These family road trip tips include practical tips as well as communication and mindset tips that will prevent fighting and help everyone in the family feel heard and get along.
Our family has taken road trips all over the world. We’ve lived in our RV full time for 8 years and have taken our RV on road trips to Alaska, Florida, and almost everywhere in between. We also do car camping road trips to our favorite outdoor adventure destinations like Colorado, Hawaii, and California. We’ve even taken road trips through New Zealand, Bali, and a dozen countries in Europe.
We would never be able to cover so many miles (in way too small of cars often) if everyone bickered all the time.
I had to come up with strategies, intentions, and rules that would make it so that we could all be happy and treat each other with respect.
Here are the 14 family road trip tips that we use to create harmony and happiness while we travel.
1. Clear Expectations Are The Secret to Success
A road trip is a perfect time to not only explore the world, but to also explore your own self.
But don’t assume everyone else in your family is going to fall in love with road trips just because you do. Yes, we all need a dose of adventure in our lives, but adventure can also be a code word for hardship, uncomfortableness, and confronting fears.
I’m constantly asking my kids, “What is your expectation?” Whether that is for school work, sports, or just life in general, I find it is the defining factor in our family dynamics being harmonious or agitated.
As parents, we have a lot of pressure and responsibility and sometimes we accidentally project our expectations onto our kids or make the assumption of what others expect.
The best thing a family can do before a road trip is to sit down and talk about what they expect from themselves, from each other, and mostly from the experience itself.
2. Be Proactive
Road trips are huge bonding opportunities when done right and aligning your family’s desires with your values will make travel go much smoother.
Get everyone’s opinions on what they want to see and do and make sure to connect it back to the real reason you are investing time and energy in this trip. It’s very likely that you are hoping to create a lot of wonderful experiences and memories and while it’s easy to give in to cries for ice cream and burgers when everyone is tired and hungry, it’s better to have a plan ahead of time for these types of treats.
Be proactive and everyone will be happier.
3. Be Reasonable, But Invite Some Challenge
But remember to be reasonable with your expectations. You can’t expect your kids to sit still for hours on end, just like you can’t expect them to hike up a steep mountain for 8 miles.
However, you can encourage them to adapt to new experiences like staring out a window taking in the scenery, or hike a bit farther than they have in the past.
Set up your expectations to challenge them a little bit at a time and you’ll be amazed over the long run by how much they learn and grow.
And this goes for you too. Go ahead and push yourself a bit on the road to try new things, just don’t expect to be perfect on your first (or 100th) go around.
4. Spark Curiosity
“People don’t take trips, trips take people.” -John Steinbeck
I think road trips change you. You experience new roads, new people, new environments, so naturally, your perspective begins to change. Your awareness expands. Your tolerance increases. Your experiences become richer.
And there is a good chance the same things could be happening for your kids.
Those long stretches of road with nothing in sight are good opportunities to ask your kids deeper questions about what they think, how they feel, and what their dreams, fears, or concerns are.
Don’t be afraid to share yourself with your kids either.
5. Bring Your Sense of Humor
There are always risks involved with adventure.
Most of the time, things work out, but occasionally mishaps happen. Tires blow. There’s traffic. You reserved the wrong night at the hotel.
It’s not always rainbows and sunshine. It will require some persistence and hard work at times, but when you confront roadblocks, setbacks, failures, or inconveniences in your plan, you’ll be much better at rolling with the punches and finding humor in the mishaps.
Besides the chance of mishaps, sometimes as parents in general, with all that pressure and stress of everyday life, it is hard for us to just let loose, act fun, and let things roll off of us like kids do.
If you go into the road trip with the mindset of laughing more and being less worried, you might reconnect with your inner child that is dying to be the life of the party and not always the designated driver.
6. Overcome Your Fears
“Being brave isn’t the absence of fear. Being brave is having that fear but finding your way through it.”- Bear Grylls
There are so many parts of road tripping that are intimidating, but don’t let your fear keep you from experiencing all the great parts of travel and the outdoors.
I remember worrying about getting lost on a hike, getting attacked by animals, or being bitten by poisonous spiders in our sleep, but like most fears, the fears of the outdoors are often irrational.
You can do it. Address your fears. Accept them as normal human emotions. Get to the root of what the actual fear is that you are struggling with. Logically decide if it’s a real risk or a phantom one. If it’s something that is unlikely to happen, set it aside, and go be brave.
You’ll be amazed at what you’ll discover!
This applies to kids too. I notice that when I get pushback from the kids to do something in our travels, it is either because they are hangry or there is an underlying fear playing out.
Related Blog: How To Create an Adventure Mindset
9. Talk To Strangers
Travel has really opened our eyes to how kind the world is. We’ve created a “stranger danger” mentality and while we want to protect our children, we don’t want to raise them to fear the world.
Kids will model your behavior so when you go into the gas station to buy a kombucha or are out on the trail, spark up a conversation with strangers so that your kids can model your behavior.
Kindness matters and it might be the one thing we have control over.
8. Make It Active
You can have a great time on a road trip and stick to exploring cities, but if the day centers around just sightseeing and splurging on food treats, there is a good chance that a meltdown will follow.
Life thrives in movement that’s why we love centering our road trips around various hikes, climbs, swims, bike rides, and surfing.
By centering your travel around activities, you will keep your kids engaged and help them burn off the endless energy they seem to have, you will help your family be healthier, and the activities will add more fun to your life.
There have been numerous studies that show how learning is improved after movement. Search out ways to find more activity through your travels and have healthy snacks on hand so everyone stays happy.
9. Let Kids Choose The Hike (or Activity)
I had one kid who hated to hike. I would use tip #1 at first and say, “What is your expectation? Do you expect to never hike?”
She would say no and then when I put the decision into her hands by asking her, “Can you pick the hikes we do?” she completely changed her attitude about hiking.
In fact, now, she loves to hike 10+ miles on a regular and encourages her friends to hike.
A lot of times, kids just want to be seen and heard so when you let them put in their two cents, they feel valued.
With that in mind, involve your kids in the planning process. This way they are more motivated to do whatever is needed to enjoy the process of getting to their destinations.
Not only does this make them feel more in control of the situation, but it also teaches them to be more accountable for their own actions.
I find this has helped my older children find hobbies that, not only entertain them, but also has helped lead them to discover their talents (writing, drawing, and photography).
10. Eat Healthy
Feeling good and having energy will make a huge difference in how successful your trip feels.
It’s easy to go on a road trip and just stop at every restaurant along the way, but finding a way to cook wholesome foods and also having healthy snacks on hand while on a road trip will not only help everyone feel better, it will save you a lot of money and keep everyone’s blood sugar managed.
We always pack nuts, fruit, salami, cheese, veggies, and hummus for our road trips.
11. Make Time For Rest & Relaxation
It’s easy to do more, it’s hard to do less. Well, at least the “less” that allows us as parents to just chill out and relax.
There will always be a mess or a task to do but when you are on a road trip, try to schedule in a little down time for rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation.
12. Pace Yourself
It’s very important to be realistic about what you and your family can handle each day. Try to find the optimal length of a road trip.
If you ask me, road trips should be as long as possible- meaning until you run out of money. However, most of us don’t have that luxury.
As a general rule, our family tries to not average more than 100 miles per day. That might not be realistic though so talk to your family and see what their expectation is.
Remember that if you are taking a road trip in an RV, your travel time will be a little slower. On average, we travel at 50 mph when we are in our RV.
13. Build In Flexibility
You might not have this luxury but I’ve found that when we road trip to new places, it’s really nice to have a 1-3 day cushion. I’ve been known to stumble upon towns that I really enjoy and want to stay a few extra nights in.
If you are traveling during off-season times, then you have the luxury of not needing to book hotels or campsites and can set up a much more flexible itinerary. However, if you are traveling in the summer or during the holidays, you probably have to just stick to a schedule.
14. What’s The Goal?
As exciting as it is to be on the open road and keep pushing to see more, if you push too fast or try to accomplish too much, your family will not end up enjoying the experience. Remember, it’s about the journey, not the destination.
For me, it’s all about the relationship I have with my family as I’m pursuing my value of newness. A road trip is usually about the memories from the experiences you create along the way, so enjoy the process of moving with flexibility and compassion to everyone’s needs.
Regardless of how much you plan and compromise, it gets tough being crammed together in a vehicle while trying to get from one place to the next.
Creating a “we’re in it together” mentality helps a lot. It’s much easier to compromise, be bored, and tolerate uncomfortableness if you are doing it for something you are all excited for in the end.
15. Boredom Is A Win
I love when my kids say they are bored because then I tell them how lucky they are that they don’t have to do school or dig ditches at the moment.
The kids have developed so much mindfulness by just staring out the window, reading, drawing, or listening to music.
16. Make Sure You Can Keep Devices Charged
Yes, mindfulness on a road trip is great, but let’s be honest, they need to be able to also watch movies, or color and play board games.
Having the smartphone, iPad, or Kindles charged and ready to go can save your sanity and keep the road trip harmonious too.
For more practical tips like this, read this blog.
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