Last Updated on May 26, 2021
After we started growing our family, we quickly realized how great road trips are for family vacations and traveling on a budget. Exploring by car is a more affordable way to discover a country. It gives the chance to be more spontaneous, and able to change your itinerary on a whim.
We love how every day can be so different and that when you’re driving through towns, the landscape can change so much. The kids are so observant of their surroundings. They find the changing landscapes and new surroundings exciting and make sure we recognize the changes along the way. They never shy away from asking why or questioning what something is.
The Truth About Family Road Trips
At times, traveling with little ones can be a little stressful or frustrating, but we promise that the benefits definitely outweigh the costs. With each road trip, you will better understand how to keep your kids entertained when confined to the back seat for hours at a time. We have already been able to create so many memories with our four kids that we would not trade for anything. All the moments, frustrating or full of joy, make the journey more than worth it and will leave you wanting more.
We have found adventuring with our kids to be extremely rewarding, especially because traveling with kids is no easy feat.
You will soon find that family road trips can often be more about the journey than the destination itself, and all the joyful and difficult moments in between. And remember, a road trip does not have to be an across-country affair. A weekend getaway or a couple of hours down the road can be just as enjoyable and relaxing.
Here are the reasons why road trips are great for family travel, and suggestions about how to make it possible.
Speed Up Or Slow Down
Road trips are the easiest way to have “control” over how fast or slow you go. You will continually be surprised at the adventures that can be found in the places you least expect. Road trips give you the opportunity to slow down if you see something that tickles your fancy or get moving if something was not as good as you had hoped.
One of our most memorable road trips was through the Canadian Rockies with our first two girls, where we were able to take the girls on their first camping trip. We were able to pull over to photograph all the incredible scenery we desired, take part in some amazing excursions like the Athabasca Glacier, or cruising Maligne Lake. Since we had a vehicle, we were able to do as we pleased and when we wanted. Another highlight is being able to get into nature more easily, like the time we chased waterfalls in the waterfall paradise of Wells Gray Provincial Park in beautiful British Columbia. It was unforgettable!
Schedules Are Not Important
While you may have some activities planned at a certain time, most of your activities are easily changeable and you can add and change your plans as you see fit. For the most part, you do not have to worry about being completely punctual. If you are really enjoying the attraction you are at, you can stay a little longer, or if you have seen all you desire, you can move on. Driving along the Icefields Parkway during our Canadian Rockies road trip, we really enjoyed having that luxury of pulling over when we wanted to take pictures of the stunning landscapes or to view wildlife. Though we had a few activities planned, as soon as those were done, we were able to use the rest of our time as we wished. We saw so many amazing things that we would have missed had we flown over in an airplane. You are able to see what others would consider being “flyover country”, and are able to witness the beauty of it all.
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Take Breaks As Needed
If the kids are going a little crazy being strapped into their car seats during long drives, you are able to pull over and let them stretch their legs while getting some fresh air, without worrying about the time. Sometimes a little fresh air is all they need to calm down and get ready to continue the venture. Heck, even adults need that little bit of time sometimes!
This is especially important when you have a potty training two-year-old. When we were driving back to LA from San Diego, Madison needed a potty break, and fast, so we got off the highway at the next exit we could. Driving around for somewhere to have a quick snack and use the washroom, we found that we had wandered into the beautiful beach town of San Clemente. Not having a tight schedule allows you to find gems you never would have otherwise discovered. After Madison’s potty needs were satisfied, we were able to enjoy some beach time surrounded by beautiful scenery.
Choose Your Own Adventure
Road trips also do not have to be a couple of thousand miles, or more, away. You could also stay more local like we did when we visited the Okanagan in beautiful British Columbia. It was only a few hours away from Vancouver, but the beauty we were surrounded by made it feel like we were farther away. Even hopping in a car can make you feel like you are a million miles away from home.
This is especially exciting when you wake up to a new adventure every day. This is just as exciting for the kids as it is for the adults. New sights, sounds, and discoveries await every day.
The beauty of a road trip also means that you will be able to travel longer. Airfare can add up, especially with us being a family of six. It is getting more and more expensive to fly if we do not find a mistake fare or get another good airfare deal. We find that a large number of families find that travel difficult because of airfare expenses. With a road trip, we are able to use what we would have spent on airfare, and usually, that money will be enough to cover a big chunk of a trip, allowing us to travel for longer, and travel more often.
When we are somewhere with some fun food to try, we always have to try some of the novelties, but having a car also allows us to stop at the grocery store and buy the ingredients for our meals. This has saved us a ton of money. It is always easier to stay healthier when you can prepare some of your own meals, than when stopping for fast food. Plus, pulling over for fresh air and a picnic is always a fun idea with kids.
Also, if we are able to use our own family van for the trip, we are saving the cost of renting a vehicle for the duration of our trip. Renting a vehicle and adding insurance to it can add a decent amount of money to vacation. On one of our last family road trips to California, we were shown how to alter our current car insurance to add a premium road star package to our current vehicle insurance, which was good to also use in the United States. This meant that we did not have to spend a lot of extra money for insurance for the car rental; it was a fraction of the cost than if we did insurance when picking up the rental.
Having a vehicle also allows us to stay farther away from the city center. This can save some money on accommodations that are within the most popular parts of town. Do not overlook the high cost of parking at hotels within popular areas.
You See Unexpected Things
I always drive Darcy crazy when I notice neat places to stop and pull over. The funny thing is, he thinks that if I am behind the wheel that we will be able to stop less. In reality, it makes it easier for me to stop. It is fun to stop at the tourist-driven places, but we love to also show the kids the quirky and neat things and places we can find from the roadside billboards. Some stops always end up being more entertaining than others, but we always manage to find the fun in our spur-of-the-moment decisions.
On our road trip through Arizona a few years ago, we saw a sign for Flintstones Bedrock City, which was part of the Route 66 roadside attraction craze, and I knew we had to stop. It was rather deserted and ghostly, but it was fun to explore all the various aspects of Bedrock, surrounded by your favorite Flintstones characters, albeit a bit creepy. Since we grew up watching the Flintstones as kids, we figured it was worth a look. It was a simple, but fun step back in time and a great family road trip stop!
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Pack What You Want
Family road trips also allow you to pack a few more items “just in case” that you would have to leave behind if you were trying to pack for an airplane flight. It is nice to not have to fuss over car seats and a crazy amount of luggage in an airport, especially when you have four little kids. Being able to pack that little extra can help you bring along more to entertain the kids, as well as things that will make your life easier as you venture with little kids. It is also nice to already have the car seat installed, and you do not have to worry about renting a car seat when you do not know what has happened to it, or what people will admit has happened to it.
Quality Family Time
This is a good reason to take any family vacation, but we love how much quality time you are able to have as a family when you are on a road trip. Some people may go crazy with kids in a car, but when we are on the open road, we love it. Aside from the kids repeating “are we there yet?”, of course. Luckily, we are able to find humor in that question over and over again; it is part of the journey.
A family road trip means spending time together, as one. It is an excellent way to strengthen your family bond. We love the time to actually talk to each other and to listen to the minds of our little ones. Getting a look into how they process their surroundings and thoughts is always an adventure.
We are able to connect with each other on a whole other level than when we are busy just rushing from activity to activity within our daily ‘normal’ lives. We love seeing how they react to different activities, especially over time as they grow.
We love to involve the children in deciding what stops we should make along the way. When they are younger and cannot really voice their opinion, we try to steer some activities to something that would interest them. It is a great way to keep them interested and learning, without it feeling like work. They feel like they are discovering these places for themselves, instead of it just being “another place that Mom and Dad dragged us to”. Active and hands-on learning has so many benefits!
Family road trips can help to build a deeper level of patience, for both kids and adults. While the kids can get frustrated as they wait to reach the next destination, they will gain patience as they learn that it takes time to reach the next adventure. This also has really helped our kids building a deeper level of patience in other situations too.
Living Outside Our Comfort Zone
This goes with any travel, but kids who are able to explore more are able to wander more frequently outside of their comfort zone. The continual changing of destinations, figuring out how to solve problems along the way, will encourage reaching out of their comfort zone. This will help encourage your kids to live life to the fullest, and to dare them to dream.
When you take a family road trip with kids, you will soon realize that most of your fears of traveling with kids did not actually materialize. Kids can handle and do a lot more than we give them credit for. We are always impressed with their level of patience and excitement about traveling. A road trip journey as a family is always incredible in our books.
Do you love taking family road trips? Why or why not?
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