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15 Awesome Road Trip Hacks for the Whole Family

15 Awesome Road Trip Hacks for the Whole Family

Road trip! What childhood memory comes to mind when you hear those words? Chances are your memories are either about great fun, or hours of misery fighting with your sibling in the back seat of the car. For me, it’s a little bit of both!

Now that I’m older and have learned a lot about traveling with kids of all ages, I realize as long as you take the time to plan ahead on some things, and are wide open to change on others, a road trip can be a fun part of the whole adventure. Here are some great road trip hacks for the whole family.

1. Make Behavior Expectations Clear Before Leaving

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    Image via Flickr by Kim Davies

    This often overlooked hack sets the tone for the whole trip. Talk to your family about trip rules and expectations before you leave. Print them out so you can refer back to the rules if necessary. The last thing you want to hear is, “You didn’t tell me that!”

    The rules should include things like, “Everyone uses the restroom when we stop, even if you don’t have to go,” and “When we stop, everyone stays together.” Also relay expectations about how often you will be stopping, when you will eat, what reward will be given for good behavior, and what is taken away if behavior is not up to par. By going over these simple rules and expectations beforehand, your family will know what to do.

    2. Hang a Backpack Full of Activities Over the Headrest of the Front Seat

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      Image via Flickr by MTSO fan

      This hack works for all ages and there’s nothing to buy since just about everyone owns a backpack. Items inside the pack can be customized based on age.

      Hang a backpack over the head rest of the front seat, then roll the flap of the backpack down and secure it with a binder clip. Once secure, fill the bag and mesh compartment inside with age-appropriate activities and snacks. This hack can be super simple or very creative. For little ones, you might want to wrap up a few dollar store toys and put them in the bag as a special surprise.

      3. Fill Fido’s Kong Toy with Peanut Butter

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        Image via Flickr by OakleyOriginals

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        Dogs get bored just like kids. When traveling with your four-legged kid, fill a Kong toy with a tasty treat such as peanut butter. I know, it sounds gross but it really does work! He will be able to smell the treat even after licking all he can out of the center. This keeps him busier than a normal toy would and it doesn’t splinter all over your car like a bone.

        Once you reach your destination, just rinse the toy thoroughly inside and out to remove any leftover treat still inside. Most of the Kong toys have a larger opening that makes cleaning easy.

        4. Play Games that Promote Working as a Team and Avoid Games with One Winner

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          Image via Flickr by Vastateparkstaff

          Face it! Kids are competitive at all ages, and they will fight if given the chance. A game that requires everyone to work as a team will help everyone get along better. You can play a game of scavenger hunt and offer a prize for everyone once all of the items are collected, say, “If you get everything on the list, we will stop and have ice cream!” That would work for me!

          It may be best to avoid some of the more traditional games like license plate bingo if you are traveling with competitive kids. Games like these can backfire and cause fights when someone doesn’t believe you actually saw that license plate from Ohio.

          5. Create a Moving Scrapbook

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            Image via Flickr by Bunches and Bits

            Assign everyone a different task. Someone can be in charge of pictures, someone items for the scrapbook, and someone keeps a journal. The idea is that each person works on their part while on the trip so that when you return home from your destination, you have everything for a scrapbook. The collaborative work becomes a meaningful souvenir everyone will appreciate.

            6. Stay Connected While On the Road

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              Image via Flickr by Sidartha Thota

              An easy solution for staying connected to the internet on larger devices such as a tablet is use your smartphone’s hot spot or tethering capabilities. This hack comes in handy for the whole family. Full views usually offer more information than a mobile view so it’s easier to find maps and other needed information faster.

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              Remember, if you don’t have unlimited data you will want to either purchase more data before you leave, or monitor the usage closely while on the road to avoid overage charges.

              7. Schedule Pit Stops Where Everyone Can Burn Off Excess Energy

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                Image via Flickr by lulginter

                Bring action items such as a football or Frisbee so that you can encourage everyone to burn off excess energy during pit stops. If you forget to bring something family members can chase, no worries, foot races or tag will get you the same result.

                This is a great family activity so Mom and Dad should be running too. Exercise helps release endorphins and that reduces stress. If you are less stressed, you will be better able to handle the hiccups that may happen along the way.

                8. Go Old School and Bring a Real Map and a Sharpie

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                  Image via Flickr by StefanAndrejShambora

                  There is just something about a traditional map that brings excitement to a trip. You can tell the kids this is how Mom and Dad traveled when we were your age. You will sound ancient but the kids usually think its cool!

                  Allow the kids to trace the route as you go. They will appreciate the visual of how far they have gone and how much further they have to travel to reach the destination. It adds a fun element that is missing in today’s travel.

                  9. Go Off the Beaten Path

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                    Image via Flickr by Jimmy Emerson, DVM

                    Another fun activity for all ages is to follow a couple of those really weird billboards you see along the way or Google, “World’s Largest (you fill in the blank).” These little side adventures not only take you off the beaten path, but they add unexpected fun and memories to your trip.

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                    10. Take Advantage of Free and Reduced Price Days

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                      Image via Flickr by Scott Smith

                      If you want to see something particular in a town, research when they may have free or reduced pricing for that attraction. Many museums and theme parks reduce prices after a certain time of day. Some even offer free admission.

                      Disney is a great place to find these freebies. Many museums in the area offer free days and Downtown Disney is always free. You will find lots of things to do and see there for all ages.

                      11. Look into Coupon Books for a City Before you Travel There

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                        Image via Flickr by Schipul

                        This hack can save you hundreds when visiting a city far away from home. In the US, if I am traveling to a certain area for a few days, I often invest in an Entertainment Book for that area. They tend to be less touristy and using just a couple coupons inside more than pays for the price of the book.

                        If you want to do more of the touristy activities, many cities have coupon books available for attraction-heavy activities around town. Discounts in these books are usually not as good, but any discount is better than none.

                        12. Plan Your Trip to Avoid Detours and Rush Hours

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                          Image via Flickr by Derek Bruff

                          By leaving at a certain time of day, you can avoid rush hour in larger cities and get to your destination faster. If you do happen to hit a rush hour or traffic jam, there are some great apps out there now that can help you detour using alternative routes.

                          When researching a route, don’t forget to check for construction along the way. Sometimes the fastest route becomes the slowest once you hit construction delays.

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                          13. Use a Gas App to Save Money on the Road

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                            Image via Flickr by Andy Pixel

                            Sometimes just a few miles makes a big difference when it comes to gas prices. With a gas app, like GasBuddy, you can easily tell when it is a good time to fill up.

                            If you are taking a rental car on your road trip, beware of high gas prices near the rental facility. Your contract usually requires you bring the car back with a full tank. Recently, I dropped off a car to a rental facility where the gas at the station across the street was priced $1.50 more than I had paid elsewhere. The station was full of people filling up before dropping back their cars. Ouch!

                            14. Remember the Important Travel Essentials: Rubber Bands, Binder Clips and Duct Tape

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                              Image via Flickr by Lynn Friedman

                              Rubber bands and binder clips can secure cell phones, back packs, iPads, and many other items. Duct Tape, well, what can’t Duct Tape do? Use it for quick fixes of squeaks inside the car, securing luggage, and even arts and crafts. It is the universal travel essential you cannot leave home without.

                              Rubber bands and binder clips can be used to hold cell phones in air vents when a holder isn’t available. This is great hack when using a cell phone as a GPS.

                              15. Use the Coat Rack for Something Useful

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                                Image via Flickr by Josh Ferris

                                You can use an additional cargo net like the one pictured, but attach it to the clothes handles above the rear windows near the interior roof. This adds more space for storage and utilizes wasted space along the ceiling. For winter trips, this is an excellent place to put coats or other flat items that are needed, but bulky when left in the seat. It’s also a great place to put pillows.

                                This hack is great for everyday use.You can leave the net there and have an instant storage location to use year round.

                                If you have used any of these hacks, or have hacks of you own, please share your experience in the comment box below. Everyone loves a great hack! What’s yours?

                                Featured photo credit: by Massachusetts Office of Tourism via flickr.com

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                                Missy Yost

                                Missy is a business owner and writes about everyday lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

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                                Last Updated on March 24, 2021

                                8 Smart Home Gadgets You Need in Your House

                                8 Smart Home Gadgets You Need in Your House

                                We’ve all done it. We’ve gone out and bought useless gadgets that we don’t really need, just because they seemed really cool at the time. Then, we are stuck with a bunch of junk, and end up tossing it or trying to sell it on Ebay.

                                On the other hand, there are some pretty awesome tech inventions that are actually useful. For instance, many of the latest home gadgets do some of your work for you, from adjusting the home thermostat to locking your front door. And, if used as designed, these tools should really help to make your life a lot easier—and that’s not just a claim from some infomercial trying to sell you yet another useless gadget.

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                                Take a look at some of the most popular “smart gadgets” on the market:

                                1. Smart Door Locks

                                A smart lock lets you lock and unlock your doors by using your smartphone, a special key fob, or biometrics. These locks are keyless, and much more difficult for intruders to break into, making your home a lot safer. You can even use a special app to let people into your home if you are not there to greet them.

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                                2. Smart Kitchen Tools

                                Wouldn’t you just love to have a pot of coffee waiting for you when you get home from work? What about a “smart pan” that tells you exactly when you need to flip that omelet? From meat thermometers to kitchen scales, you’ll find a variety of “smart” gadgets designed to make culinary geeks salivate.

                                3. Mini Home Speaker Play:1

                                If you love big sound, but hate how much space big speakers take up, and if you want a stereo system that is no bigger than your fist, check out the Play:1 mini speaker. All you have to do is plug it in, connect, and then you can stream without worrying about any interruptions or interface. You can even add onto it, and have different music playing in different rooms.

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                                4. Wi-Fi Security Cameras

                                These are the latest in home security, and they connect to the Wi-Fi in your home. You can use your mobile devices to monitor what is going on in your home at all times, no matter where you are. Options include motion sensors, two-way audio, and different recording options.

                                5. Nest Thermostat

                                This is a thermostat that lives with you. It can sense seasonal changes, temperature changes, etc., and it will adjust itself automatically. You will never have to fiddle with a thermostat dial or keypad again, because this one basically does all of the work for you. It can also help you to save as much as 12% on heating bills, and 15% on cooling bills.

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                                6. Smart Lighting

                                Control your home lighting from your remote device. This is great if you are out and want to make sure that there are some lights on. It is designed to be energy efficient, so it will pay for itself over time because you won’t have to spend so much on your monthly energy bills.

                                7. Google Chromecast Ultra

                                Whether you love movies, television shows, music, etc., you can stream it all using Google Chromecast Ultra. Stream all of the entertainment you love in up to 4K UHD and HDR, for just $69 monthly.

                                8. Canary

                                This home security system will automatically contact emergency services when they are needed. This system offers both video and audio surveillance, so there will be evidence if there are any break-ins on your property. You can also use it to check up on what’s happening at home when you are not there, including to make sure the kids are doing their homework.

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