The Ultimate Guide to the American Road Trip

Asian kids looking out window of car on family road trip istock

The road is calling your name, and our guide will show you how to prep for the adventure

If there’s one way every parent has traveled at one point or another, it’s on a road trip. Lucky for you, we’re experts at the road trip game and know what to pack, where to go, how to get there and all the snacks to bring along with you. Leave the planning to us—you’ll find everything you need right here!

What to Pack on a Road Trip

Gear to Bring with You

girl in car with car organization ready for road trip
Amazon

Set yourself up for success by organizing your car with everything you need within reach so you don't have to pull over to hand out snacks. Make sure you have enough charging ports to keep everyone's devices juiced up, prepare yourself for car sickness and spills, have a designated spot for trash and make sure everyone has a device for when you need some quiet time. We've got all our road trip recs right here

Best Snacks for Traveling

Kate Loweth

There's nothing worse than a car covered in crumbs. Think about options that would allow your car to be as crumb-free as possible when you are heading out on a road trip. A lot of our favorite snacks come in individual packages that are great for bringing along in the car. If you have older kids, a mini cooler for each kid is fun way to stash snacks. Bonus: no fighting over Cheez-Its! 

Snacks to stay away from when on a road trip: dairy products, anything that will smell if spilled, things that must be kept frozen, a large container of small pieces (like a Tupperware of Goldfish) and anything that could make a huge mess. 

Related: Here Are the Best Family Cars, Vans and SUVs for 2023, According to Experts

Things to Do While on the Road

Easy Car Games Everyone Will Love

This list is full of ideas for car games that will have you laughing out loud, shouting “Skittles!” and searching out cows along the side of the road. Print it out before you pack the car!

Keep Those Kids Busy

istock

There's nothing worse than when the "are we there yet?" questioning begins and you're only 30 minutes from home. With a little planning ahead, you'll be totally prepared for your journey. 

  1. Download some podcasts that the whole family will love. 
  2. Make a kids' playlist and let them play DJ by choosing the next song. 
  3. Pick some audiobooks and read along with them. 
  4. Get out an old-school map and have them follow along on the journey. 
  5. How many American flags can you spot along the way? Games like this will make the journey part of the fun. 

Roadside Oddities Worth a Stop

While you're en route to your destination, keep the journey interesting by mapping out some roadside oddities along the way. Whether it's a giant dog made into an inn in Idaho or a graveyard of Cadillacs in Texas, the kids will love these weird and wild stops. 

The Most Picturesque Routes to Get You There

Kids at White Sands National Park for family road trip
Anna Doogan

Nobody likes to spend hours on end driving through cornfields. These picturesque routes will take you over the Colorado mountains, up the California coast, back in time on Mackinac Island and through the massive sandbox of White Sands National Monument. 

Related: The Most Amazing Airbnbs for Families in All 50 States (& DC!)

Where to Go on Your Road Trip

The One Thing You Need to Do in Every State

Not sure what destination to choose for your next road trip? Get some inspiration from this list that has our favorite thing to do in every state. From rivers that are perfect for fishing and rafting, to waterfalls you just have to see, this list has them all.

National & State Parks

Our country is full of amazing national parks with massive Redwood trees, sand dunes for days and canyons so big you can’t see across. These are ideal destinations for a family road trip, especially if you have a 4th grader who can get you in for free. These under-the-radar national parks are the perfect option for the busier summer months. Or, check out a state park instead—they are just as beautiful and often easier to access.

Stay in a Unique Vacation Rental

Airbnb

Whether you have a little railfan in your crew, or you want an out-of-this-world overnight adventure in a spaceship, we've got the perfect unique vacation rental for you. 

Want to go really wild? This list has everything from a spaceship to a pirate ship to a Navajo earth house that you can rent

Travel Based on Your Kid's Interests

Boy at dinosaur museum best road trips for kids
Kate Loweth

A fun way to plan your next family vacation is to think about your child's interests.

Make It a Theme Park Vacation

Theme parks are a fun road trip destination for many families. Little ones will love LEGOLAND California and it’s perfectly-sized rides for tykes. Disneyland is another Southern California favorite for families. We’ve got loads of tips on how to save on your next Disney World trip, and the best way to tackle the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios.

Learn a Little about Our Country

Don’t tell the kids, but a road trip is a great way to get in a little extra education about our country. From trips that will make your kids smarter to places to visit to learn about race in America, there are tons of destinations where we can all learn a little bit about the world around us. You can even focus on women’s history by visiting the Sacajawea Center, Helen Keller’s birthplace and the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park.

Related: 22 Creative Road Trip Activities (That Don’t Include Screens)

Alternative Means of Transport

Take an RV Trip

Family on RV road trip vacation
iStock

Ditch the minivan and rent an RV for your next family vacation. It's easier than ever to do this with rental companies that can set it all up for you and even plan your itinerary. Many families are giving roadschooling a try with kids doing remote learning this year. 

These RV parks have all the perks your family will want like water slides, ziplines, fishing derbies, amusement parks and all the stargazing you've ever wanted

Campervans Are the Rad Way to Travel

Kids in campvan on RV family road trip
Kate Loweth

If you are not quite ready to venture into the land of RV travel, consider a campervan instead. Smaller and easier to drive, campervans are a fun way to see the country with the kids. Best of all you don't need an RV campsite as they can be parked at a regular-size site. 

 

 

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