Summer Road Trip Survival Guide

Summer is officially here – kids are off from school, the sun is out for hours, and there is no better time to pack the family in a car and set off for a road trip adventure. But a dream vacation can quickly turn into a nightmare without proper planning. Below are 10 helpful tips to keep the spirits, fun, and safety high on your summer road trip.

  1.       Learn About Your Destination

Get your kids excited about the trip before, during, and after you hit the road. Pick up some paper maps, geography books, guidebooks, and road trip atlases. Research interesting side trips to take along the way and learn as much as you can about your destination and route. Pick hotels in advance and make reservations to spend the night. Know when and where you are going to take stretch breaks or pit stops. Make road trip playlists with your kids so that everyone gets to listen to music they like. Give children cameras of their own so they can document the trip with photos, brochures, and drawings along the way.

  1.       Prepare Your Car

Your vehicle will be your home away from home for the length of your trip. Plan to make any necessary repairs in advance and make sure to check the following before hitting the road: tire pressure, brakes, windshield wiper fluid, gas, lights, oil, coolant, and windshield wipers. Also, be sure to pack jumper cables, spare tire change kit, a flashlight, AAA card (if you are a member) and a roadside emergency kit, including flares.

  1.       Prepare Yourself

You need to be as prepared as your vehicle before heading out on a road trip. Tell people where you are going, become familiar with your route and check the weather along the way, download helpful apps for directions and gas, get a good night’s rest before hitting the road, wear comfortable clothes and shoes, and ensure that your cell phone is charged and within service range. Pack a first aid kit, brochures and maps, blankets and pillows, extra phone chargers, toolkit, toiletries (including extra toilet paper and hand sanitizer), CDs or audiobooks, and plenty of snacks and water. If you’re traveling for long distances, stop periodically to stretch or take turns driving. Also, make sure the “navigator” also stays awake to entertain the kids and talk to the driver. Driving while everyone else in the car is sleeping is NOT fun.

  1.       Pack Lots of Snack and Drinks in Individual Portions

Nothing slows down a road trip or hits morale more than multiple stops. Preparing snacks and drinks ahead of time limits the need to stop as often and reduces the money spent buying food at a convenience store. Make sure that there are enough snacks and drinks for everyone and mix in healthy options like raisins, fruit, and granola bars with fun treats. Pack snacks in individual containers so that people can eat/drink when they need to and so there is little to no fighting over items. Place food and drinks where your children can reach them; it limits the number of times they’ll ask you for something. Also, keep a trash bag handy and empty it out during rest stops to keep your ride clean.

  1.       Pack Activity Bags

Busy bags and activities are a great way for kids to pass the time on a road trip and may help keep the peace in the backseat. Fill each child’s backpack with travel games, coloring books, crayons and favorite snacks. For older kids, try including a travel journal so they can keep track of favorite places and activities along the way. Don’t forget comfort items too, such as favorite blankets, travel pillows, and teddy bears. These backpacks can also double as entertainment when eating out while on the road.

  1.       Gather the Gadgets

In this day and age, you probably won’t make it through a family road trip without gadgets – including smartphones, tablets, DVD players, MP3 players, and video game devices. Before you head out, charge them and be sure to pack extra chargers for the car so that they don’t lose power mid-trip. Nothing is worse than hearing your children fight over the only working device for miles on end.

  1.       Don’t Forget Screen-Free Time

It may be tempting to tune out while on a long car trip but take the opportunity to have fun as a family. Talk to one another, play classic travel games like “I Spy” or the license plate game. Other activities that do not require props or plugs include the “ABC Game”, Count the Cows (or Cars), Rhyming Game, or be silly and make up your own game or lyrics to a song.

  1.       Expect the Unexpected

You can’t prepare for every second of the road trip, but you can anticipate some common road trip mishaps by keeping saltine crackers, Ziploc bags, paper towels, baby wipes, diapers/pull-ups, first aid kits, medicine, and a change of clothes within reach. When making reservations – whether it be for food, lodging, or even some side trips – also have backup plans in mind in case your first choice doesn’t work out. Use GPS apps to help you drive around unfamiliar places or navigate around traffic jams, construction, or other unforeseen detours. If there is room in the car, keep umbrellas/rain jackets handy and pack sweatshirts and sweatpants just in case the weather changes drastically at night.

  1.       Be a safe driver

Follow the rules of the road. Ignore phone calls and texts and do not get distracted by the other passengers in the car. Scan the road for potential hazards. Watch your posture. Stay alert and pull over if you feel tired. Try to avoid driving at night or during inclement weather. Obey speeds limits and keep a safe distance between vehicles around you. Avoid pulling over on the side of the road, especially at night.

  1.   Save Some Surprises Along the Way

Save up some fun treats, activities, or day trips for when kids (or adults) get restless. Pick out a couple of can’t-miss spots along the way – a local creamery, petting zoo, perfect picture spot – and surprise your family with your spontaneity. Hide trinkets in your kids’ backpacks or car seats for them to discover along the way or if you’re feeling adventurous, plan a treasure hunt for your route. Driving at night? Have a glow stick “dance party”, pull over to look up at the stars, or take turns telling ghost stories.


Enjoy your summer break and #loveyourdrive.