Road trips are the ultimate adventure.
You can plan it to the hilt or you can go by the seat of your pants.
I like to do something in between.
Whatever the planning, there’s nothing like great tunes, great conversation and miles and miles of open road.
Now, you may call me crazy, but I love going on road trips with my teenage daughter. (Yes, you read that correctly.)
It’s our time together, our chance to catch up and talk about what’s going on in our lives. We can get goofy singing at the top of our lungs if we want to – and we do!
A few years ago, we went on the ultimate road trip. We drove over 3000 miles, from Austin, Texas to Mount Rushmore, South Dakota (and back). We travelled through 11 states over 13 days – and it was fantastic.
Santa Fe was quirky; Boulder, hippy; the Rocky Mountains were gobsmarkingly gorgeous; Wyoming was mind-bogglingly expansive; South Dakota, eerily spiritual; Iowa and Kansas were just down-homely sweet; and Arkansas – it’s truly one of the most beautiful places in the U.S.
Everyone needs to experience an EPIC road trip, at least once in their life.
Every parent should take a road trip alone with their kids. Plan the trip. Make it an adventure. Seriously, the destination is just a byproduct.
Hopefully this will inspire you to pack up the car and go road tripping with your kids!
Here are 9 simple ways to make YOUR next road trip extraordinary.
1. PLAN THE ROUTE:
Do this together. Plan out your route, but don’t take the most direct way. There’s nothing really interesting about highway travel, especially in America. Take the scenic route. Take the off-the-beaten path. You’ll get more from your experience if you do.
When we planned our Mount Rushmore journey, we could have easily taken the freeway all the way to South Dakota and back. Instead, we made it one big loop, going through New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, up to the eastern side of South Dakota. We then returned via the eastern side and down through Kansas, Arkansas and Oklahoma.
We researched interesting places to see along the way. We discovered Santa Fe, Taos, White Sands National Park, Boulder, Rocky Mountains National Park and Cheyenne Wyoming. On the way back, after really exploring the Custer, South Dakota area, we headed south via Sioux Falls, stopped in Kansas City for great BBQ, spent two nights exploring the quirky Eureka Springs, before staying with friends, getting a local tour of their piece of Oklahoma, before we headed back to Texas.
2. FIND INTERESTING PLACES TO STAY:
Do your research. Find an interesting mix of places to stay. We discovered all the quirks of a retro, southwestern motel in New Mexico; we relaxed in an ex-president’s summer home in South Dakota; we got goosebumps staying at a haunted hotel in Arkansas.
Sure, sometimes you need to stay in a Holiday Inn or the like, especially if you need a quick place to lay your head, but if you are spending any time in one place, why not make the most of your money and enjoy your accommodations too?
Check out our Destination Guides for our recommendations.
3. CREATE PLAYLISTS TOGETHER:
Create a mix of music that you can both listen to and enjoy. Include songs you can sing to at the top of your lungs. If you need to spice up your library, check out your local library for some new CDs to listen to.
4. BORROW or BUY AUDIO BOOKS:
On one road trip we listened to The Chronicles of Narnia. As my daughter got older, we listened to A Thousand Splendid Suns. We enjoyed both immensely. When we stopped for something to eat, it gave us something different to talk about.
5. CREATE A NAME FOR YOUR ROAD TRIP:
I don’t know what it is, but naming your road trip it gives it depth, meaning, and context. We have been on “A Rockin’ Road Trip’ because of our upbeat music playlists. Last year, we ventured on our “Pacific Wanderings Road Trip” for the route we took and the speed at which we took it. Our most recent road trip was dubbed “Writers Retreat Road Trip” because we sequestered ourselves in a cabin in the Snowy Mountains (Australia) for three days, so we could write without getting caught up in the ‘have tos.’
The name of the road trip lets us know exactly what we are talking about. I mean, we’ve taken a number of trips up and down Australia’s Pacific Highway, but by naming it, the road trip becomes specific.
6. DECIDE ON A MANTRA:
On our Midwest U.S. trip, we chose ‘Try Something New” and surprisingly, that mantra has carried on for every road trip we’ve had since. Oh, we’ve had others, but “Try Something New” reminds us to get us out of our comfort zone and be more adventurous in our choices. Why travel if you are going to stick to your same ‘vegemite on toast for breakfast’ mentality?
7. PLAN YOUR ROAD TRIP GAMES:
There are so many out there, but once you’ve road tripped a few times, you know what works for your family and what doesn’t.
We have some great ones that our family plays, even if it’s a trip 30 minutes down the road:
– The ABC game. Call out the first letters of words from roadsigns as you go through the alphabet. X and Y can be a challenge.
– Cockeye. This is a family favourite to play at night. If you see a car with one headlight out, you call ‘cockeye’. If it’s two lights out, it’s double points. BUT if you call a cockeye incorrectly, you lose a point.
– ‘I spy’. A classic.
– There are more we played which I’ve added to our Great Resources page, including Travel Bingo. (We have a travel board we use and since it is only the two of us, we play one board and work it together. It’s not a competition, just a fun game to play.) Check out the page for more!
8. BUILD IN SOME ALONE TIME (a.k.a. how not to kill each other):
Our Midwest U.S. road trip set the presedent for how great road trips could be, what it can do for us, and as a result, it’s now something we do every year. It reconnects us. Even when life has gotten a little rough, when the sweet girl turned into the teen from hell, we road-tripped. It has always brought us back together and made our relationship stronger.
Making a road trip a success is simple: engage. Play road-tripping games together, ask each other questions (hopefully you’ve already signed up for our newsletter to receive our ’24 Questions to Connect’ questionnaire – it’s the ultimate road tripping questionnaire!). And when you are done talking, play music from playlists or listen to audio books you’ve selected together.
Just as importantly, you need to take some down time from each other. Make time for some quiet time when you can individually read, meditate, exercise, write… whatever it is that allows you to quieten your brain and gets you to breathing deeply for a while. Seriously, take that time. It doesn’t have to be long, but you have to give each other the space. (And now you know MY secret to a successful road trip with MY teenager!)
9. COMMIT TO TAKING AN ANNUAL ROAD TRIP:
After two weeks in the car, 11 states and over 3000 miles, our last day came. We were sad. We wanted the road trip to continue. Even though I was exhausted from driving all those miles on my own, I could have kept driving. We decided we would take an annual road trip together for as long as we could. Maybe not as long or as far, but we would make a point of getting away together. Just the two of us.
My daughter has just turned 16. I know my days of road tripping with her are dwindling. I took the opportunity to road trip with her early, and now she’s just as eager as I am to escape the everyday, to see what the world has to offer, to experience life on the road.
Do you know when you have that moment when you know you’ve done the right thing? My moment was this last April when my 15 year old daughter said to me:
“I know you are my Mum, but I feel like I’m away with my best friend” before she turned and did the dishes on her own initiative. I realised then that I’m damn lucky.
And that is why we take road trips.
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