What’s more American than an old-fashioned road trip? For your next vacation, ditch the phones and turn your road trip into an adventure. Trekking cross-country with young children doesn’t have to be miserable if you’re prepared and have a plan!
Capture the Moments
A fun way to turn your trip into an adventure and bring out your child’s creativity at the same time is to encourage them to capture the moments. Because most digital cameras are expensive, purchase an “old-fashioned” disposable film camera for each child. Let them go nuts! They’ll get as many exposures as their heart desires – well, as many exposures that the roll of film allows.
If they’re not sure what to take photos of, give them some prompts. Where are we? What does the landscape look like? Who are we traveling with? What park are we at? Giving each child a camera will prevent fights, and you won’t have to worry that you’ll lose something valuable. They’ll fidget with anticipation to have the film developed!
Find the Best Quick Side Stops
Don’t just make it about the destination – make your trip about the adventure. Instead of rushing to your final spot, plan ahead and find the best, most quirky side stops on your trip. 1-3 hour side trips can make all the difference. Though your trek may be longer, it will allow the kids time to get out, run around, and stretch their legs, making them feel like they’re in the car for less time. Just make sure the stops are family-friendly!
Many side stops are ones you probably wouldn’t get to see unless you were driving by. Here are just some of the best unique ones to check out on your next trip:
- Arizona/Colorado/New Mexico/Utah: Four Corners Monument
- Amarillo, Texas: Cadillac Ranch
- Cleveland, Georgia: Babyland General Hospital (Cabbage Patch Kids)
- Cawker City, Kansas: World’s Largest Ball of Twine
- Audubon, Iowa: Albert the Bull
- Santa Claus, Indiana: Santa Claus Museum
- Alamogordo, New Mexico: White Sands: Alien Dunescape
- Lake George, New York: Magic Forest
Or Add a Few Days
If side stops aren’t your thing, a great way to break up an extra long trip and turn it into a true adventure is to add a few days in between travel to really explore a new city, town, or park.
Great for older kids, adventure parks are a wonderful way to get them out and exert some energy. Rope climbs, zip lines, races – what could be more fun?! Here are some adventure-based activities you can do on your adventure:
- Columbia, South Carolina: Riverbanks Zoo’s Zip the Zoo
- Wrightwood, California: Ziplines at Pacific Crest
- San Diego, California: LEGOLAND Water Park
- Portsmouth, New Hampshire: Water Country
- Beaver Creek, Colorado: Beaver Creek Ski Resort
- Stowe, Vermont: Stowe Mountain Resort
Many families opt to head to an amusement park for a few days. While it can be a pricier option to breaking up a road trip, it can be a wonderful way to create new memories with your family and give your children experiences they might not have had otherwise. Here are some of the top-rated amusement parks that go beyond your typical Six Flags, Disney, Universal, or Cedar Point:
- Allentown, Pennsylvania: Dorney Park
- Pigeon Forge, Tennessee: Dollywood
- Williamsburg, Virginia: Busch Gardens
- Saco, Maine: Funtown Splashtown USA
- Kansas City, Missouri: Worlds of Fun
- Mason, Ohio: Kings Island
- Elysburg, Pennsylvania: Knoebels Amusement Resort
- Branson, Missouri: Silver Dollar City
- Salem, New Hampshire: Canobie Lake Park
- Orlando, Florida: Discovery Cove
Prep the Basics
While it might not seem like the most glamorous part of packing for an adventure, it’s important to pack basic items to bring along in case something happens. If you’re bringing kids along, changes are there may be spills, messes, even sickness. Don’t leave home without:
- Motion sickness medicine
- Children’s pain reliever/ibuprofen
- Motion-sickness bags
- Paper towels/napkins
- Hand sanitizer
- Roll of toilet paper (for those gross bathrooms that you have no choice but to use)
- Insurance cards
- Identification for all children and adults
Instead of dreading your next road trip, make it the best part of your vacation! Let your kids know what they’re in for, and they’ll not only be on their best behavior, they’ll look forward to the drive. It’s possible while traveling with kids to turn your next road trip into an adventure – it just takes a little creative planning.