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Road trips: some people love them, some people hate them. Either way, one thing is probably for certain: it's cheaper than flying. So, save the cash and embrace the road trip journey this summer! Find out how to make six hours in the car with your little sister more bearable using some of my worldly knowledge on the road trip experience.
1. The Snack Bag
Perhaps the most vital of all road trip provisions is the sacred snack bag. To create a hardy snack bag is no small feat—it requires planning and consideration. First, poll your fellow travelers to find out what food everyone will be expecting in the snack bag. Whether you're with your spouse, child, friend or mother-in-law, the goal of the snack bag is to help keep everyone happy, fed, and not fighting/bickering/asking "are we there yet?" etc. The contents of the snack bag are up to you, but I do suggest a couple of healthy options such as protein bars and whole grain crackers to prevent candy stomach aches and sugar highs. Tied in with the snack bag is the issue of hydration. Make sure your vehicle is well-equipped with water and other beverages. Just don't drink them all at once (but we'll address rest stops shortly)! To make sure the snack bag is accessible to all, I suggest keeping it in a central location, perhaps between the first and second rows. Just remember my words of advice: a good snack bag= happy passengers.
2. Group Activities
Once road trips start hitting the 3+ hours mark, sheer boredom can and will set in. Although phones are the go-to entertainment, when there's no service or you're on a phone-free road trip, it's time for group car activities. If you plan on traveling with kids, pay close attention to this section, it might be your only prevention from falling into the depths of insanity. I cover my favorite road trip activities in two categories: the classics and the fun ones.
The Classics: With classic road trip games, we're talking the alphabet game, bingo, and I spy. First up is the alphabet game, and the rules are fairly simple. Race against (or work with) your co-travelers as you spot each of the letters of the alphabet in things outside the window. The game doesn't take long, but it offers around twenty-ish minutes of amusement. You can change the game however you want by adding rules. Some of my favorites are the 'Z' rule where you need two Zs to win, or where letters only count if they start the word. Any way you play, it's still a road trip classic sure to kill a couple minutes. Bingo is another oldie but goodie. Whether your board is a fancy, pre-bought set or scribbled up on some fast-food napkins, bingo is a fun way to get everyone looking out the window. Depending on where you're driving you can switch up bingo spots. As a Midwesterner, my bingo board is often filled with "cow," "person on their phone," and "soy beans." I spy is another iconic game. You can make it into a race with several people trying to spot the object, or just have a friendly round of I spy. Either way, it's another game that helps you look outside and pass some time.
The Fun Ones: These games are the ones you play when you've gotten bored with the classics. Less traditional than the classics, they may not come to mind as quickly, but are sure to be just as amusing. Some of my personal favorites are the song game and twenty questions. To play the song game, divide the car into two teams, with one person (often the driver) as the judge. The judge calls out whatever word pops into their head, and the first team to buzz in that they have a song that includes the word wins the point. The team has to sing it before they can get the point! To play twenty questions, one person imagines an object, animal or place in their mind. Other players can ask up to twenty yes/no questions before guessing what the person was imagining.
These are just the bare minimum of road trip activities. Other examples include: coloring, the license plate game, hangman, putting on a movie, and charades. There's also something to be said for creating your own game!
3. Detours and Rest Stops
Rest stops can often be a cause of tension during your road trip. If Dad is arguing for no stops for the six hour drive, but Grandma is demanding a stop every two hours, there is soon to be conflict. In my opinion, you should not only embrace the rest stops, you should turn them into detours. Bathroom breaks, snack bag restocking, gas refilling, and leg stretching are all eventually going to be necessary, so why not find a way to help them add to your trip? When provisions are running low, veer off the highway to visit that peach stand you've been seeing billboards about for the last hour. When gas is getting low, head towards the gas station built into a mountain (Hollow Mountain gas station anybody?). Don't forget Wall Drug when you need some free ice water! And definitely stop for the world's biggest ball of twine to spice up any bathroom break. Rest stops can help make a road trip memorable if you treat them as a fun detour. Whether you follow the billboards, or map it out beforehand, make sure you take a couple of fun stops along the way.
4. Creating the Ultimate Roadtrip Team
When you're road tripping with a group, you're more than just a car full of people, you're a team. One of the best ways to ensure a good trip is by assembling the ultimate road trip team. Assigning roles to travelers not only helps make sure nothing is forgotten, it also gives everyone an active role in the experience. Here are a couple of example positions: The Driver, The Navigator, The Food Connoisseur, and The Conductor of Ceremonies.
The Driver: The Driver's role is pretty self-explanatory. Their goal is to avoid crashing and safely deliver passengers to their intended destination. For longer trips, some people might wish to switch out drivers, in which case two people can switch positions. The Driver also has to make sure that luggage is packed the night before and situate it so they can see out the rear window.
The Navigator: The Navigator is The Driver's right-hand man. They sit shotgun, with a map in front of them and their phone GPS on. They are responsible for helping The Driver avoid traffic, follow the route and change course for a detour.
The Food Connoisseur: In my opinion, The Food Connoisseur holds a very important role in the roadtrip experience. Their job begins before the actual trip itself, as they are responsible for the snack bag. During the trip, The Food Connoisseur must nag The Navigator about food stops. As a whole, their objective is to keep all travelers fed and satisfied.
The Conductor of Ceremonies: The fun happens with The Conductor of Ceremonies. This person is expected to make the trip as enjoyable as possible. Some responsibilities include planning group activities, locating detours and telling The Navigator to change the radio channel.
As a team, no one feels left out, and all responsibilities are equally assigned. If you can pull off assembling the ultimate road trip team, you're bound to have an amazing experience.
I wish you the best of luck on your summer road trip (you might just need it)!