As Clark Griswold learned, the reality of taking long trips with family is drastically different than our idealized expectations. A vacation with the people we love most isn't always a dream come true - particularly when it involves cramming all those different people (and personalities!) into close quarters.
If you're dreading your next family road trip, here are three simple and effective tips to help keep your tribe at peace instead of at eachother's throats.
1) Be Democratic
While it’s probably impossible to make everyone ecstatic, it's not impossible to make everyone relatively content. You may be the leader of the expedition, but each person’s opinion matters. This goes for where you're going, where you stop along the way, what sort of accommodations you'll choose and even the tempo of the trip.
Some people like to get to their destination as quickly as possible. Some people like to take their time. Some people like to camp out. Some people's idea of 'roughing it' is staying in a hotel without a spa. Have an open discussion before you hit the road so that everyone knows what's going on, and has had input into what will the trip enjoyable.
2) Be Sensitive to Special Needs
It can be easy to forget that things don't come easy to some of us. If you're travelling with the very young or very old, for example, you need to be aware that frequent stops will be necessary. Whether it be for food or for bathroom breaks, you will have to cool your lead foot. (And bring a cooler filled with healthy drinks and snacks if you want to cut down on the stops!)
Also be aware that you should be making accommodation reservations before you head out. Kids and the elderly need to have their rest prioritized, and just because you can make due with a few hours of broken sleep in the car each night doesn't mean they can. If you want your family to have happy memories of the trip, they need to be rested.
3) Prep Your Car
Make sure you have your first aid kit stowed and ready to go, as well as maps in case your GPS or smartphone goes on the fritz. It's also a good idea to make sure your vehicle is organized and clean before the trip. Sure, things will get a little messy, but if you start with a pristine slate, it won't descend into a place of total chaos. And if you're really worried about the potential wear and tear to your interior, invest in car seat covers. A good quality brand will have tons of different types of seat cover fabrics, so you can still ride in style.
Remember, the point of going on vacation with your family is to enjoy each other's company while taking a break from the stress of daily life - it's not supposed to add to it. Use these tips to help keep your travels as hassle free as possible.