There are two kinds of people in this world: People who need to make their own mistakes and people who are wise enough to learn from the mistakes of others. If you’re as wise as I think you to be, you’ll be happy to know that I seem to be in the first camp.
I’ve been taking my family of four on road trips for years and every time we do I find new challenges to overcome. In the hopes of saving you some of the headaches I’ve had to deal with, here are a few of the lessons I’ve learned on the road.
(1) Know what you want out of a hotel stay before leaving home – You may not know exactly where you’re going to stay on your road trip but having a conversation with your fellow travelers about what they need in a hotel is key. Nothing stings like the side eye you’ll get after driving for eight hours through the desert only to discover the family was expecting you to book a hotel with a pool. Find out what matters to them (Wi-Fi? Gym? Laundry facilities?) and you’ll be able to book properties you’ll all love.
(2) Don’t assume – Kids have a way of surprising you. You’ll think that your son would never eat a piece of broccoli on the road since in the ten years you’ve known him he has turned his nose up at it every time, and yet take that same kid to a new restaurant and they act like it has been their favourite food all along. And it’s not just with food. There were times when I thought they’d want to take a break that they didn’t; nights I was sure they’d want to get out and explore when they preferred to stay in. Try to be aware of the times you’re assuming you know what they want/need/will do and watch them for the clues that you might be off base.
(3) Don’t over pack the route – Some people make the mistake of never stopping. Others stop all the time. Don’t be afraid to drive past detours that might put you off your goals. You’re never going to see everything on your trip so you’ll have to make some hard decisions about things that just have to wait until the next time you’re in the area. Trying to do it all while risking your family’s energy levels is never a good idea.
(4) Build in down days – The excitement of new places often means your adrenaline is carrying you along more than you realize. Don’t make the mistake of confusing adrenaline for real energy. Recharge your own batteries by building days into your trip that requires you to slow down and do little. We found that we needed at least a few stops where we were overnighting for at least two nights so we could relax and enjoy the properties we were in. Failing to take that break would lead to overtired, grumpy travellers. Stop before you need to.
(5) Consolidate – You packed so well before leaving home and then you picked up maps from your first stop, trinkets at your second, brochures at your third…Before you know it you’re carrying around a shopping bag full of papers and pieces of things you’ll probably never need again. Take the time to cull the car of unnecessary things every few days. Don’t let those extra pieces of paper infiltrate the precious space you have. Cleaning the car (outside and in) on long trips will also give you that refreshed feeling.