Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

The Road Trip How to Enjoy Your Family Adventure without Needing a Vacation Once You Get Home

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

The Road Trip How to Enjoy Your Family Adventure without Needing a Vacation Once You Get Home

Article excerpt

More of us will be traveling this summer, and travelers are increasingly seeking vacations with "substance." For families, this can mean trading mouse ears for yoga mats, taking history tours, and spotting northern pintails in state and national parks.

There's another advantage to such vacations with substance, of course: They can be money-savers, so more and more of us will be embarking on these soul-enriching outings in our cars.

Unfortunately, for kids, there's almost nothing meaningful about being strapped into the back of the family van while Missouri and Kansas whiz past. That's a shame when you consider that most of us remember our pre-kid road trips so fondly. Part of the appeal of piling into a car with a group of buddies was that you'd inevitably get to know your fellow travelers in new, often surprising ways. You'd eat differently, sleep differently, and have different kinds of conversations and experiences. In this liminal state, grown-ups often start to act more like kids: A bag of Twizzlers transforms into a perfectly acceptable breakfast, and acting out scenes from "Life of Brian" suddenly becomes a completely rational way to get through a two-hour stretch of freeway.

So now that you have actual kids in the mix, why not include them in road-trip planning and decision-making? That's what we did when we each asked our own kids -- ranging in age from 6 to 14 -- to help us find a more fun and meaningful way to get from here to there and back. Here's what they helped us figure out.

Plan together

Not knowing what to expect on a road trip can be stressful for a kid. Have your entire family sit down together with a map (digital or paper) and plot out your route. There are lots of these services available online. AAA's free Internet TripTik Travel Planner is a solid choice, and members can get a physical TripTik, a detailed flip chart that takes you through every step of your journey. Let each family member decide at least one thing to do along the way. Once you're on the road, let your kids track your progress with travel and map apps.

Stop

Nothing ruins a road trip like grown-ups who drive like they're training for the Dakar Rally. So instead of treating your vacation like it's a way to blast from point A to point B, make getting there part of the experience, and schedule plenty of time to take breaks and see the sights. …

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