Nothing beats the thrill of the open road. It’s as American as apple pie and a time-honored summer tradition. The kids are out of school, which means more freedom to explore gorgeous regions of the nation. And since a growing number of parents can now work remotely, this opens opportunities for travel without the same time restraints we saw even a handful of years ago.
Of course, road trips with kids also come with inevitable issues such as backseat squabbles and echoes of “Are we there yet?” But with a little extra prep and a fantastic itinerary, you can transform these adventures from a terrible chore into an adventure chock full of fun. Keep reading for our rundown of must-visit destinations as well as tips to ensure road trip bliss.
Summer Road Trips Your Family Will Love
Whether you’re California dreaming, jonesing for a trip down Route 66, or after a little adventure along the Appalachian Trail, we’ve got the vacation-worthy itineraries you need. Here are some of our favorite ways to see the country while keeping kids entertained and engaged.
1. California Dreaming Along Highway 101
Highway 101 runs for 1,650 glorious miles from Seattle to San Diego. Along the way, it transitions from Highway 101 to the Pacific Coast Highway in California. While making the entire trip would quickly get overwhelming, focusing on the “Golden State’s” southern portion comes with spectacular views and endless beaches. Picturesque and iconic road trip stops abound, from Big Sur to Santa Barbara, Carlsbad to San Diego.
Where to stay along the way? Check out the luxurious, eco-friendly accommodations at Ventana Big Sur. Your family will also fall in love with the US Grant, a Luxury Collection hotel located in the quaint yet dynamic heart of San Diego, the Gaslamp Quarter.
2. Take a Trip on Route 66
When it comes to iconic roadways, nothing beats Route 66. Just think of all the classic songs that have been written about this 2,448 stretch of pavement. Why not see the country in all its glory while tracing this well-worn and famed journey? Along the way, make sure to download some Route 66 songs into your music library to set the mood. Or check out this fun playlist for inspiration.
From Chicago, Illinois, to Los Angeles and Santa Monica, California, you’ll find endless attractions. And you don’t have to take the entire roadway to enjoy a spectacular and educational journey. The stretch between Amarillo, Texas, and Flagstaff, Arizona, includes gorgeous desert scenery and a hefty dose of Southwestern culture. One of our favorite stops along the way is the Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado Santa Fe in New Mexico. What’s more, we can’t stop dreaming about the NoMad Hotel Los Angeles.
3. Explore the East Coast
The East Coast is jam-packed with incredible places to explore the history of our nation. Not only will you find plenty of fascinating landmarks, but oceanside towns and beaches abound. Coasting down I-95 between Boston, Massachusetts, and Savannah, Georgia, comes with many notable roadside attractions and landmarks. While tackling the entire route isn’t for most families, deciding on a chunk to visit comes with plenty of fun possibilities.
For example, the stretch between Boston and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, lets you hit some of our nation’s most important monuments. And the portion from Charlottesville, Virginia, to Savannah steeps you Southern charm and hospitality. Where to stay? Excellent spots that put your family in the heart of the action include the Equinox Hotel in New York City and the Ritz-Carlton in Philadelphia.
4. Fun in the Sun on a Florida Keys Road Trip
The Overseas Highway (a.k.a. Route 1) traces the Florida coast, providing endless scenic views and opportunities to observe wildlife. In Everglades National Park, check out manatees, birds, and alligators. In Key Largo, get up close and personal with dolphins in their natural setting during a dolphin encounter experience. Then, head to Marathon to lend a hand with sea turtle rescue before continuing on to Sugarloaf, where you can rent a charter boat and head out on a day-long fishing excursion.
Here’s another excellent way to see the Florida Keys while learning about the importance of living coral reefs and their preservation. Your family will also love a stay at the Ritz-Carlton Bal Harbour in Miami, the perfect launching-off point for “Sunshine State” explorations.
5. The Appalachian Trail Road Trip
Most people think of hiking when they hear the term “Appalachian Trail.” But did you know you can also drive a route that mostly parallels the famed walking trail? In the process, you’ll travel through gorgeous natural settings along the Blue Ridge Parkway, Skyline Drive, and Shenandoah National Park. The trip culminates in a visit to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee. No matter which leg of the journey you and your family decide to tackle, you’ll enjoy scenic mountain vistas of some of America’s most beloved country.
Where to stay in this stunning neck of the woods? Consider one of our family favorites, Blackberry Farm, located in the heart of Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains on a 4,200-acre estate.
Tips for Making a Family Road Trip Amazing
Mapping out pitstops remains key to stellar summer road trips. Plug destinations for each leg of your journey into your smartphone’s map or a preferred mapping website. Then, scope out unique roadside attractions such as Lucy the Elephant in Margate, New Jersey, and the Cabazon Dinosaurs in Cabazon, California. Besides fun attractions, map parks for outdoor play and leg stretching. Consider bringing a frisbee to liven up these stops.
What to do when the kids are hungry or restless, and you can’t pull over? Pack along no-mess snacks you can access on the road. Think hard-boiled eggs, PB&Js, protein bars, and string cheese. And for next-level distraction? Keep a few “forbidden” treats on hand. Instead of pulling over to consume these meals, eat on the go so you can take full advantage of blowing off some steam at rest areas. And don’t underestimate the power of road trip music as a pick-me-up during your vacation. Audiobooks also represent an entertaining way to mix things up.
Are you ready to plan your next family getaway? I’d love to help you bring a family road trip to life with plenty of fantastic stops along the way.