Man standing on giant rock structure

FAMILY-FRIENDLY
ROAD TRIP TIPS

Written By Michelle Gigger

September 1, 2019

5 Tips for Stress-Free Fun

Planning a family-friendly road trip is exciting and fun. Imagining the places you’ll see, the beautiful photos you’ll take, and daydreaming about the precious family memories you’ll create are all part of mapping out the dream. But actually going on that road trip? It can be stressful to pack up the whole family and hit the road. Here are our top tips for a stress-free family road trip:

1. Do your research

A recipe for a successful adventure with young children is definitely different from the college road trip you took with your best friends. Back then, your gear might have been a borrowed tent and a few blankets, but no map, plans, or cooked food. Preparing for a trip with kids takes time, but it sure pays off. Research free campsites, book accommodations if needed, and plan out your driving route keeping in mind hikes, swimming holes, and parks to help tired kids stretch their legs. Thinking ahead saves time, stress, and money every time.

2. Include the whole family in the planning

Kid standing next to a tent in the desert
Including all road-trippers can help ensure a great experience for everyone. @hikingwithnoah

Parents usually take on the lion’s share of the decision- making when it comes to vacationing. Including all road-trippers can help ensure a great experience for everyone! Even a four-year-old can be encouraged to think about what he/she would like to see, do, eat, or listen to while you drive. This will likely mean stopping for things like dinosaur attractions, listening to kid-friendly podcasts, digging in the dirt, or finding a junior ranger program, so be patient! Involving kids in the planning process gives them something to look forward to. Come up with simple ways to get buy-in such as choosing snacks or creating a playlist so even finicky family members can be happy when road-weariness sets in.

3. Pack the essentials

If your preferred stops on a road trip include hikes, water play, or hanging in the hammock, make sure the things you need are easily accessible. Think sun hats, water shoes, snacks, and a picnic basket. Consider packing sketchbooks and crayons, magnetic blocks, books, and treats to keep busybodies happy between stops. Essentials don’t have to come highly recommended by online reviews or other trends. Just ask yourself what’s important to your family and go from there.

man sleeping in a hammock in the woods
Make sure the things you need are easily accessible. @hikingwithnoah

4. Take advantage of local community resources

Pit stops on the way to your destination can be creative and fun – not just the usual gas stations and rest stops. Libraries, community pools, and parks are great options for family-friendly fun. Take time to slow down and get to know towns along the way! You’ll boost morale, revive hot and tired spirits, and clue you into community events and unexpected treasures. Pausing for a break can be a win for everyone.

kid writing down information from a park ranger
Pit stops on the way to your destination can be creative and fun. @hikingwithnoah

5. Don’t overschedule and remember to HAVE FUN!

Vacations that are overfilled with activities can be exhausting. Remember to allow for spontaneity and lots of downtime. It’s okay to just unwind and have fun. If getting to your destination feels stressful, remember to take time to stop and enjoy the scenery. Be curious. Breathe, stretch your legs, and appreciate being right where you are. Enjoy just hanging out without focusing on a packed itinerary. Allow your stress and anxiety to melt away, and have some fun! And, as always, don’t forget your hat.

woman and child walking in front of dinosaur statues
Remember to allow for spontaneity and lots of downtime. @hikingwithnoah