Dreaming of taking a cross-country road trip with your family, but the “with your family” part is giving you pause? Yes, long distance road trips with kids (and partner) in tow are a daunting endeavor, but if you do it right, it can be an amazing adventure that creates life-long memories. New Jersey is a perfect launching pad for an epic tour across the country. Here are four tips to help you plan a long-distance trip your whole family will love.
1. Don’t go it alone
Instead of trying (and probably failing) to plan a road trip that pleases everyone in the family, get them involved in the planning from the get-go. Get buy-in from your family. The best way to do that is to make planning a family affair. Ask your kids what types of things they would be most excited about visiting, and research a way to make some of them happen on this trip. If your kids are old enough, put them in charge of planning a day or two (or more) of the trip. Give them a budget and some guidelines and then follow their lead. The more involved they are in the planning, the more invested they will be in the success of the trip.
2. Plan your pit stops
Some of the best parts of any road trip are the spontaneous detours along the way. There are so many hidden gems just waiting to be discovered. However, for kids, the prospect of days on end of driving with nothing concrete to anticipate can lead to a whole lot of “where are we going?” and “are we there yet?” Break up long stretches of driving in between destinations with one or two fun planned pits stops per week. A perfect pit stop is one that will take only an hour or two out of your day, but gives you a chance to stretch your legs and facilitates family interaction.
If you’re headed to the Midwest, check out Tick Tock Escape Games in Kansas City, with rooms so cool you’ll feel like you’ve stepped onto a movie set. Going the Northern route? The International Wolf Center in Ely, Minnesota, is an amazing chance to meet and learn about these elusive creatures. If you’re passing through Texas, Palo Duro Canyon State Park is right off of I-40 and has breathtaking scenery along trails suited for hikers of all skill levels.
3. Get a room (or two)
A long-distance road trip means a lot of time together as a family, which is a good thing. But every so often, for your kids’ sanity and your own, you’ll need to give each other some privacy. Make an effort to not all sleep in the same space every night. That might mean springing for adjoining rooms in a hotel, renting an Airbnb for a night or two, or even just packing an extra tent so that you have a little physical distance a few nights of the trip, if not actual privacy. You’ll find your patience with your fellow travelers renewed after a little time apart.
4. Travel like the Terminator
In other words, travel as if you’ll “be back.” Using this philosophy, you’ll avoid trying to cram in every single landmark and historical site along the way and just enjoy the time with your family discovering the country. Don’t worry about skipping something everyone says you have to see. You’ll be back.