Editor’s Note: Bringing back an oldie but goody! Road trip season is in! Are your kids craving adventure now that school is out? We’re sharing some ideas and tips to make your next summer road trip a memorable one!
By A. Noelle
Road Trip Essentials
If you’re planning on staying on the road for most of the summer, you might want to consider keeping some of these items in the car:
1. First-aid kit
This one is a given. Before leaving the house, it’s always a good idea to make sure your kit contains all the basic necessities (e.g., Band-Aids or bandages and antibiotic ointments). Include any other medications or prescription medicines that you or your kids might need, and consider bringing along some Tylenol and motion sickness pills. Any additions to the kit will, of course, depend on your destination—sunscreen for the beach, bug repellant for the hiking trails. Be prepared to avoid sudden emergencies that may put a damper on the summer fun.
2. Travel pillows and blankets
Having these on hand is really great for the long drives, when stretches of farmlands or empty fields can encourage an onset of napping. The kids can bring their own favorite pillows, “blankies,” or “snuggies” if they’re not too bulky and won’t overcrowd the car’s interior.
Bring a cooler if you’re planning on packing perishables or if certain family members prefer cold drinks. You might consider checking out PackIt lunch bags; they stay cold for up to 10 hours without the use of ice gel packs, and all you need to do is place them in the cooler at the end of the day. If you’re stopping at inns or hotels along the way, you can store any ice packs you take along in your room’s refrigerator (just don’t forget them when you check out!).
4. Water and snacks
It’s always important to keep water on hand; bottled water tends to work best since it’s portable, easy to store, and can be refilled at any available public water fountains. You’ll want to pack the cooler with some healthy snacks and place it within reach during the trip.
5. Trash bags
Have plenty of extra bags ready. If you have backseat organizers, you can place some extra bags in them for your kids to use on the drive whenever they feel like having a snack. Consider using a large brown paper bag for recyclables.
6. Napkins or paper towels (Green option: cloth napkins)
If your kids are going to be eating on the drive, these are a must-have for all those bump-related accidents and spills. It’s also a good idea to keep some disinfectant wipes or hand sanitizers packed in your backseat organizers.
7. Games and activities
Music can really set the tone during a road trip, and the most difficult part is finding something for the entire family—including your tweens and teens—to enjoy. If it’s just too impossible to compromise, you can always let your kids pack their own, individual music players.
It is a good idea to get the kids thinking about your destinations and the histories behind the places you’ll visit, but there’s really no need to get carried away and turn every single bend in the road into a lesson; let them tune out every once in awhile and listen to their tunes or watch a DVD on either the car’s player or a portable one.
1. South by Southwest – Route 66 nostalgia in northern Arizona
Perhaps no other stretch of asphalt does better at turning car windows into eye-popping postcards. Starting in Holbrook, roads wind through the pink- and toffee-colored badlands of the Painted Desert before leading into Petrified Forest National Park (nps.gov/pefo), the stony remains of an ancient forest. A short jaunt to the west along Route 66 leads to Meteor Crater, where an asteroid left the desert pockmarked with a gargantuan 570-foot-deep bowl. Expect to get tired of hearing the word, “Whoa!” The ride continues west to Flagstaff and onto Highway 89A, which winds south through high-desert forest and terracotta buttes. Next stop: Sedona, famed alien-sighting center. (Don’t tell the kids—or maybe do!) Besides chasing down little green men, there are (easy) treks to Native American ruins and nature walks at Crescent Moon Ranch in the Coconino National Forest (fs.usda.gov/coconino). But the most thrilling way to take in the scenery is on an off-road jeep ride. Pink Jeep Tours (pinkjeeptours.com) can accommodate kids 18 months and up (they supply free car seats). “It’s like a really slow roller coaster,” says Steve Schneider, tour organizer.
2. Right on Key – The Florida Keys: the southernmost fun you can have in the U.S.
One of the continent’s most dramatic drives begins on Highway 1 in Miami and then skirts Barnes Sound before landing in Key Largo, the first of the Keys. This bustling town is a great base for exploring John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park (pennekamppark.com), where you can swim with fish straight out of Finding Nemo. Sundiver Snorkeling Tours (snorkelingisfun.com) offers a trip to shallow areas that allows kids as young as 3 to swim with parrot fish. “We even keep the boat stocked with pool noodles,” says Donna Pryor, tour manager. “And it’s covered, so there’s always shade.” From Key Largo, the highway continues over bits of land and water through the increasingly laid-back keys to your end point: Key West. Fort Zachary Taylor State Park has acres of white sand with bathtub-warm water. For squeals of delight, book a dolphin-watching tour with Glass Reef Key West (glassreefkeywest.com).
3. Old School Awesome – Theme parks and time-warp charm in Pennsylvania
Begin with a blast of history in Philly, home of the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. Head west on Highway 30 through tidy rows of corn and barley. Lancaster is Amish country, where towns offer handmade crafts and hearty fare (think: fresh chicken potpie). Abe’s Buggy Rides (abesbuggyrides.com) has been escorting folks through the countryside since the ’60s. In Hershey (hersheypa.com), find a botanical garden, a trolley tour, a serious amusement park, and a zoo. (Don’t miss the 100-foot Ferris wheel!) But the main event is following the aroma to Hershey’s Chocolate World (hersheyschocolateworld.com), where you can don an apron and stuff a bar with almonds, chocolate chips, pretzel bits, sprinkles, or other add-ins. The big decision is whether to gobble it up right then or keep it as a souvenir. The Pennsylvania Turnpike then leads east to Langhorne, where Sesame Place (sesameplace.com) beckons the babes. Kids can ride in Big Bird’s Balloon Race, climb Cookie Mountain, jump at Ernie’s Bed Bounce, and then end the day with a hug from the furry guy himself.
For the expanded list of great road trip destinations, click here.
What are your road trip essentials? Are you planning on traveling to any interesting and fun destinations this summer? Share your stories and tips in the comments section!