I grew up going on road trips with my parents, and I love going on them with my children. But things have changed since we hit the highway in the old family station wagon, and the road trip has changed as well. We recently drove around part of the state on a Hertz-sponsored trip — Hertz covered the rental and provided the route, we got behind the wheel. This post is part of that press trip.
Here are my tips for having a modern road trip that’s family-pleasing and fun, whether you’re crisscrossing the state or taking day trips from your base in San Antonio, Austin, Houston or other locale.
1. Get a good route planner
There’s more than one way to get from A to B. The Hertz Road Trip Planner is a fab online tool, with routes plotted out in states across America. They look beyond the obvious to show you attractions and sights. We followed the Texas one across the top and around to San Antonio, discovering new stops in a state we visit every year. (They’ve got a new one, the Road to Civil Rights, that wends through Atlanta, Selma, Birmingham, Memphis and more.)
2. Put together play lists
It’s the modern equivalent of a mixed tape — fun to put together and fun to listen to. Get everyone in the family to put together their own. We download Spotify playlists and plug them into the stereo, with each family member getting a stint as DJ. Sometimes we even do a little Desert Island Discs thing, where we talk about why we like the songs and why we picked them. While I love sharing my tunes, there’s something particular great about hearing the music that speaks to your children.
3. Charge the devices
As if the kids would let you forget this one. We romanticise the trips we took as children, where we sang songs, told jokes, played games for hours. But there’s only so many raindrop races and games of I Spy you can do. Get an in-car charger, set time limits on usage and let the kids play on their laptops, tablets and phones during the long, featureless stretches of highway.
4. Download guides and city maps at home
There are loads of city guides, walking maps and more online. I’ve found some of these to be great, and some not so great. Before you head out, download some for your stops along the way.
5. Make foodie pilgrimages
In the past several years barbecue, hamburgers, fruit pies and home cooking have been in the ascendency, with travel writers crisscrossing states and countries finding hidden gems. In Texas you can still find the cafes on historic squares serving biscuits and gravy while a group of old-timers drinking coffee and shooting the bull, or a counter where they serve juicy hamburgers and mouthwatering pies rotate in a circular cabinet. I search local newspaper and magazine sites and blogs for the best tips. Chowhound is good for the big cities.
6. Do a digital photo project as a family
Gone are the days that taking pictures was an expensive endeavor. Make time each day or sometime during the trip to review everyone’s pictures together. We liked to do this on the evenings when we went out to eat. We would sit at the table after ordering and pass round our phones or cameras, debating which pics were the best and reliving the highlights. Once you’re home, print them out for your album or a photo book.
7. Don’t forget the old ways
Good old-fashioned maps and history books add dimension and interest to any trip. Local tourist offices are often staffed with experts who have insider knowledge of the best stops nearby.
It’s the combination of new and old, finding fresh ways to travel with our children while bringing along our experiences as well. Do that and you’ll find you’ve packed well for any trip.
Plot your road trip with Hertz.co.uk and use the Road Trip Planner to plot your route.
Disclosure: This post is part of a #hertztrip press trip, promoting the U.S. Road Trip Planner on Hertz’s website. The U.S. Road Trip Planner plots out routes in regions across the U.S. My family and I are following parts of the Deep in the Heart of Texas route, highlighting family stops along the way. Hertz UK has covered the cost of our vehicle rental; all opinions are my own. See more adventures on the road with Hertz with the #hertztrip hashtag on Twitter and Instagram.