Spending hours in a car can be tedious for anyone, but it's particularly hard on kids. If you have a long car ride in your future, one way you can make it great for the whole family is to turn it into a road trip. Thinking of your drive as a part of your vacation in and of itself can make the whole process of going somewhere a ton more enjoyable. Everyone will arrive in a far better mood, and even though the stops will make the drive longer, it will feel much shorter. Here's how you can plan a road trip that will delight each and every passenger coming along:
Although parents might assume that they've created a bunch of fun surprises by planning the whole trip themselves, kids aren't likely to see it that way. For a kid, not knowing what's going on can be borderline torturous, especially when he or she is being asked to sit patiently in a car for an unknown length of time before the next stop. Plus, even if you know your child very well, you might miss stops they'd love or add stops they won't enjoy.
"The more planning kids do, the more excited they'll be."
Instead of taking on all of the responsibility for planning the trip, include every family member. How much your kids are involved will depend on their age and ability. If you have a young child, you can make him or her a list of potential stops along the way to chose from. A teen or preteen might be able to actually research the route and suggest stops. Try to get a feel for how involved your children want to be, and encourage them to take on extra responsibility if they seem interested. The more of the trip they have a hand in, the more excited they'll be on the ride.
Once you've worked together to come up with a list of stops, make sure everyone gets a chance to do the things they'd love. If one child has done more work, it might turn out that his or her interests are more heavily represented. Keep your eye on this, and work to ensure that everyone has picked - or at least expressed excitement about - an even number of stops along the way.
A lot of traveler's first impulse is to try and make the trip to your destination as short as possible. Once you start thinking of your drive as an actual part of your vacation, however, it's easy to take your time. Make frequent stops along the way for food, bathroom breaks and roadside attractions. You should be considering stop frequency when you're planning your trip.
That said, don't limit yourself to what you've put on the itinerary. There are going to be fun stops along the way that no one caught when researching - maybe they're places that don't have a good website, or are too new to have made into "must-see" articles. If something catches your attention and more than one person is interested in checking it out, it's probably worth your time. You can make room for spontaneous stops by adding an hour or two of wiggle room to your driving schedule. Try to think in terms of arrival window rather than arrival time, and you'll be a lot more willing to indulge a fun detour.
The other side of the coin: Cut boring stops short. Sometimes the world's largest ball of cork is just a ball of cork. If one of your stops is a dud, don't drag out the experience. Enjoy the opportunity to stretch and walk around, and then head back on the road so you can find the super fun stop a few miles away.