roadribbonThe open road has been calling to me all winter, and I’m finally answering! This Saturday our family will venture out on a fun-filled family road trip from Utah to Arizona, as part of the “1, 2, Freee!” Country Inns & Suites offer.I Can’t wait to get my hands on that minivan wheel and set out on yet another great American road trip adventure with my little ones.

While there’s a lot of effort involed in successful roadtripping, I’m convinced it’s well-worth it. Here are my “Family  Road Trip Do’s and Dont’s” that will help you enjoy your journeys.

BEFORE YOU GO

DO: Start preparing at least a week in advance.

There’s no getting around it – family road trips takesplanning. However, the prep work isn’t nearly so daunting if you take it in stages. Check out my Packing List Tips for help strategizing and organizing for travel with tinys. Remember: You can only earn Vacation RELAXATION through Vacation PREPARATION.

DON’T: Bring along everything and the kitchen sink.
Why haul it all when you can swing by a grocery store at your destination and pick it up? Diapers, toiletries, snacks – bring only what you need for the drive itself. Even consider renting your baby equipment upon arrival. If you’re planning to travel for more than a few days, pack 3-4 outfits per person and hit a local laundromat while on vacation. Many hotels now have laundry services available as well.

DO: Make your mechanic happy.
Speaking from experience here, running out of oil while on vacation is a major downer. Be sure to get everything checked and changed before you plan a road trip of 500 miles or more. You can’t truly appreciate the value of this advice until you’ve had a car breakdown in the middle of the Utah desert, but trust me on this one.

DON’T: Burn the midnight oil.
Road trips with young children takes a lot of energy, so rest up ahead of time! If you start your drive “running on empty”, so to speak, you won’t enjoy the ride. Do errands and packing during the daytime so you can get several solid nights of sleep before you hit the road.

ON THE ROAD

DO: Build time for “detours” into your itinerary.
One of the unique beauties of roadtripping is stopping to enjoy the scenery from time to time. Pull over at fruit stands and craft tables. Turn down dusty roads towards “Historic Landmark” signs. Grab a burger at a small-town truck stop. These experiences will become part of the fabric of your travels and make fond memories for years to come.

DON’T: Power through it.
Consider your sanity as another reason to plan stops along the drive. Kids go nuts when stuck in their seats for too long, so break up day-long traveling with a visit to a park along the way. Ask anybody at any burger joint on any Main Street where the local playground is and give your family at least half an hour to wiggle themselves out. This will help curb restlessness, squabbles and the dreaded “Are We There Yet?”

DO: Take advantage of sleepyheads.
roadtrips

Especially when traveling with Tinys, you’ll put some quiet, stress-free miles behind you if you hit the road during bedtime or naptime. If you can’t take turns with another driver and go all night, at least plan some late-night or early-morning drive time while your little ones are snoozing.

DON’T: Become a sleepyhead yourself.
THE SECOND you start to feel sleepy, PULL OVER. Don’t turn on the radio. Don’t roll down the window. Don’t pull out a snack. Just pull over. Catch a nap at a rest stop or get a room if you must. But driving drowsy just isn’t worth it. I’m speaking from second-hand experience here – a dear friend dozed at the wheel and lost one of her parents as a result.

AT YOUR DESTINATION

DO: Pay attention to parking prices.
If your accomodations are close to public transport, it may be good to ditch your car for a day or two and buy a bus pass, rather than hand out cash every time you need a new parking spot.

DON’T: Panic if you get lost.
Part of the adventure of a road trip is the opportunity to see the “real face” of a city. Taking a wrong turn may mean a little exta time in the car or a stop for directions, but it will also give you a view of local day-to-day life. Some of my best travel discoveries have been the result of going left, when I should’ve gone right.

DO: Take a few moments to primp.
carrides

Getting in a dirty car day after day quickly becomes a drag. Be sure to do a quick clean-out each morning so you start fresh – even swing by a gas-station vacuum if things get too crumbly!

DON’T: Stick around town.
You’ve got wheels – go explore! Talk to locals and discover some of the out-of-the-way places that frequent flyers don’t get a chance to branch out to. While in central Arizona we’ll be checking out the Rock Art Museum, taking in a Spring Training MLB game, and much more. As much as I enjoy downtown Phoenix, we’re excited to venture out-of-boundaries and enjoy the uniqueness of the surrounding area. Check out our itinerary!

Can’t wait to tell you all about it!