isn't a meal time, or play time where a kid won't spill something on their shirt or spill something on another kid. And sometimes there are little... accidents, let's call them. Most kids dislike being dirty as much as most adults, so keeping a change of clothes handy and accessible in the car can keep the little accidents from turning into big ones.
19 Planning The Whole Trip Around One Person
Not everyone is going to want to do the same thing. Planning a road trip around what a seven-year-old would like won't necessarily work for a seventeen year old and vice versa.
Everyone needs something that they will enjoy and that will keep their interest.
Taking the time to plan activities that everyone in the family will enjoy or giving the kids their own separate time to do what they like will help keep the trip from being a boring memory.
18 Not Bringing An Emergency Kit
It would be nice if things always went smoothly and if every well thought out plan went off without a hitch, though that isn't always the case. But an emergency kit in the car can help out a great deal.
It's recommended that every driver have one in general, but it is even more handy to have one made and ready while on a road trip.
According to the Allstate Blog, who also has a helpful video on what to include in a kit, it is best to store the supplies for the emergency kit in a sturdy sealed bag or plastic bin.
17 Not Booking A Big Enough Room
It might be cheaper to get a smaller room that can be shared among the family, but after being stuck in the limited space of a car, does anyone really want to be stuck in a small room together? Both kids and parents need a little space, and if getting separate rooms is out of the question, considering renting a suite. Most come with two rooms with separate bathrooms and a larger living area where everyone can come together. Most hotels even have suites aimed at families, with themed rooms for kids.
16 Not Bringing Stuff For Car Sickness
Car sickness happens when the motion sensed in the inner ear is different from the one the eyes visualise. It is a common problem for most people and can make riding in the car really unpleasant.
The lingering smell alone would be enough to make sure you packed the Gravol.
According to Parents.com, it can "affect up to half of kids and can start up at any age". So even if a kid hasn't shown any signs of getting car sick for years, it can happen and no parent wants to deal with the repercussions of a sick kid in the car.
15 Not Packing Wisely
Overpack or under packing can lead to a lot of stress during road trips. Take the time to plan out what is needed and what isn't needed for a road trip. And when it comes time to load everything in the car, pack strategically! Put the cooler and anything else that will get used during the car ride in a spot that is convenient to get to. Having to stop, park and go to the back of the car to dig around for stuff is a waste of time.
14 Not Taking Enough Pit Stops
Not making sure that the family gets enough time and opportunities to use the bathroom or even stretch out their legs is one thing that will send a family road trip spiralling towards disaster.
Being stuck in one place for long periods of time will even make the most well-behaved kid a little Tasmanian Devil.
So even if it adds another ten minutes onto your road time, take the opportunity for a pit stop as often as possible. A little fresh air and change of scenery every few hundred miles won't hurt.
13 Not Packing Any Food In The Car
Eating out is fun and can be pretty exciting on a road trip, but don't make fast food places and restaurants the only options the kids have to eat. Sometimes there won't be something close enough or open to swing by and grab a few burgers. And bad traffic can leave a family sitting in a car for hours, which is bad enough, but imagine sitting in a car and being hungry, oh and, having kids.
Packing a cooler with meals, drinks, and snacks is the way to go.
Healthy snacks like fruit and nuts are great too. And avoid food that has to be eaten with a fork or a spoon.
12 Not Renting A Car
At first, it might seem cheaper to forgo renting and take the family car for a road trip. But, depending on the nature of the trip taking the car could cost a driver even more money down the road! Long road trips could lead to wear and tear, and future car repairs.
The beauty of renting a car is that once the trip is over, the car is someone else's problem!
Consumer Reports suggests it's best to plan ahead and do research on what works best and for prices on rentals, they even have a few tricks and tips for car renting.
11 Not Allowing For Detours
Planning ahead and having an itinerary is a good thing. And it certainly does make a road trip easier, but one of the mistakes parents make when traveling with children is not leaving a little wiggle room for changes or detours.
Things happen that we never could have prepared for, especially with kids around.
Maybe the kids want to stop at a souvenir shop they spotted on the side of the road? Or maybe there's a tourist attraction that caught their eye? If it isn't a major upset to the schedule, taking the time for a few detours will make the family happy, and create fond memories.
10 Not Packing Extra Chargers
Everyone from baby to grandma has some type of electronic or battery operated device. And assuming that one car charger is going to cut it on a long road trip isn't a risk most parents should take. Packing some extra ones and some extra packs of batteries for the car can prevent the dread that comes from seeing the low power warning in the corner of an electronic device. It wouldn't hurt to buy a portable charger or a power pack before the trip either.
9 Not Having Any Change For A Vending Machine
Making a budget for eating out and packing food and snacks in the car is great, and could really help cut down on food costs. But does that eliminate the need to stop at vending machines, probably not.
Most rest stops have a vending machine or two and most parents know that kids are drawn to vending machines like moths to a flame.
Sometimes it is more for the novelty of getting to use one than a kid being hungry or thirsty. So it pays off, in the end, having some change and singles ready for the inevitable "Hey can I get that?"
8 Not Bringing A Map
Technology is pretty awesome, we literally have devices with the same abilities as a computer that can conveniently fit in our hands. And a good GPS is always a must for any road trip. But sometimes phones and a GPS don't always work, especially if the area being traveled has little to no signal.
When all else fails, a paper map can help you out of a serious bind.
And sometimes the route given isn't even the best route to take. So bringing along a map or a travel guide, when the tech fails you, isn't a bad idea.
7 Not Being Patient
Rushing through things can lead to stress and mistakes. And those are two things no parent wants on a family road trip. If things are running a little behind schedule try not to rush to make up time.
Taking a little extra time to make sure everything is packed or that everyone is ready to go decreases the likelihood of things getting misplaced.
And no one wants to feel rushed, especially kids. Vacations are meant to be relaxing, so take it easy!
6 Packing Only One Form Of Entertainment
Another big mistake parents tend to make on road trips is packing only one thing for their kids to do. Even bringing enough movies to last the whole trip doesn't mean a kid will watch movies the entire trip. The same goes for electronic devices and books.
No one wants to be stuck with only one thing to do, that gets boring.
Bringing an assortment of entertainment is a good way to keep the kids happy and to prevent the dreaded "Are we there yet?", question.
5 Ignoring The Kids
Some parents think that sticking their kids with a tablet, or offering them some other distraction is a good thing. But it is still important to talk and spend time with the kids, even on a road trip. According to Parenting NI there are a lot of benefits when parents spend time with their kids.
It builds self-esteem, strengths family ties and even encourages more positive behaviors.
Plus, ignoring the kids leads to missing out on potential fond memories and bonding moments.
4 Leaving The Kids Out Of The Planning Process
A lot of road trips are remembered as being boring trips from childhood because the whole trip was often planned by parents for parents, and kids were often just "along for the ride". It's a good idea to let kids be a part of the planning process for any family trip. They don't have to plan the whole trip but letting them pick something they want to do, or even something as simple as letting them pick a place to eat will make them feel more included. This will lead to an overall more enjoyable time for everyone.
3 Not Getting Good Sleep Before The Trip
One of the first things that anyone can do to start off their road trip right is making sure everyone gets plenty of rest the night before they hit the road. Sleep does the body good, and not getting enough of it is already preventing its peak optimal performance.
Mattress Advisor did a survey of 1000 travellers, and on average they found that people lose about 3 hours of sleep during a week of traveling.
So turn in early to get a great head start!
2 Not Double Checking Car Seats
An important part of car safety is making sure that everyone is buckled in safely before the car even starts to move. That goes double for kids, and there are laws in the United States that require car seats and boosters for kids under certain weights and ages. No parent wants to endanger the life of their child, and taking a little extra time to make sure everyone is buckled in and secured is barely even a sacrifice when it comes to safety.
1 Not Keeping A Positive Outlook
We conclude this list with one of the biggest and simplest mistakes that parents can make while on the road with their kids: not keeping a positive outlook. There is a bit of a stigma on road trips with kids, which ironically makes road trips with kids harder! Parents might find that keeping a positive mindset will help with stress and make things more enjoyable for everyone.
Road trips are meant to be fun, and they can be with the right kind of attitude and action.