*This post was updated December 2017
With summer being a little over 5 months away, its a perfect time to start thinking about a family road trip. You'll find plenty of inspiration throughout this website, but if the thought of planning a trip sounds overwhelming, here are some tips to help you get started.
1. Create a Pinterest board. With over 100 million users, this is one of the fastest ways to gather information and get motivated to plan a trip. Create a free account, and start gathering pins of places you want to visit and add them to your virtual bulletin board. Visit my Road Trips Made Easy or Cool Places to Visit in the U.S boards to get some travel inspiration, road trip tips, route suggestions and sanity saving tips. The stunning photographs found on Pinterest are enough to make you want to jump in a car or plane and go! If you prefer low-tech planning, create a travel binder and let your kids decorate the front and back covers with all the things they want to do. It’s a great way to get them involved.
2. Select two or three national parks or major cities and plan a trip around them. As my kids got older, our trips became a blend of several days of outdoor activities at National Parks mixed in with urban activities in the city. Out west in particular, it is easy to visit several national parks in one loop. In the northeast, it’s fairly manageable to drive between two major cities like Boston and New York, or Philadelphia and Washington, DC. Think about combining a visit to Orlando with a side trip to the beautiful beach at Siesta Key. Another idea is to plan a trip around your favorite hobby or sport. Friends who were huge baseball fans always planned a stadium tour in each major city they visited. With tweens and teens, stopping for a picnic lunch on a nearby college campus while on the road is a fun way to expose them to different schools without the added travel costs. Wherever you go, it’s easy to customize a road trip with the activities that your family is most interested in. Check out my blog post Get Up and Go - 6 Road Trip Ideas.
3. Sign-up on daily deal sites. If you know that you will be visiting metropolitan areas in the near future, sign up now on sites like Groupon and Living Social to start receiving offers from other cities. You can often find good deals on more expensive attractions and tours in major cities, or ideas for things to do. For example, Groupon recently had a deal for discounted tickets to Madame Tussauds Wax Museum in New York City.
4. Take advantage of the many road trip planning websites. I found a popular Road Trip planning tool through Pinterest that allows you to create your own custom route and itinerary. In less than 5 minutes, I was able to use the map wizard to plan a trip from D.C. to Colorado, with 112 attractions found along the route. Registration on the site is free, but required in order to save and print your maps.
5. Get off the beaten path. Think about finding at least one or two places or activities in each of your travel destinations that are hidden gems or local favorites. Maybe its taking part in the sunset drum circle in Siesta Key, Florida or a quiet afternoon having a picnic by the Rogue River in Oregon, but you will appreciate it when you are there. Some of our best travel memories are from time spent in the small towns we stayed in between destinations, like Kanab, Utah, and Boothbay Harbor, Maine. Before planning a trip, head over to your local library or bookstore and browse the “off the beaten path” travel books. In this day of e-tablets and readers, I still enjoy browsing through books to gather ideas. Finally, don’t forget about sites like Roadside America, which list offbeat attractions by state. After being in a car for hours, it’s fun to surprise the kids with something different and unique.
To me, the excitement of planning the trip is half the fun. So what are you waiting for?