Traveling is a passion of mine and I want to pass that passion along to my kids, what better way than with road trips. Road trips aren’t for everyone, especially when there are kids involved, but they can be a great way to see the sights and spend some time together. Here are some of my tips and tricks when it comes to planning a road trip.
Deciding Where to Go
The first thing you need to do with any trip is decide where to go. As with any trip there are many decisions involved but for me the key thoughts that go into deciding whether to fly and visit a place vs. doing a road trip come down to how much time you have, if there are things to do between where you are and where you want to go, and who will be traveling with you. Last summer Chris and I talked about going to Texas this summer to visit his family. It’s been a few years since we’ve all gone out – they used to live in Pittsburg which was much easier to drive even for a long weekend, Texas is a different story.
I looked at flying but we no longer have lap children (aka free flyers) and Delta doesn’t service the part of Texas they live in so I decided that for the money I would rather drive with the kids and visit some places/people along the way. Chris is flying – he’s not a road trip guy. Once this decision was made I grabbed my phone and made some decisions about where I wanted to go!
Divide and Drive
When you sit down to decide how far to drive in a day there are three main things to consider
- How long can the people in your car stand being in your car?
- Where are you going and how long will your trip be?
- Are there specific times and dates when you need to be certain places?
For our Texas adventure I decided to first head to New Orleans. I’ve never been and it’s sort of on the way. The Savannah to New Orleans part is the longest stretch of driving we will do heading out. After NOLA we will head to Houston, Austin, then Midland. In Houston and Austin I have friends I haven’t seen in a while so it made sense to get with them and see if having overnight guests would be ok! If you are staying with friends (or even family) just remember the Ben Franklin quote, “guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days”.
When we first arranged the trip with Chris’ family we committed to be in Midland July 1-5 so the basis of my timeline started there. I also have a friend getting married on July 8th in Charleston so I have to be back in time to attend and not be a zombie for her weekend. Deciding when to head out was also guided by the fact that our annual trip to Clark Hill ends on the 25th of June. With all of this in my my window for travel became June 26-July 6/7.
I track drive times with Apple Maps and always add time to the window. I also have the luxury of not needed to be at each location at specific times. I have windows of time I’ve discussed with my hosts but overall if it takes a little longer to make a leg of the journey it is what it is!
For driving home, since I’m on a little tighter of a timeline, I’ve mapped from Midland to Shreveport (I must make it that far) then to other towns further across Louisiana and Mississippi. Ideally I can make it to Jackson in the first day but that would mean 12+ hours in the car and I am traveling with two kids. Like the old lady I seem to be quickly becoming – I don’t like to drive at night so I won’t push it too late. LOL
Supplies and Packing
Packing smart is one of the best ways to make your road trip smooth sailing. If there are things you need regularly make sure they are on top and easily accessible. For this trip one of my goals is to not eat McDonalds 3x a day or buy 200 bottles of water while we are in the car so I’ve invested in a cooler to help with this task. The cooler is a situation…I swear it looked smaller in the pictures…but it will allow me to fill a tank with water so we have access to refill our bottles easily, ice some drinks/cold food, and even keep some items cool but dry in the basket.
I’m also packing with a multiple bag strategy instead of taking one big piece of luggage. Christopher is old enough to help me with his blue carry on size bag so he will be in charge of that. I’m also working on packing lists early so I can (hopefully) take as little stuff as possible. Since I’m staying with friends in Austin for a couple of nights and we will be in Midland for several nights I will be doing laundry and reusing a clothing bank. In a perfect world I can unload and reload the things from car to overnight accommodations in one trip – cooler excluded.
A few must haves for a road trip include paper towels, beach towels, trash bags, 2 gallon jugs of water (handing for drinking and for potential car issues), jumper cables, and one of everything from the snack aisle at the grocery store.
Another must have for my trip is a spare car seat cover for Ada’s seat. She’s a mess and I know at some point she’s going to spill her entire drink and having the spare cover will save me having to hear her cry or having to stop and wash it out and wait for it to dry.
Stops Along the Way
You know there are ALWAYS unplanned stops along the way, gas stations, meals, someone has to potty, you smell that someone has already gone potty, you see the world’s largest carrot, etc. so how to I maintain a schedule while also including these situations? The first rule of road tripping – when you stop for gas or food EVERYONE gets out and goes to the bathroom, there are no exceptions to this rule. This is the #1 way, in my opinion, to cut down on extra stops. I’m not saying we won’t stop if someone has to go along the way but knowing they went at the last stop helps with the annoyance factor.
When we do trips and see interesting billboards or signs along the way, sometimes we will stop in and see what the fuss is about especially if we are in need of a break but sometimes the world’s largest blue sticker just needs to be googled. You also have to watch for things like Exit 127 on I-16 telling you Magnolia Springs is an attraction. Magnolia Springs is a cute attraction on the way to Augusta and it makes a nice stop to stretch to let the kids run around but it’s probably 45-50 miles from the interstate so not exactly an “attraction” right out of Statesboro.
One of the places we always stop is a state line welcome center. For restroom breaks mostly, but also because there are usually signs that make a good photo op. Growing up this is something we did and it’s always fun to go back and look at the photos from those trips.
Don’t Forget to Have a Good Time
Between planning and executing your trip don’t forget, it’s about having a good time and spending time with your family! If you know your kids or your significant other can’t hang in a car for the better part of 8 hours 7 days in a row start small and do a weekend or a day trip, don’t plan a week long drive to California and back.
You can follow along with our road trip on Instagram stories – we take off June 26 and return home July 6th or 7th – @jadengiorgianniphotography