Because we all need something to look forward to after Christmas, right? Once the dust (or snow, perhaps) has settled on another great Christmas, January and a new decade seem to stretch ahead. Much like the open road, we think. Can you hear the sound of endless possibility calling? Us, too.

But wait. What’s that whining? Are we there yet? A baby crying? Mum, I’m bored. And what’s that other sound? Yep, that’s the sound of your dream ride of fun and freedom, loose morals and looser plans, shattering. It shouldn’t have to be this way, though. You can still have a great adventure, a more fulfilling one even, with the little ones in tow. And here’s how; our 7 IDEAL tips for planning the perfect family road trip.

LOCK DOWN THE BUDGET

Trying to establish a budget for a trip so reliant on spontaneity and the thrill of the open road may feel counterintuitive, like plucking a number out of thin air. But when the little ones are involved, it’s important to be practical in your approach. Use a dedicated holiday online budget calculator to understand the costs prior to setting off. In doing so, there’ll be no nasty surprises waiting for you round the bend.

DECIDE ON YOUR DESTINATION

Choosing the location can be equally mind-boggling. As a starting point, try and think of common interests that you all share as a family. Does everyone love beaches? Or perhaps the family are more interested in historically significant destinations? Should all else fail you could use this list of the best driving holidays in the world for inspiration. Whatever you decide on, when the kids are involved it’s vital to have an itinerary locked down. which brings us to…

HAVE A FIRM PLAN IN PLACE….

Are we there yet? It’s a tough question to field and an even tougher kid to placate if you have no bloody clue of the answer. With kids, we’re sorry to say, the rules are somewhat changed on being impromptu and carefree. It’s essential to have a plan of attack in place, including a detailed knowledge of where you’ll be staying and the nearby entertainment, activities, medical provisions and kid-friendly food available. This will take huge amounts of stress away from the trip, and allow you more quality time with your family. And that’s what it’s all about, right?

…BUT BE FLEXIBLE

Yep, we know we’ve just extolled the virtues of meticulous planning, but it’s also important to leave a little room for flexibility on your trip. Military precision is all well and good, but it can ruin the vibe of the holiday entirely if you ignore your kids’ sudden desire to have a dip in a lake or picnic in the forest just because your hostel check-in specifies 6pm on the dot. So, when booking accommodation and activities in advance, make sure you click that oft-ignored ‘cancellation insurance’ button and opt for places which allow free cancellation or date and time flexibility wherever possible.

CHOOSE YOUR RIDE & ACCOMMODATION CAREFULLY

One of the best things about a road trip is the freedom to stay in many different places. While there are options for every budget including Airbnb, hotels and even camping, there is, of course, one way to skip this step all this: hire an RV or trailer. Outdoorsy is a caravan marketplace that connects owners with renters for the most affordable way of combining the open road with a guaranteed roof over your head each night. This option gives your family full flexibility and best of all, your pets could even come with you.  

TAKE PLENTY OF ENTERTAINMENT FOR ADULTS AND KIDS

Boredom can lead to plenty of backseat infighting so it’s best to come prepared with entertainment to keep the little ones occupied during the more boring stretches of road and scenery. Make sure all electronics are fully charged and films downloaded. Agree set times for screens before you set off to encourage family members to look up from their devices and take in the scenery. A family playlist is a great idea, too, with contributions and choices from all members, as this avoids unseemly squabbles about what to listen to and can conjure up wonderful memories once the trip is over. An audiobook that appeals to everyone is also a great way to pass the hours on the open road.

PACK LIGHT BUT PACK WELL

Kids need stuff. And so much of it. But your trip will be vastly improved by packing light and only bringing with you what you absolutely need. Of course, medical necessities, snacks, and entertainment are essential, but does the little one really need his lightsaber, superman cape and doll’s house in the back of the car? We think – nope we’re sure – that a cramped, uncomfortable car will elicit more moaning than a couple less toys being present on the journey.