When the pandemic began, my family upgraded our SUV in favor of a minivan (never say never!) to accommodate the needs of my elementary school-age kids, wiggly toddler, elderly miniature schnauzer and all the accoutrements that come with travel. Since the start of COVID to now, many families like mine have swapped the hassle and expense of flying for the relative ease of car travel. What do kids think of road tripping? We share a bit of advice and wisdom from the back seat.
WHAT KIDS SAY TO PACK
“I always have my tablet, a few books, a pair of headphones and a cozy blanket, especially if it’s a long car ride,” says 9-year-old Catherine. Aside from essentials like clothing and personal care items, when 14-year-old Heidi hits the road with her family, she has her sketchbook, a book and a teddy bear tucked in her bag.
WHY KIDS PREFER ROAD TRAVEL
Both Catherine and Heidi agree that the advantage of road tripping versus flying means they can pack more comfort items since they don’t have to worry about fitting it all into a carry-on or checked bag.
“I think a benefit to road trips is that you can get out of the car, walk around and do fun things,” says Heidi. “You can’t do that on a plane.”
WHEN KIDS LIKE TO HIT THE ROAD
“I like to leave first thing in the morning,” says Jack, age 11. “That way, we can get where we’re going and still have some time when we get there.”
When 17-year-old Abigail and her family head to the beach from their Washington, DC-area home, “we prefer to leave around 10 in the morning, after the rush-hour traffic,” she says.
WHAT KEEPS KIDS ENTERTAINED
I curate Spotify playlists tailored to the ages of my children. We have songs ranging from Sesame Street and Blippi for four-year-old Ben to tunes appropriate for everyone in the car. Other times, everyone has earbuds to listen to their own music, and the adults catch up on podcasts.
WHERE KIDS LIKE TO EAT
“When I go on road trips, I like to stop at Chick-fil-A,” says Heidi. “I like their fries and chicken sandwiches.”
“When we’re on a long trip, we like to stop at gas stations with clean bathrooms and plenty of snacks and drinks,” Jack adds.
WHERE KIDS LIKE TO STAY
“If we’re not staying with family, I like staying in a house or condo, rather than a hotel,” says Catherine, “because they’re usually bigger and more comfortable, and sometimes I get my own space.”
When planning your next road trip, take some cues from back-seat travelers for a successful family vacation.