Family Road Trips: Tips, Planning and Preparing

Remember the good old-fashioned family road trip? It was a chance to catch up on good quality family conversation, read a few books and enjoy the scenery. Some of my best traveling memories are those very trips! According to the British Columbia Automobile Association, road trips don’t look as if they will be going out of style anytime soon even with the gas hovering just above $1.00 per litre. There have been just as many if not more requests for road trip planning services and close to 10,000 TripTik® customized road trip planners were produced for members in 2009.

The most popular requested destinations so far this year are:

1. California
2. Arizona
3. Ontario
4. Nevada
5. Newfoundland

Vacationing by car is a budget-friendly way to explore new and exciting destinations however it can pose as a challenge for those traveling with little ones, ‘tweens’ or teens. BCAA suggests families, “get children excited about the trip by having them mark the route with coloured pens or choose a restaurant or point of interest to visit. Rather than focusing on the final destination and the length of the trip, children will experience and enjoy an adventure along the way, one they helped design.”

Here are some tips BCAA has provided to help make your road trip organized and fun!


  • Decide on some stops beforehand. Knowing ahead of time where certain sites, attractions and even rest areas are located will help make the trip fun and reduce stress.
  • Invest in an iPod or portable DVD player. Music and movies offer a good break for everyone. Remember to keep the sound volume low and watch DVDs in the backseats to avoid distracting your driver.


  • Give your vehicle a thorough tune-up.
  • Get a checkup two weeks prior to your trip to allow time for repairs.
  • Get the following items checked: wiper blades, all fluids, tire pressure and tread, hoses and belts, brakes, and air conditioning.
  • Well-stocked first aid kit. Include bandages, gauze, pain reliever, allergy medication, antiseptic, and any other medication your family may need.
  • Pack a few light tools. Carry a small variety of tools such as: screwdrivers, a hammer, an adjustable wrench, pliers, some baling wire, a flashlight, a can of WD-40, and a rag.
  • Activity bag. Fill a bag with crayons, books, and games etc. Make one bag for each child and let them choose what to put in it.
  • Bring a pillow and blanket. Having something soft and snuggly will help the younger kids drift off to sleep.
  • Keep their tummies full. Pack a cooler with juice boxes and low-mess snacks.

On the road

  • Keep key items (snacks, paper towels, mp3 player, etc.) within reach. This will help you avoid making unnecessary stops to search for items in the back.
  • Divide and conquer. Change seats at each stop (and switch drivers if you can) to change the dynamics and keep the peace.
  • Take breaks and recharge. Stretch or run out some energy or boredom. Once everyone is back in the car, save the electronics for later and interact with each other by talking, singing or playing old-fashioned road trip games.

BCAA also recommends that vacationers be sure to consider the following important items which are so often forgotten:

  • Travel medical insurance. If you’re travelling outside B.C., ensure you carry adequate medical insurance for all of your family in case of emergencies. Without insurance, basic medical services out of the country could cost in the thousands of dollars.
  • Newspaper and mail delivery. If you plan to be away for a while, stop newspaper delivery and ask a neighbour to collect community newspapers and your mail.
  • Mobile phones. Carry a cell phone and its car charger with you. Remember to pull over if you need to use it or have a passenger place the call.

Vacationers are encouraged to visit their nearest BCAA sales location or www.bcaa.com for more info about North American road travel planning and travel medical insurance. BCAA members planning a road trip can request a TripTik® customized road trip planner, which includes detailed maps, up-to-date road advisories, accommodations and points of interest, anywhere in Canada or the U.S.

Photo Credit: planetka and cedrb