Family Road Trip!

Family Road Trip!

One of my favorite adventures is the family road trip. Road trips often get a bad rap and many people avoid them out of fear. But I’m here to debunk the myth – road trips are a blast!

I-95 Ends Florida - Sign
I-95 Ends Florida – Sign

You will see and experience things on a road trip that you would miss altogether if you flew. My wife and I try hard to plan some good stops along the way. For example, we’ve driven 1000 miles down the east coast to Florida several times, and have stopped at Williamsburg, VA; Savannah, GA; St. Augustine, FL; and even South of the Border (everyone needs to stop here at least once…”Pedro says…” – for those that don’t know Pedro starts with his neon billboards 100+ miles out in either direction for this very hokey / entertaining tourist-trap road stop).

Family road trips also the source of many of our best vacation memories, funniest quotes, and heartiest laughs. I remember driving through hundreds of miles of nothing from Salt Lake City to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. At the sight of a ranch entrance with its big timber pole construction, one of the boys cried out: “Look a Dude Ranch!”…to which the older brothers gave a slow and drawn out, “Duuuude”…the rest of the ride was transformed into a spot-the-dude-ranch-entrances game!

"This is NOT Route 89" sign!
“This is NOT Route 89” sign!

Aside from the fun and family bonding that comes from a road trip, there’s also practical economics. To fly our family of 6 round-trip 1,000 miles away, it will likely cost (2013 $): 6 x $400 (airfare) + $100 taxi/shuttle = $2,500…and that’s assuming I find an airline where check-in luggage is free?! Let’s say that I take our minivan on that same trip: ((1000 miles x 2 ways) / 20 mpg) x $4/gal + $20 in tolls = $420.

Flying will take 4-5 hours door to door….driving will take 16 hours. And when I drive…I can pack things like water bottles, snacks, loaves of bread, peanut butter, and other things that wouldn’t make it on my airline packing list. Bottom line: I may spend an extra day (of vacation) in the car, but I save over $2,000. This difference can make an otherwise unaffordable vacation – very affordable!

Below is a list of some of our favorite family road trips:

  • The drive to Disney World (I-95 South): The scenery isn’t all that great…and you need to leave in the wee-hours of the morning to get below DC before they all wake up…but the sheer anticipation of where you’re going makes the ride go fast and crew stay giddy.


  • CA-1 Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), Los Angeles to San Francisco:This ride is absolutely breath-taking. Malibu Beach, Ventura, Santa Barbara, Moonstone Beach, Hearst Castle, Big Sur, Monterey…this ride is one of the best road trips out there. Not a fast ride or for the faint of heart, but spectacular scenery!


  • US-1 to Key WestThis ride was sensational. It was even neater for the kids to look at it ahead of time on the map or Google Earth and then go experience it. Going from Key to Key on the causeways and having ocean out one window and Bay/Gulf out the other was awesome. Be sure to time your ride to see a sunset at one of the many Gulf-side restaurants as you relax and take it all in.


  • US-1 to Bar Harbor / Acadia: New England at its best! Be sure to jump off I-95 after Portland and take the scenic route – it’s worth it. You’ll also see some great stops along the way. Our kids were very small when we did this ride, and we were driving by an ocean-side playground when looking for a picnic lunch stop – perfect! Great ride.


  • Route 89 – Salt Lake City to Grand Tetons:  This route takes you 280 miles through northern Utah, into southeastern Idaho and up through Southwestern Wyoming.  The scenery is stunning -welcome to Cowboy Country!


Long car trips are avoided by many families because they’re afraid of what they assume is going to be a nightmare ride. The truth of the matter is that the tone of the vacation is set by the parent’s attitude. I used to joke that it took me 3 days to decompress before I’d stop hollering at the kids and just start enjoying myself. But when I realized this was actually true, I tried harder to chill out from Day 1.

Let’s face it – we spend a lot of time and money planning vacations so that everything will be perfect and everyone will have a great time together.  It’s hard to have fun, if you’re wound too tight on Day 1. Sometimes taking a break from Drill Instructor Dad has helped everyone have a better time.

The family road trip is the great American tradition that needs to keep going. It’s also a way to save hundreds or even thousands of dollars from the more expensive airline option.

Happy trails!

Route 66 - Arizona
Route 66 – Arizona

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