Family Road Trips – A Comprehensive Guide & Most Important Tips

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A family road trip is often one of the most exciting things for everyone involved. After a grueling school schedule, work pressure, and daily domestic madness, it is only right for the family to head out on an adventurous road trip.

But, do you plan it right? And because of this, we often find ourselves trying to salvage the road trip with some back-handedness, because we did not plan it right, and now we have to do something to get the excitement going. And while this might lead to a lot of excitement, it would often be of the unwarranted kind – especially for the parents!

About Family Road Trips

Of course, the success to a great family road trip (mountain or otherwise) lies in its planning, you have to consider everyone’s preferences & pet peeves. And, not to forget that you also have to make an itinerary because without one, it is going to be a pain!

As you know, when families are involved, we are often our most real selves, so all our emotions are uninhibited. One person not being happy can put everyone in a crabby mood. However, at the same time, doing activities other people enjoy and you are not particularly interested in is easier when you know that the next activity will be to your liking (Bonus points if siblings don’t enjoy what you enjoy and you get the added advantage of making them suffer! #justsiblingthings).

Family road trips are always the highlight of the year. Kids look forward to exploring new things and relaxing without homework, grandparents want to share the love and the parents are relaxed given that there’s no work to attend. Mothers might be grumpy and worried/ agitated, as often (especially in the Indian households) all the logistical tasks fall upon the maternal figure.

Perspective:  
Life in the backseat
Perspective:
Life in the backseat

How to prepare mentally for a family road trip 

We are here to guide you for the ultimate family road trip, given that we have suffered through them all – the good (happy times with the family, lots of memories made and cherished), the bad (it rained the entire time and we got to do no activities, no memories!) and the ugly (massive fights all around, lots of funny memories in hindsight).

I am here to tell you that no matter the outcome of your family trip – it will be one that will be cherished for your entire life and spoken about often. Because all trips, no matter how terrible (and believe me, there will never be a 100% great-family-road-trip success rate for any family!) will eventually be your building blocks for your family. So no matter the chaos, enjoy the moment and be in the moment.

Actual preparation

At the very beginning, plan your dates well in advance, and try to avoid monsoons. Hills during monsoons are rough and there are chances of landslides which make your trip risky. Beaches will be a pain with minimal activities for the kids to enjoy. So with that in mind, here are some tips for a great family trip to the hills.  

Involve everyone

By this we mean that do not leave the kids out when you are planning the destination. Remember that even kids might have some preferences, and you really do not want nagging children when you finally reach a place of your choice. So, get them involved from the very start, you will be surprised to see how much easier the trip planning gets when kids are involved. They are usually updated about most things, and so you might find yourself planning the trip at ease.

Also, other logistical issues such as packing, hotel booking, etc. should also be delegated. Everyone will feel a sense of responsibility and that only builds up the excitement.

Making memories and seeing places
Making memories and seeing places

Research for the road trip

Wherever you plan to go, research well about it. With people taking travelling seriously you are bound to find out some offbeat place that you have never heard of and going there can be a thrilling experience. Buy guide books (please don’t call me old – sometimes, they have enough and more decent information), or find them online (your more likely source!), there are numerous websites just like ourselves, offering best of advice and itineraries.  

Reservations

Mountains are popular destinations, and if you are going out during tourist seasons, you will find yourself in real trouble, because most places are booked. So make your reservations before you headout. No matter what you plan to get involved in, if it can be booked, do it. If you want to go on a short trek, make your reservations beforehand with the trekking company.

Prepare for worst

This means pack a bag full of medicines and emergency supplies, because you will definitely need it. You might think of it as an added baggage, but the truth is that you will find it near-empty when you return home. Remember that the long winding roads of the mountains can often cause nausea, and you do not want people throwing up and falling sick, especially children. So, you need to get medicines for the same (read, first aid kit).

Family Road Trip Goals
Family Road Trip Goals

Food & necessities on a road trip

You need to pack food. Granted that there are numerous Maggie Points and tiny stalls everywhere, but what if it is raining and you cannot get out of the car? You need food! FamilyFun magazine found that 73% of families considered snacks to be the No. 1 way to keep kids happy on a family road trip.

Ensure you get some healthy options in the pack and of course, the regular kids demands – cookies, chocolates, chips etc. Water cooler is MUST and so is carrying some juices etc for the young’uns. Involve you kids in the packing of food – they will enjoy the exercise more and be less inclined to crib when getting restless in the car!

Love the Vehicle

Make sure that you have all emergency tools, such as torque wrench, Stepney tyre, screwdrivers, and a flashlight. Water is yet another essential thing required at all times, so do pack a few bottles. I cannot tell you the number of times my father’s car used to stall (or a tyre burst, or just plain old puncture) and we were stranded.

In hindsight, these are fun stories to remember and tease each other about – but, it was stressful at the time, y’all.

Check this list of 40 MUST HAVE items to carry on a self-drive trip to the Himalayas.

Clothes

Let’s get the packing started. We must always pack in layers and dress in layers! Of course not to mention, have woollens and jackets handy, especially if you’re in the hills. Dressing heavily and having the weather change on you is not a fun situation to be in – especially with kids in tow. Pack according to the weather you’re visiting.

You will need to be aware of everyone’s needs when travelling. Remember, if you have old people with you, you need to be extra careful when packing, especially in matters of medicines, and woollens. Also, I think its really cool to have mini-bags for your kids to carry themselves. Otherwise, you’ll be doing double duty carrying all their things and yours too. Bonus point that they truly enjoy the feeling of being a grown up and act like a responsible adult (Why do kids want this, I fail to understand! But, I digress!)

Check this comprehensive list of thing to carry on a trip.

Google Maps

Ensure you have the Google map downloaded for offline usage. Don’t want to be lost in the woods with kids in tow, no matter how interesting of a story it makes down the road.

Maps of the good kind
Maps of the good kind

On the Vacation itself

Pack a punch by inculcating the following tricks into your planning and you’ll definitely have a few solid memories to cherish while making the experience as enjoyable as possible!

Spread a smile

When you’re visiting far-flung places, especially in the hills, know that the basic amenities we take for granted are often a luxury for the local folks. We at Devil on wheels always carry goodies like crayons, small soft toys, pencils, notebooks or sweets for little kids that you meet on your trip. If you are traveling with kids, make them give away these goodies as they are sure to learn a thing or two about joys of giving and empathy.

Take break and enjoy nature

Don’t try to reach your destination in one go. Take frequent breaks at any beautiful spot that you come across and breathe it all in. Live the nature up! If your kids want an additional stop over at a random little place that they might fancy, just take that little break – so what if you can’t reach the hotel on time, not the end of the world!

By the way did you read my last article on most important tips for a Women Solo Traveler?

Have buffer days

I say this for all sorts of trips, and not necessarily Family trips specifically. Most times, we tend to jam-pack our schedule when on a vacation with N number of things to accomplish, experience, visit, see, shop, eat! With all this, we also think we will read a good book ( I know you packed one :D) or get up early for a morning run (Those sneakers you packed are also visible to me :D).

In all the madness and the hoopla of wanting to DO things, we forget that this is relaxation time to regroup, rewind and reconnect! If anyone in your family is anything like me, they will definitely be stressed for not being on time, running late, missing things. Let’s just keep buffer days for a day or two where you’ve planned no activity. Chances are, you won’t accomplish things in your itinerary anyways and can do it when you have nothing planned. Happy life.  

Buffer days are extremely important when making trips to remote places of the Himalayas.

Pictures please!

Make sure your camera and phones are always charged as you would not want to miss out on any picture that could be a million dollar shot! Capturing moments in your camera will make sure that the trip and moments stay with you for much time to come.

But, at the same time, make sure your little ones are not glued to their gadgets and missing out on the views outside their windows (I hear this is a real pain point for the kiddies these days!). Scree-Free Vacation is a must for the kids, no matter how old. This is a rule we follow on our family vacations as well (although I tend to break the rule, mostly for pictures)!

Play Vacation Games

Sing-alongs, “count backward from 100 and we will reach our destination” (do dads still use this trick? Mine used it all the time, my sister and I always used to get distracted midway – problem solved!), Spot the same car again, Joke of the Day etc. – each family has their own unique way of passing time – choose yours, it will become a legend! Also, it is a nice way to carry on traditions from your own childhood – will make you feel like a kid again!

Don’t to forget to carry some games to play when you are at the destination.

The self-drive trip to Ladakh
The self-drive trip to Ladakh

Be realistic

Even with all the preparation and hard work, know that there will be fights, tears, happiness, laughter, boredom, irritability – it is family after all! However, also know, with most things a family does, it is fun in hindsight! Learn to not take things too seriously and just let things be. You will be making good memories and don’t set too high of an expectation for everything to be perfect (life rarely is!)

How can we help! 

Family road trips bridge generations, they put you on a similar playing field and your experiences can be shared and quantifiably discussed with your family members – if this is not pure bonding, I am not sure what is! Have any questions and concerns regarding planning a family trip?

Have a travel question?? You can follow us on Instagram and ask your travel questions in a direct message on Instagram too. I also conduct a weekly Q&A session every Saturday evening on Instagram, so see you there.

Any issues/suggestions we missed that can be inculcated in the article above? Need us to vet your planned itinerary? We are happy to help. So, Comment below with whatever you want our opinions on and we will get back to you with wit, humor and factual advice!  Also, be sure to check out the website for some off-beat locations in the Himalayas!

Conclusion

So whenever you plan your next vacation, try to plan a road trip with your family and make sure it is one of the experiences worth remembering. I wholeheartedly believe my passion and yearning to explore the world comes from my parents’ encouragement from a very young age to experience new things and see the world.

It is such a gift to be able to go to new places, meet new people, be comfortable in the uncomfortable – and I completely credit all of this to my travel experiences as a child. So, give your kids a choice to be curious about life and the world, it will make them humble little creatures with their own distinct identities.

As parents, you’ll learn so much about your kids and by seeing the world through their eyes, you’ll be more innocent and trusting in your interactions with the world. And, it must be appreciated that family vacations teach you tonnes & definitely shape who you are, no matter where you sit in the hierarchy of your family tree.

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About Author

Shefali spends most of her time day dreaming about her next big vacation. A happy-go-lucky personality, she is an amalgamation of all the places she’s lived in and experienced! She is always confused as to where to call home, having lived in Chandigarh, Shimla, Dehradun, Mumbai, Hyderabad in India and Vancouver, Abbotsford in Canada. Her love for travel is only challenged by her love for reading and eating delicious food! In order to sustain her dreams, she brought out her inner geek, got an MBA and has a job in the corporate world crunching numbers. Do follow @nomadstoryteller on Instagram for updates on her next great adventure.

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