Going on a family vacation is stressful enough as it is. Depending on how many people are involved and the age bracket, you’ll need to meet so many contrasting needs that it will make you go absolutely ballistic. When your son needs the restroom urgently, aunt Miriam insists upon stopping at the purse museum, and cousin Dave is making everyone eat at that trendy vegan restaurant fifty miles out of the way, it’s more than enough to make you tear your hair out. But these scenarios need not happen. There are in fact many ways to keep everyone happy on the road.
Plan, but not too much; if you see something cool on the way, feel free to stop. The rule should be no more than 20 miles out of the way of your planned route. However, if you’re the sort of person to prefer roads less traveled, just use Google Maps to see the approximate route you need to take, but don’t be afraid to swing by that winery that’s advertised on the side of the freeway. If you’re with a big group, get together at least a week before the trip and plan an itinerary that everyone can get behind. This will take a lot of time, arguing, and bickering, but your group will eventually agree on something. Be sure to include the kids’ opinions unless you like hearing them complain about the lack of fun stuff for them to do.
The road trip tradition calls for eating in transit, and so usually at truck stops with terrible quality junk food. Avoid this trap, this sort of food it will make you feel lousy and therefore cranky. Instead, stock up on non-perishables like trail mix and dried fruit for snack, and take the time to explore the towns you pass by swinging by a local eatery. Who knows, you might come across a diner with the best burger of your life. Keep treats like dark chocolate in the trunk for when everyone is stiff and tired of sitting in the car.
Book a big car if more than three people on the trip, it’s worth the money given that your sanity is at stake. Your Mini-Cooper that is so great for parking in the big city simply won’t cut it for four days on the road. Yes, it will likely cost you much more in gas, but it’s especially important to spend the extra money to avoid people being in each other’s personal space and the children amusing themselves by throwing Cheerios at each other for entertainment. A big car will also be more comfortable to drive, which is especially important if you would like to avoid lower back and knee pain.
Good tunes are super important to keep the moods up. Make sure to have something for everyone. Even if you can’t stand your teenager’s hip hop or your mother’s country music circa 1957, it’s only three minutes of your life to sacrifice for someone’s happiness and, therefore, your sanity. If traveling with a lot of kids, consider an audiobook like Harry Potter that everyone can get behind. The books are long and will keep the kids interested and therefore quiet for at least an hour. If, however, you’re on a road trip abroad, it’s highly recommended that you listen to radio stations to expose yourself to local music. Sure, it may not necessarily be to your liking initially but give it a couple of songs and you’ll be humming to the tune of Latvian folk music in no time.