Family road trips are for many a fabulous way to travel. For others a road trip can be the source of dread, back seat driving, and hour of complaining. I will be honest, I have never been a huge fan of road trips. I would much rather spend the time waiting for delayed planes or navigating train stations than spending hours in the car.
On the other hand, I know that road trips serve a purpose. They allow you to explore with more flexibility. Family road trips allow you to spend quality time with your family, and can be a lot of fun…as long as you have survival strategies in place to keep everyone entertained, content, and comfortable.
During our trip to Italy we spent an entire week using the road trip as our strategy to explore Tuscany and later Cortina. Day after day we drove, got lost, and drove some more to find our way to Tuscan towns like Siena, San Gimignano, and Montepulciano. In fact, we never would have stumbled upon off the beaten path locales like Monterrigioni or Colle di Val D’Elsa had it not been for our being in the car.
Did we have fun? Yes. Did we survive the time together in the car? Yes. But maybe just barely. Our behemoth of a van lacked what I consider to be some of the necessary accoutrement to make a road trip not just tolerable but also enjoyable.
Which brings me to what would make a road trip better….a survival guide.
GPS or In Vehicle Technologies
While exploring and letting your mood guide you is fun….it is not necessary practical when traveling with a family. Having the technology to tell you where you are, how to get where you want to go, and maybe even the traffic conditions is one of the best innovations to a road trip experience. But also? Your In-vehicle technologies need to be easy to use, like the Entune system in the cars that I drove while in Los Angeles with Toyota that use applications like Bing and OpenTable to plan your route and even help you find restaurants along the way.
Music to satisfy various tastes and moods is essential to a great road trip. I have SiriusXM in my car at home, and although I am not always good at exploring the vast array of channels that are available, I know that in a pinch, I can find something for just about any musical taste. Another life saver in the music department is the ability to connect my iPod directly to the car with a USB plug to bring up some of our personal car favorites like Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, or Mamma Mia.
Gadgets for the Kids
Gadgets for the kids (and maybe the adults) are….I will be honest, my go to survival tactic for appeasing my daughter on long car rides and granting some quiet time for the rest of us. Whether she is watching a movie on her iTouch or reading on my Kindle, or playing a game on her Nintendo DS, I have long embraced personal gadgets as my friend in the car. Yes, it is important to look around and take in your surroundings while road tripping. But also just as important? Getting to your destination without a headache from the constant “when will we get there?”
We chose such a large van on our Italy trip because we needed something for five adults plus accompanying luggage. We had plenty of space…although I will be honest, this particular Mercedes van was not the epitome of comfort and luxury. Because of our need for space, we gave up on the idea of fuel efficiency for the trip. For closer to home road trips we often use my husband’s Prius as our go to vehicle because of its fabulous fuel efficiency and relative amount of space, which I now appreciate that much more after looking longingly at all of the smaller and more efficient European cars that passed our white monster van.
What about you? What survival tips do you have for making the most of a family road trip?