June 1, 2020
Due to travel restrictions, plans are only available with travel dates on or after
Due to travel restrictions, plans are only available with effective start dates on or after
Ukraine; Belarus; Moldova, Republic of; (North) Korea, Democratic People's Rep; Russian Federation
What happens in the minivan stays in the minivan.
That’s long been my credo for family road trips. Once the door slides closed, no one needs to know what terrible sugary snacks we’re bribing our kids with as we slowly meander down the highway. And for that matter, they don’t need to know how long it takes us to get to our destination, either. (Virginia to North Carolina sounds like a 15-hour trip, right?)
But over the years, we’ve streamlined our approach to family road trips, making improvements and evolving our game. And now, my well-traveled, oft-exploring family of five (or 5-pack, as I lovingly refer to them) is ready to reveal our insider tips and advice for getting from Point A to Point B with more laughter than crying, more healthy snacks than saccharine treats, and more fun-loving memories than wishes that we had never left the driveway.
That’s not to say we don’t experience our fair share of speed bumps along the way. But with the right approach to budgeting, packing, mobile dining, and more, you too can roll with the detours and occasional meltdowns. So, fasten your seatbelts — no, not that one, my youngest stuck gum stuck in it — and ride shotgun as we barrel through ways to ensure that the first or next of your family road trips isn’t your last.
There’s a scene in the classic family road trip flick, “National Lampoon’s Vacation,” in which the Griswold family matriarch states to the dad, “Everything on this safari has cost twice as much as you figured out.”
And it’s true. Everything will cost twice as much — and that’s not including the stuff you weren’t counting on buying (including the new suitcase to replace the one that now has a broken zipper thanks to one of the kids trying to pack themselves in it).
With that in mind, pay for as much as you can upfront to control costs and avoid “budget creep.” This includes hotels, RV camping sites, tickets for museums, and sporting events. If you’re worried at all about paying for something you won’t get to use, then don’t. That’s where travel insurance comes in — and more specifically — a Trip Cancellation benefit.
With a travel insurance plan from Allianz Global Assistance, you can find a plan that fits your budget and protects it. Then, if you experience a covered event that forces you to cancel your ambitious trek — for example, a member of your fam falls ill or gets injured and gets a doctor’s note advising not to travel — you can recoup nonrefundable prepaid expenses.1
You’re going to make mistakes on your first couple of family road trips. You may place the car snacks and road diapers in the bottom of the trunk. Or buy the kids some new toy that makes a lot of noise and let them bring it along.
Here are a few tips for packing smarter, not harder:
On my first trips, I would look scan interstate stops for whatever fast food oasis would be acceptable to everyone in the minivan.
The truth, however, is that fast food (also known as “quick-service” and “fast-casual”) is often as fast as the fast lane during summer gridlock. Crowded restaurants coupled with employee shortages can make pitstops drag out over an hour. And if you’re planning on freshening up in the restroom or changing a diaper at a drive-thru burger joint, well, good luck. And one more thing: the average fast-food combo meal packs more than 1,193 calories.2 That can lead to poor digestion, increased blood pressure, as well as a tired and cranky demeanor — less-than-ideal conditions whether you’re behind the wheel or napping in the third row.3
After a while, we wised up and tried some other meal-time options, with much better results. These include:
It’s time to take the training wheels off your family road trips. With these tips and tricks, your next vacation won’t be perfect. They never will be. But they will be smarter, more fun, and even a bit more memorable — for all the right reasons. Happy trails!