With almost 200 kid-friendly step-by-step how-to guides, timelines, and lists, UNBORED: The Essential Field Guide to Serious Fun teaches practical knowledge (like how to search for a lost pet), life lessons (like how to get your friends to go green), and hands-on ways to have fun—like how to help plan a road trip to remember with the family.
Many grownups see car travel as merely a way to blast from Point A to Point B. That’s too bad! A road trip, when done right, is the best way to travel. Want to make your family road trips something you actually enjoy? Read on.
IMPORTANT! If you are stopping somewhere you read about in a guidebook or online, call before you veer off the interstate. Restaurants, museums, and other attractions change their hours and even go out of business—so it’s always best to confirm they are open.
1. Plan together
Some kids don’t like car travel because their grownups don’t let them in on the plan—other than to say, “We’re driving from Boston to Santa Fe!” Not knowing what to expect can be stressful. To prevent travel anxiety, have your entire family sit down together with a map (digital or paper) and plot out your route. Then do some research about where you’ll be driving … and have each person decide on at least one thing they’d like to do along the way.
2. Stop. Stop. Stop. Stop.
Nothing ruins road trip fun like grownups who drive like they’re training for the NASCAR circuit. So schedule in plenty of time to take breaks and see the sights. A good rule of thumb is to split drive time and doing stuff 50/50. So if your GPS says it will take four hours to get to the ocean town you’re visiting, plan an extra four hours for stops. (Keep in mind that your GPS won’t factor in time-sucks like Friday afternoon rush hour.)
3. Say YES to the gigantic pink bunny
Historic buildings and scenic vistas are terrific … but don’t skip quirky roadside attractions, like the shell-shaped gas station in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, or The Hat Museum in Portland, Oregon. Places like Wall Drug Store in South Dakota exist specifically to give travelers a break (and a reason to spend money) during long stretches of empty highway.
4. Tour factories
Factory tours of companies that make anything from candy to cars are often free; some tours include museums dedicated to the history of the company or industry. A word of advice: Some “factory” tours are nothing more than a boring spin around a warehouse. (We’re talking about you, Jelly Belly Center in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin.) So call ahead to ask whether you’ll truly be allowed to peek behind the scenes. If not, give that factory a miss.
5. Eat beyond the interstate
Yes, McDonald’s, Subway, and Taco Bell are conveniently located along the sides of the freeway. But driving even a few miles into the center of a town will not only introduce you to a place you’ve never seen (and one which might have other attractions) but also regional foods. When you do stop at convenience stores and gas stations, check out the candy aisles: you may never have tasted candies which are popular in other regions.
6. Take nature breaks
Even if it’s just a game of Frisbee in a local park, make sure that at least one of your stops each day gives you time to run around outside. Check out natural attractions, from state and national parks to scenic overlooks. And if you have a little extra time, try geocaching to discover hidden treasures.
IMPORTANT! Be prepared. If you leave the country, your smartphone—including GPS, weather, web features, and web-based apps—may not work unless you set up a roaming plan before you leave. Also, if you are crossing any national borders (including between the United States and Canada), even if only for a few hours, every member of your family needs a passport. Don’t get turned back at the border!
Excerpted from UNBORED: The Essential Field Guide to Serious Fun. Copyright 2012 Joshua Glenn and Elizabeth Foy Larsen. Reprinted by permission of Bloomsbury.