Show Thumbnails

Show Captions

The family road trip gets a bad rap. Everyone’s cooped up in the family vehicle. On each other’s last nerve. It’s why everyone relates so well to the Griswold family in National Lampoon’s Vacation. But family road trips can be fun. Or at least not terrible. Follow these steps and you’re bound to have a great family road trip:

1. Include the kids from the start.

When children help choose the destination, they’re more likely to be excited and helpful because they’re invested in the process. One way to get what you want is, instead of opening the floor for suggestions, offer the kids a few choices that already have parent approval.

Sometimes your destination is a foregone conclusion. Maybe you’re going north to visit family. In those cases, enlist your kids’ help in the rest of the plans, including stops on the way. In either case, a special family meeting can help get this trip off on the right foot.

2. Start a savings account.

If you try to anticipate your expenses and have a pot of money ready for your trip, you’ll be less likely to stress out about money and more likely to enjoy the time with your family.

3. Start planning.

Part of the fun of the trip is planning what you’ll do when you get there. Take the kids to the library and check out books on your destination. Make a list of sites you want to see and activities you want to do. Some will require advance reservations. Discounts are often available when purchasing tickets in advance.

Mom and writer Cathy Chestnut shared in Southwest Florida Parent & Child magazine that she creates an Excel document with headers like date, place, time, confirmation number, price and details. It allows her to keep everything from flight information to horseback riding reservations all in one place.

4. Get a paper map.

Trace your route with a highlighter and mark desired stops. Get the kids involved in doing this. The kids will learn some geography, and you’ll have a backup if GPS goes out.

5. Pack smart.

Bring too much stuff, and you’ll be miserably cluttered. Don’t bring enough, and you may suffer the wrath of bored children. Limit in-vehicle entertainment to what can fit into a backpack for each child. Some good…