The road trip is one of the best parts of summer! It’s a milestone for every college student, young family or retired couple. All have different motivations but the same goal: have a blast and make outstanding memories visiting a place that’s more than a day trip away.
As exciting as a road trip is, there are certain to be some hiccups along the way, which can help make a trip memorable—one hopes in a positive way.. However, since you’ll be spending so much time with your passengers in the car, its best to do everything you can to be clean and organized in that tight space so that road rage doesn’t show itself within that metal frame.
Prepare for the Road
Before you start loading the car, you should probably clean it out. For a road trip you’re going to need all the extra space you can get. A few days before you trip, set aside some time to pull everything out of the car and maybe even vacuum or dust it, as that may encourage everyone to keep it clean on the road too.
If you have a larger vehicle, like a minivan or SUV, grab some small trash cans or sandpails at the local dollar store and secure them to the floor with velcro in locations that are handy but that don’t get in the way of loading and unloading. If there isn’t room for a trash can, stick a grocery store plastic bag under each seat, or a roll of small trash bags in a door cubby for quick clean up at each rest stop on the trip. It’s also nice to have disinfecting wipes on hand for unexpected messes.
Of course, before you go anywhere, you’ll have to put the luggage in the vehicle. For starters, to maximize space, the Frommer’s website recommends using duffle bags instead of structured suitcases.
“If you plan to stop at a hotel along the way, pack an overnight bag with only the items you’ll need to use that night, including a change of clothes, pajamas, toiletries, and medications,” says Frommer’s author Kara Murphy. “Pack the rest of your items—the things that you only plan to use at your final destination—in a separate duffel or weekender bag. Spread your family’s things out over a few different bags. These should go in the back of the trunk to save room up front for the items that you will use en route.”
Entertaining the Kids
If you’re traveling with children, a road trip can be a little intimidating. “Even if your vehicle features the latest in onboard entertainment technology, playing a road trip game can be a fun way for you to tune in with your kids during your journey, instead of having them tune out on a movie or a video game,” says Warren Clarke of Edmunds.com.
The Cozi website provides a list that offers several ideas on How to Entertain Kids in the Car. “Let the kids choose a few things they want to bring,” says Linda Kramer of Travels with Children. “Each of our children has his own ‘suitcase’—a laptop-sized bag—that he can fill with whatever toys he wants to bring on the trip.”
While activities for a road trip with kids vary depending on age, one inexpensive trick that works for all ages is the “surprise bag” system. Buy a stack of brown paper bags and then make a dollar store run. Pick up inexpensive but fun little toys and activities that fit each child’s personality and age. Then put one activity in each bag and label them with your kids’ names (make sure you have the same number of bags for each kid or there might be a mutiny).
Store your “surprise bags” in a tote or small duffle bag you’ll have easy access to in the car. At designated times during the drive, let each child pick one of their bags for a fun little surprise that will occupy some time. This is also a great way to ease tension and boredom on the road!
Entertaining the Adults
Of course, the grown-ups don’t want to be singing “The Wheels on the Bus” for hours…and hours. And even if you’re not traveling with kids, you have to find ways to cure your own boredom on a long drive. Even some kid games can be fun with a bunch of adults, such I Spy, Where’s the Alphabet? or any of the others on this list of Top 10 Road Trip Games (all of which can be adapted at your leisure to make them more interesting) provided by Edmunds.com. And they don’t require any extra space in the car! Or, grab a Mad Libs book, burn a CD of classic rock hits from your childhood or jot down some questions that will spur interesting discussions. You’ll have so much fun that the trip will just zoom by.