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Family Vacation Road Trip Planning: Departure Time

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Welcome to our new series, Family Vacation Road Trip Planning!  Over the next few weeks, you’ll get tried and true tips for planning the best family vacation road trip from a mom of 4.

Road trips are the preferred way to travel for most families. The average family takes one or more road trips every year. Some parents welcome a road trip as quality family time, while others view it as a necessary evil to travel from one place to another!

If you take the latter position, there is a good chance that you may find your road trip more enjoyable if you follow some of the travel tips  in our family vacation road trip planning series.

Departure Time

Regardless of how far away the destination is, the goal in planning a successful road trip is to limit the amount of ‘restless’ time in the car. Children have short attention spans and get fidgety rather quickly. Activities and movies are great, but kids anxiously awaiting the arrival of their vacation will grow weary of novelties rather quickly.

For long distance road trips, it is best to leave at a time that allows for maximum sleep time for the children. Some parents like to get up before dawn and be on the highway when the sun comes up.

My personal preference on long distance road trips is to go to bed early the night before and set the alarm for 2 a.m. Packing the car full of comatose children is easier than it sounds. My children can be carried directly from bed to car without a hitch.

In the event that they do start to come to, they will be groggy and once you hit the road, the car ride should send them back to their zombie-like state. While you may be tired for the first day of your tip, it may be worth the trade off to be to make it halfway to your destination before having to stop for breakfast. Don’t forget to pack their own pillows and blankets too. 

What are your best road trip tips? Let us know in the comments below.

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  1. Liz@HoosierHomemade
    Jun 18, 2009 @ 19:13:53

    We are taking a short road trip early next week. Even though my boys are older, I’ll still be packing the car with some goodies.
    Thanks for hosting!


  2. Phoebe @ Cents to Get Debt Free
    Jun 18, 2009 @ 19:14:54

    My tips: Patience, pack plenty of snacks/drinks and pencil and paper. The paper and pencil alone entertain my children for hours.

    I love traveling in the middle of the night. However we usually leave directly after dinner. The kids usually still fall asleep about 9 or so. We drive until we just can’t take it anymore. Hubby and I get alone/quiet time, and we’re not complete zombies the next day.


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  5. Jenn @ Beautiful Calling
    Jun 19, 2009 @ 03:12:52

    I like the idea of comatose children. We’ve done two road trips. One when Chloe was 18 months (23 hours over 3 days) and one when she was 22 months (10 hours in one day). Books. silly putty, snacks, new little toys, squishy balls etc. worked beautifully. Still tough though….little people don’t want to sit in a seat for that long!


  6. Wendy aka CalvaryGirl
    Jun 19, 2009 @ 05:32:27

    I wouldn’t dismiss the movies in the car easily. It all depends on the individual children, I believe. Four years ago my mother in law and husband planned for us to travel from NC to AL the day after Christmas to spend the week after with family living down there. To ease our anxiety about it she bought the dual DVD players for the car. We will NEVER take another trip without them! The kids were four and six at the time, they’re seven and ten now. We buy new movies they have been wanting to see for trips and it does a wonderful job keeping their attention. Now that the girl is older she is also contented with coloring and drawing.

    I choose against snacks and drinks in the car for a number of reasons. One being, when confined in the car for a number of hours, it can be hard for a child to discern whether theyre truy hungry, or bored, I beieve. With me kids, I see it in my daughter at home, so shes much more prone to snack her time away without being truly hungry, but just eating to pass time. As for drinks, we drink as little as possible to avoid a lot of stops. That first trip to AL four years ago we still had to stop every couple of hours for my daughter to go to the bathroom- she was a sippy-cup-carrier. I learned my lesson on that trip. Only eat when you’re hungry, and drink when you’re thirsty! :) That’s what has worked for us.


  7. Kaye - SandwichINK
    Jun 19, 2009 @ 08:53:49

    Thanks for these great tips. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series and sharing it with my daughters who do take long trips. As grandma, I don’t make the long trips as often. But occasionally I do to help with long distance dr. visits.

    I, too, really appreciate my DVD player for any length trips! :) We have a great choice of DVDs from Max Lucado’s Hermie series to The Gaithers’ Bullfrog set to Miss Spider and more. They are educational and entertaining and make a very long trip seem much shorter.

    I always look for eating places with playlands when it’s time to stop for lunch or dinner. It gives the grandkids a chance to stretch their legs and adds another layer of pleasure to the trip. If packing our food, then parks are great options as well


  8. Tara
    Jun 22, 2009 @ 07:20:01

    I love this idea of getting on the road while the kids are still “out”! That would really make it possible to get to some mileage taken care of without the usual need to stop/entertain. Once they wake up, DVD’s and toys are one way to entertain, but the best tried-and-true ways to take kids on a road trip is to get involved in some road trip games for the whole family as well as planning lots of stops along the way to both release pent-up energy as well as lower the boredom-factor.

    One great road trip book for kids I heard of recently is “KidChat” (obviously for kids who are able to speak for the most part) – it has a lot of great conversation-starters for you and your kids. The parent sitting shotgun can take over this task and get everyone involved. I’ve heard of a lot of success stories with this one – really getting to know each other better (lots of surprising answers)!


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