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On the Road Again: 4 essential lists for a successful family road trip


Summer days seem to be going by quickly this year, but it is not too late to squeeze in some summer fun. Family road trips are a great way to explore a new place or revisit an old favorite. They can be a time for families to make great memories, play games, and have fun. The great thing about road trip adventures is they can be as short or long as you can manage, but something about packing up the car still builds a sense of excitement and adventure regardless of the length of the trip. In our family, my kids love to be surprised where we are going and often do not want to know the plan until we are in the car or arrive at the destination. However, they also occasionally want to have a voice in the planning, which can be fun and educational too as you research together the best places to stop and things to see.

Regardless of the length of the trip or the final destination, some time spent planning can definitely reduce the stress of the road trip and make it enjoyable for all. I am list maker, so when planning a road trip, I have a few essential lists for each trip:

  • Preparation list: this includes all the things that need to be done to be ready for the adventure – car maintenance, shopping for essentials, food prep, etc. Michigan State University Extension has provided a great article on Ten Tips for a Successful Family Vacation that will help travelers think about all the areas of planning that will help a trip be successful
  • Grocery/snack list: having food prepared ahead of time can save a lot of grumbling in the car and save money, too!  It can be challenging to think of healthy snacks that travel well, but OSF Center for Healthy Lifestyles has a great, simple list that can help you prepare healthy snacks for your adventure.
  • Activity/comfort list: this list can range from things you bring along in the car so everyone is comfortable to games and activities you can do together. Check out these great tips for Screen-free Family Fun on the Road from our University of Illinois Extension family life colleagues.
  • Day-of list: this is the list of everything that needs to end up in the car before you drive away. It is different for every trip, but essential for making sure things aren’t left behind as you drive away. Asking the kids to create their own “day of” list is a great way to teach responsibility and get the kids involved in the planning. And, who knows you may have someone in your family like my daughter who has taken over as the ultimate list maker planner and creates the car packing list for me!

These are just a few important things to keep in mind that will help make your road trip more enjoyable, safe, and something you want to do again in the future.  Happy exploring!


Judy Schmidt provides leadership to 4-H metro programming in Peoria County. Schmidt joined Extension in 2001, working as a Youth Development Educator at the East Peoria Center and joined the Fulton-Mason-Peoria-Tazewell unit in 2011. Her work focuses on 4-H youth development programming in the local metropolitan area, specifically leading positive youth development initiatives for after-school programs, community groups, 4-H clubs and other youth-serving organizations. Her areas of expertise include positive youth development principles, youth leadership, and work with teens as teachers.

Schmidt attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for her bachelor's degree in psychology and also for her master's degrees in Social Work and Marriage and Family Therapy. She is a certified facilitator of the Matrixx System/Real Colors program by the National Curriculum and Training Institute.


Connection Corner:  is a blog that provides timely information, activities, and resources to help you stay connected to loved ones, the world around you, and yourself.