Father and children planning out their summer road trip on a map

Family road trip with kids. Do these words bring feelings of excitement and adventure? Or the opposite – the stress of planning, boredom, and little voices in the backseat, whining “Are we there yet?”. If you plan on driving to one destination (or several), we want to help make sure it’s a well-planned summer adventure of a lifetime. Here are our tips (and a few road trip itineraries) to keep in mind when planning a family road trip with kids.

How to Plan Your Route

The idea of just loading up the car and hitting the open road with no real agenda sounds so romantic and spontaneous, but having a plan of your stops ahead of time will save you stress and money. Consider who will be riding with you in the car. Do you have small children? Teenagers? It might be easy for you to transform into a road warrior driving 8+ hours a day, but you might make your fellow passengers completely miserable on the way to your first stop.

    • Use an app like Roadtrippers to help lay out your route and plan for stops along the way. With Roadtrippers you can calculate fuel costs, time, and distance.
    • OnTheWay is another app you can use to plan your road trip. The app can show you stops and restaurants along your route, but it can also help you find interesting places to stop like roadside attractions, parks, and museums.
  • Check traffic and the weather before you depart. One route might be closed due to snow or flooding. Or if you are brave enough to drive through Los Angeles during rush hour, the 405 freeway will most likely be a parking lot. Using the Waze app can help you navigate traffic patterns and suggest alternate routes.

How to Stay Within Budget

Sometimes driving somewhere can cost you less money than flying, especially when you have to purchase multiple plane tickets. But even driving costs can add up if you aren’t prepared with a few strategies.

    • Look for gas stations with cheaper gas. You can use the Waze app to help you locate the best price, or the GasBuddy app.
    • Keep the packing as light as you can. The lighter your trunk is, the better your gas mileage.
    • Pack lunches and healthy snacks for the car. This strategy will help you manage nutrition for you and your family, and it can also help you avoid constantly going through drive-thrus, gas station snacks (Although, beef jerky and Pringles are quite tempting!), and other fast food options that can add up.

family road trip with kids

Make Sure Your Car Is Ready to Roll

A few weeks before your family road trip with kids, make sure that your vehicle is in tip top shape for its journey. This is important for your safety as well as maintaining a healthy vehicle that won’t break down on you in the middle of nowhere. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a well-kept car will be more gas efficient. Check your fluids including oil and wiper cleaner. Make sure you have all the proper tools you need to change a flat tire. Finally, get your car cleaned inside and out. Yes, we know that it’s going to get dirty again out on the open road, but having a clean, fresh-smelling car can certainly bring good karma to your big trip.

Pack Your Car Like a Pro

Pack clothes you might need first on the top of your suitcase. Sweatshirts, a pair of socks, sandals, and hats are all things you might want to pull out to wear in the car. If you are traveling with little ones, have an emergency set of clothes easily accessible, since you never know what might be spilled, or worse. Some other packing strategies include:

    • A reusable water bottle filled with ice water to start your trip. You can always refill later.
    • Entertainment: music playlists, audiobooks, electronics, sticker books, small toys, and even old school “I spy” games.
    • Pack snacks where they are easy to reach. If you are traveling with kids, pack an obscene amount of snacks. It’s like they never stop snacking. Ever.
    • Have a trash bag handy. Otherwise the door compartments become stuffed with wrappers, food, etc.

Stay Flexible

Each day of your family road trip with kids will offer its own challenges (and opportunities), so keep a flexible state of mind to avoid stressing out over not keeping within the exact agenda that you’ve mapped out to the minute. Road construction, accidents, and bridge closures can all affect your perfectly planned schedule. On the ‘opportunities’ side, you never know when something interesting or fun might pop up along the way. A roadside waterfall to explore, the world’s biggest baseball bat statue, or even a lifesize dinosaur gift shop.

family road trip with kids

How to Pick Your Destinations

As we said earlier, picking your destinations ahead of time can help you save money and the stress of trying to book something last minute. Consider how far you want to drive each day. If you are traveling with small children, maybe stick with a five to six hour a day (or less) distance. Try limiting your destinations so you can spend more time in each one. This way you can explore more (and relax a lot more)!

Three Example Itineraries Using HGV Points

The access of Hilton Grand Vacations resorts combined with the Hilton Family of Brands properties allows you to road trip just about anywhere. We’ve put together three itinerary ideas to help inspire your family road trip with kids.

Don’t forget:

    • HGV resorts have in-unit washers and dryers, so you don’t have to squeeze your whole closet in the car.
    • Your unit has a full kitchen. No need to pack paper plates or a wine opener!
    • ClubPartner Perks allows you to use your points to rent a car to use on your road trip
    • Using ClubPartner Perks, you can also rent an RV for a home on wheels

Click on each city for our recommended resort or hotel.

The West

We’ve combined our western HGV properties to craft the “Ultimate HGV Westside Road Trip”

San Diego, CA →  Las Vegas, NVSalt Lake City, UtahBreckenridge, CO

family road trip with kids from San Diego, CA to Breckenridge, CO.

The East

For an east coast road trip filled with history, city lights, and even an international locale, try this popular route.

Williamsburg, VAWashington, D.C. → New York CityMontreal, Quebec

family road trip with kids from Williamsburg, VA to Montreal, Quebec

The South

For a southern route filled with sunshine, theme parks, water sports, and pool time, try this drive!

Orlando, FLSavannah, GAHilton Head IslandCharleston, SC

family road trip with kids from Orlando, FL to Charleston, SC.

A family road trip with kids can be an unforgettable adventure. Don’t let this vacation become a stressful experience. Instead, plan ahead. We wish you a happy and inspirational journey together out on the open road.

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