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Making the Most of Family Travel Time

So are we there yet? Sound familiar? Well, these are the words often spoken when families travel long distances together. In my case, we could be on the road for an hour or two and my kids would already be asking if we are there yet.

Growing up, my family would take an annual trip to Florida. My father always wanted to drive instead of fly. One year he decided we would drive to Florida in a limousine. It is not every day that someone gets to drive to Florida in a limousine but that is what he wanted to do. It gave us a ton of room to spread out and we had plenty of storage for our luggage. It was especially nice for the person who drove and for their front row passenger, because they could shut the divider wall, blocking out all the noise from the back.

With four kids of my own, who at times can be loud and emotional, I have often thought about following in my dad’s footsteps and getting our own limo to drive. Well, that was a wonderful time in my life and I have many great “dad” stories, but one thing I have learned is that to make the most of family travel time, we need to prepare for it. Here are some tips to help you shake off the frustration of preparing for a vacation so you can actually have one.

Start your to-do list early
You know what can totally derail a holiday trip? The realization that you have forgotten to book a dog kennel, stop your mail, or finish an important work project. I would recommend starting a list a few weeks out. My wife and I create our own lists. I put mine together as different ideas and reminders come to my mind. This way I am fully prepared and for the most part, nothing important is forgotten. For trips we often make, we keep our lists in a folder so that we can pull them out as we prepare for future trips. This has really helped us reduce a lot of stress.

Be as ready as you can the night before
Most of us are not going to put our valuables in the car the night before, but if for example you are leaving after work, it is helpful to stage your packed bags somewhere near your door. Once you get home, all you have to do is change clothes, pack your bags in the car, and off you go. If you are not leaving right after work but early the next morning, I recommend still staging your packed bags near the door, so that all you have do in the morning is shower, get dressed, and leave. If there is something else you need to grab in the morning, make sure you write a note and place it by the door so you do not forget. No brainer, I know, but everyone needs a reminder now and then.

Clean your way out of the house
There is nothing worse than coming home from a house that had been cleaned and decorated for the holidays, only to be welcomed by a mess. It may not have seemed like a big deal when you were racing to get out the door, but when you’re tired from traveling and just want to collapse on your bed, looking around at all that mess could cause you and your spouse to be bickering in no time. Now I understand that my OCD may have gotten the best of me but I would guess that most couples enjoy coming home to a clean house. So with that in mind, do what you can to clean your way out of the house in the day or so before your trip, so you can relax when you get back.

Play to your strengths
If you are a night owl, driving late at night can be a terrific option. You can make a lot of headway, and if you have kids, they are likely to sleep right through it. If you do not do well driving at night, then driving during the day is a better and safer option. The key is being smart about what works best for your family, particularly for those who will be doing the driving. For longer trips (e.g. 15 hrs. or more), I have gotten away from trying to kill myself and make it in one day. I would rather break up the trip by getting a hotel room and a good night’s sleep, so that when we finally arrive we are fresh, in good moods and ready to enjoy our vacation.

Pack amusements
This may come at a surprise, but you don’t have to have a tricked-out media setup in your car to keep everyone busy. Some great options are listening to your favorite podcasts (e.g. live a life worth living podcast coming soon), checking some audiobooks out from the library, or even playing some traditional car games. You can find all kinds of options on Pinterest. I mentioned that my family tradition was to drive down to Florida each year instead of flying. My father had the money to afford to fly but I believe one of the main reasons he wanted us to drive is because he enjoyed having the extended time to speak with us without distractions. Maybe it’s old fashioned, but instead of focusing so much on what media to bring, mix in as much fun and conversation as possible.

Make a memory
If you retain nothing else, please remember to make each trip with your family a special memory. None of us know how long will we have on this earth, so it is imperative that we make the most of the time we have. What I didn’t share earlier about my limo experience was that my father surprised us about six hours into the trip by stopping at a Pizza Hut. He didn’t tell us what he was doing, but about 20 minutes after he had stopped, he opened our car door and handed us a few of our favorite pizzas. This was so cool. Being chauffeured down to Florida in a big limo, eating our favorite pizza still in the box was the coolest thing ever. Even after all these years, my brother and I still talk about this trip – a wonderful memory that still lives on.

I hope these tips will inspire you to make some great memories and turn what can often be a stressful experience into a fun one the road!



For all my readers who are veterans, thank you for your sacrifice and commitment to make our country great. Centurion Nation appreciates you!

God Bless,

Doug Hedrick

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