Road trips are an iconic part of American culture. Frequently found on many people’s “Bucket List”, a road trip can be a great experience with your family, friends, or even solo. Whether you’re hitting the road for a PCS or just on a whim, here are some ideas to help you plan ahead for a unique and memorable experience on the road.
Have a Loose Plan
Some things you definitely want to plan out, like how long you’re going to drive each day: try to keep it six hours or less so you can stop along the way. Keep a little slack in your itinerary so you can change your plans at the last minute to fit the interests and mood of everyone in the vehicle, too. Perhaps you’ve made a lot of stops along the way during your first couple of days on the road, and by day three everyone feels like pushing through rather than getting out to see the world’s largest artichoke. Keeping plans loose means you can easily readjust your schedule if necessary.
Take the Backroads
Of course the fastest route between two destinations is via the interstate, but there’s more to our country than what’s available off of freeway exits. Take some time to log as many miles as you can on backroads. America's Byways is a federal government website that has many ideas for off-the-road adventures, where you’ll find small-town attractions and mom-n-pop restaurants that offer authentic regional experiences.
Visit National Parks
There are about 400 protected areas in the U.S. One of them is bound to be along the route of your road trip. It might even be the first and last time your family passes through that part of the country. The National Park Service website has a listing of all parks by state, as well as descriptions of the main attractions. Many National Parks also offer the choice of overnight camping, which would not only save you money on lodging, but also give you and your family the opportunity to stop and see a unique part of the US.
The diners and fast food restaurants at most highway exits are convenient, but they don’t offer the healthiest options. Try to estimate where you will be stopping to eat along the way, and do a little research on locally-owned restaurants in the vicinity. There are also many apps out there you can download to your smartphone for free that point out interesting places to eat on your path. Local cooking styles and flavors is just as much a part of the adventure!
A few other details to remember:
- Pack a cooler with drinks and snacks - Try to keep it as healthy as possible. This will also help you save time from having to pull over every time someone gets hungry.
- Research gas prices along your route - Remember that gas prices are almost always more expensive near national parks. You also may want to consider getting a gas card so you can take advantage of the discounted groceries, hotels, cash-back offers, and fuel points offered.
- Keep the kiddos entertained - At some point you’re likely to hear one of the kids say, “Are we there yet?”