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Here’s How to Not Murder Your Family on Your Next Road Trip

Pro tips to surviving a family road trip and maintaining your sanity along the way.

My family loves long road trips even though we can barely stand living under the same roof together. We’ve ventured from our home in Southern California to Texas, onward to Canada, and through a slew of Midwestern states with our rental car packed with food, blankets, and bad tempers.

Despite us constantly being one stinky fart away from pistols at dawn, our trips are always memorable and, dare I say, fun. I’ve learned eight pro tips over the years that have helped us to survive our family road trips and, well, not murder each other.

1 OF 8

Make a Playlist That Suits Everyone

It is a universally acknowledged truth that music sets the mood and can make or break road trips. Generally, the driver or the person in the passenger seat gets to pick the tunes, but having the whole group contribute can ensure that everyone has a good time in an otherwise dreary car ride.

Before the trip, designate one or two people to make a playlist. Have everyone in the group send over 10-20 songs or artists they love and know will put them in a good mood. When the journey commences, hit shuffle and enjoy.

2 OF 8

BYOS: Bring Your Own Snacks

There are few things more trauma-inducing on a road trip than someone (or multiple people) having a “hangry” episode because there is nothing suitable for them to snack on, and you are miles away from the nearest restaurant or convenience store.

To ensure this isn’t you, make yourself responsible for your snacks, and tell the rest of your party to do the same. This way, there is no finger-pointing when one person breaks down due to hunger. Everyone has their own preferences and dietary restrictions, and it’s nearly impossible for one or two people to remember them all.

INSIDER TIPIf you are traveling with small children, divide their snack preferences among the grown-ups.


3 OF 8

If You Can, Rent a Bigger Car

Renting a bigger car is a costly update, but one that is well worth it for hours of driving. Regardless of the size of your family, a bigger car means more space for luggage and food and more room to stretch out your legs. It also ensures that everyone’s personal bubble is left soundly intact.


4 OF 8

Make It About the Journey, Not the Destination

I understand the excitement of zooming past everything in sight, cutting down breaks, and taking shortcuts just to get to your destination quicker. But, if you’re only focused on arriving at the last stop, you’re going to be antsy and irritable the entire drive, and that’s not going to be fun for anybody.

Don’t be afraid to slow down and focus on the journey. Sit with your family ahead of the trip, map out your route, and look for unique places to stop along the way. Even better, make spontaneous stops when you see something interesting. It adds an air of adventure to your trip and can lead to some of the most unforgettable memories.

5 OF 8

Carve Out Some Alone Time

You will likely reach a point when your family’s —ahem—excitement gets too much for you. Family vacations can be overstimulating, so it’s important that you find some alone time to ground yourself away from all the action. Wake up earlier than everyone else, hit the hotel fitness center, go on a solo walk, or sit by the pool and read a book. It’ll give you much-needed privacy and quiet time and help you recharge before rejoining your group.


6 OF 8

Split Up

Family trips mean experiencing things as a family, but it might be a good idea to split off and do different activities. Not everyone will have the same interests, so splitting up will give each individual the chance to do something they enjoy and skip out on the parts of the trip they don’t care for. It will also help reduce arguments on what to do and what to see.

7 OF 8

Come Up With Some Friendly Competition

To keep things exciting during and in between activities, come up with games to encourage some friendly competition. See who can save the most amount of money, who can pull up directions the quickest, or who can find the weirdest souvenir. Award prizes like getting to pick the next restaurant or making the loser buy everyone ice cream.

8 OF 8

Have a Doomsday Plan

Some things are bound to go wrong on your trip. Have a plan ready to save your vacation from complete and utter destruction. What are you going to do if someone gets sick or injured? What’s the course of action when your youngest kid has a meltdown? How will you recover when someone has pulled up the wrong directions and stranded the family in an unfamiliar place?

Above all, communicate, communicate, communicate. Road trips are supposed to be fun, so reel in those tempers and take a big breath. Your family is your family and you’ll still have to deal with them when the trip is over, so you might as well resolve issues with civility.