I love a good road trip. In the past 3 years, we made 3 week-long trips of 2500+ miles. To travel anywhere out West, we have a full day’s drive across Texas. Plus, as a swim family we make at least one 3-6 hour trips each month. We’ve about got the road trip mastered. Here’s how we do it:
Make a tentative plan for your road trip.
We know where we plan to stop each night. We know our end destination. Sometimes, that’s all we know. Having a goal helps us track our progress.
Be free to change your plans.
On our most recent road trip, we watched the map and changed plans when we needed showers and laundry.
We’d planned to spend the night at Bottomless Lakes State Park, Oliver Lee State Park, somewhere in Carlsbad, Dog Canyon in Guadalupe Mountains, Big Bend somewhere (x2), and San Antonio somewhere. We actually stayed at Bottomless Lakes State Park, Oliver Lee State Park, Pine Springs in Guadalupe Mountains (x2), Stillwell Ranch (x2), and a San Antonio KOA. We changed our plans around Carlsbad and Guadalupe Mountains to give us a break from setting up and taking down the tent for a night. We opted for Stillwell Ranch just outside of Big Bend because the campgrounds at Big Bend are booked solid during the end of March. The KOA in San Antonio was chosen because we needed showers!!!
Brake for brown signs.
We love a good historical marker. Or a cheesy tourist trap. Christopher’s favorite stop on our DC road trip happened when we passed a road sign that said “Manassas/Bull Run”. My exact comment was: “Like the real Bull Run???” After Adam confirmed it, we pulled in and spent a few hours exploring the famed battle grounds. Last year, we discovered the beauty of the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest the same way.
During our last trip, a brown sign break took us to Lincoln City, NM, the place where Billy the Kid found infamy. So neat, to remember that people of legend were also real people!
Road trips can be horrible on the diet and the stomach. We tackle that with a little pre-planning. We carry sandwich makings, chips, carrot sticks and cherry tomatoes, and trail mix. And water, lots and lots of water. I have this great plastic bread box that keeps our bread from getting squashed. We like Lays Stacks (in the plastic boxes) and Veggies straws for chips because they don’t get reduced to crumbs. I also take extra plastic sacks for trash and a table cloth because you never know the condition of the picnic tables. We will picnic at rest areas along the way, but we’ve also been known to make sandwiches on the tailgate while pumping gas.
This is a matter of personal preference for each family. Here’s my take on it. My kids are competitive swimmers. Most weeks, they are in the water 10 hours a week, in addition to the 8 hours a day at school, church, and homework. Electronics are used during the week for homework and reading. That said, if they want to veg for a few hours in the car playing video games, I’m all for it. They have no other time to enjoy games, so why not while driving through the never-ending expanse that is West Texas. I’ve found that kids self-monitor the time they are on the games. During our past trip, they spent as much time reading as they did playing. I also keep Sharpies and notebooks handy, as much for my kids as for me!
This one should be self-evident, but when you are traveling through rural areas (specifically West Texas, parts of NM, parts of Arizona, etc) know your mileage and know how much gas you need. We’ve been known to stop every 100 miles to top off, just to be sure.
Savoring Family Time.
Road trips could be miserable, but they are also a great time to spend with family. They provide moments of experiencing just how witty our kids are. When the kids are buried in books and games, they provide Adam and I with time to visit. When the radio is on, I use the trip to brainstorm with my Sharpies and notebooks. Sights have lead to family conversations about science, history, politics, and God.
When was the last time you road tripped? Any tips I need to know?