Family Road Trips: 5 Tips

Family road trips have been “a thing” for years and years, and I hope they always are.  Some of my fondest memories as a child are from road trips.  Sometimes lots of hours in a car may seem like a pain in the ass, but you always end up having fun and creating happy memories.  I hope these tips help you and your family have lots of successful road trips in the future.

1.  Don’t forget devices!  Sure, it reminds you of your own iPad-free childhood to make your kids sing along to the radio or simply stare out the window during long car rides.  But, let’s be honest.  If there’s ever a time for devices, it’s during a 6-hour car ride.  So, okay.  Make ’em stare out the window at the cows a little bit.  Then reward peacefulness with some screen time when they start to get antsy.  Bonus tip: have the kiddos wear headsets so that the grown-ups can still listen to what they want on the car stereo.
2.  Go easy on the liquids.  My husband and I like to joke that it’s best to let our children be mildly dehydrated during road trips so that we don’t have to stop for a restroom break a million times.  🙂 I’m not saying you should actually dehydrate your children.  But I am saying that there’s no need to hand over a big ass sippy cup full of juice for them to have constant free access to.  I like to keep some water for my kiddos near me and let them have supervised sips here and there.
3.  Throw out the trash.  Every single time you stop at a store or gas station, throw trash in the garbage can.  Get it out of the car ASAP.  If you let it build up for the entire trip, not only will it be a mess, but if there was any cooked food involved, your car will continue to smell the entire trip.
4.  Plan an activity for day one.  I know, I know.  You’ve been in the car for a while, and all you want to do is plop down on the hotel bed.  But if you resist the urge to do that you’ll get a lot more out of your time.  After all, the car ride already took up a lot of your precious vacation time.  So, if your car ride wasn’t super long and you arrive at your destination before hotel check-in, head straight to a nearby attraction (something simple) or even just a fun lunch.  If your ride was longer and you’re arriving at or after hotel check-in time, go ahead and get checked in.  Once you’ve unpacked, head out to do something fun close by or to a delicious dinner or even just to wander around the hotel property if it’s pretty late.
5.  Plan an activity for the ride home.  When I was a kid, the trip home was always such a bummer.  The vacation was basically over with, and we were going back to the real world.  Borrrrring.  But if you plan something for the trip back home, not only will it make your return journey more exciting, but its another great way to use time wisely.  Whether you take a slight detour to a cool attraction or even just stop at for a special meal, squeezing in one more fun thing will help your family road trip end with smiles.

Family Road Trips 5 Tips Pinterest

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Family Road Trip to Dallas

I used to watch Spring Break shows on MTV.  You know, the ones where they had a big stage set up on a beach somewhere with hundreds of young people in the crowd screaming and cheering and waiting for their big moment to get on stage and play a game that surely involved swimsuits and whipped cream?  Yeah, those.  Loved ’em.  Do they still have shows like that?

Fast forward to 2018 where I’m a married mother of two.  Neither swimsuits nor whipped cream are a big part of my life.  And I certainly don’t just sit around and watch MTV for 5 days straight.  But I did still manage to squeeze in some spring break fun, even if it was pretty tame and rated G (mayyyybe PG, in bits).

My kids, Rowdy and Romy, who are ages 6 and 3, reeeeally wanted to go to LEGOLAND after seeing the commercial on TV 42 times.  So instead of hauling them all the way to Orlando, we opted for the LEGOLAND Discovery Center in Dallas, which is a 4-hour drive from our home in Houston.  To be frank, I knew they were young enough to still appreciate the smaller, all indoor Discovery Center.  One day they’ll know that there’s a bigger, grander version that’s halfway across the country.  Their expectations will rise, and so will the expense.  So we took advantage of the simpler solution, and headed out on a family road trip across Texas.

The Bush Center

When we arrived in Dallas, our first stop was the George W. Bush Presidential Center.  None of us had ever been to a Presidential Library before.  So since it was just 6 miles from our hotel in Dallas, we thought it was a cool opportunity to check one out.  Again, not a super fancy thing to go do, which is usually a good choice with younger kids.  They’re easier to impress (most of the time).  And while the con is that they’re too young to truly appreciate a Presidential Library, they’re also too young to call it “lame”.  Score.  The Bush Center is very lovely with a restaurant, gift shop, Oval Office replica (so cool) and, at the time, a special First Ladies Exhibit.  And I must mention that every single staff member we encountered was very delightful, helpful and welcoming.  It was like being at a bigger, fancier Chick-fil-A, but without the fries smell (bummer).


Hotel ZaZa Dallas Uptown

Next we were off to Hotel ZaZa Dallas Uptown.  Ryan and I previously stayed at ZaZa Houston for my birthday and absolutely loved it.  So it made perfect sense to stay at their property in The Big D.  And even though they don’t exactly advertise themselves as a family hotel, our children were 100% welcome and had a really great time.  Our thoughts on the whole thing was that the LEGOLAND part of the trip was for the kids, and the luxury hotel part of the trip was for mommy and daddy.  Everybody wins, right?

ZaZa’s lobby is the perfect blend of boutique and grand with its ultra high ceiling, gorgeous chandelier and cozy, artistic vibe.  The small-ish pool area is nothing short of fabulous.  And their Dragonfly restaurant is so gorgeous that I’m tempted to travel all the way back to Dallas to host a party there…or hell, just have lunch.  Whatevs.

The room, which had 2 double beds and a sitting area, was almost as big as our first apartment.  Space.  Thank god.  With 2 kiddos in the room, the extra square footage was very much appreciated.  Rowdy and Romy loved it, called it fancy, then proceeded to drag out their toys and get to playin’.

Something pretty cool that the ZaZa properties have is a “butler pantry”, which is basically a coffee and tea bar that’s put out every morning on each floor.  Plus, they had water and cookies in the lobby each evening, which made our little ones (and their parents) very happy.  The room service food was very good, and the kiddos were pretty stoked to have pancakes delivered to our room each morning.  On the way home Rowdy talked about how much he loved the hotel and the room service.  Proud mommy moment, right there.  That’s my boy.  If you’re looking for a unique hotel experience in Dallas or Houston, I highly recommend a ZaZa hotel.  Oh, and please, for the love of god, don’t forget to sign up for ZaZa’s Zip Loyalty Program.  You literally just sign up with your name and email address, and boom, you get special stuff.  During this stay they gifted us with a bottle of wine, which came in ultra handy at night while the kids were dozing off and we were still up watching TV.

LEGOLAND Discovery Center Dallas

As I mentioned earlier, LEGOLAND Discovery Centers are much smaller versions of the big LEGOLAND amusements parks.  I kinda felt like I was at a big Chuck E. Cheese’s, but with LEGO toys, games and rides (yes, there are 3 actual rides) instead of video and arcade games.  There’s even a 4D movie theater that plays a short LEGO movie over and over throughout the day.  The outdoor area was closed when we were there.  But during the summer season kids can play outside at the Pirate Beach water playground.  The place wasn’t too crowded when we got in soon after they opened.  But it did start to get much busier the closer it got to lunch time.  So, go early, if you can.  Rowdy and Romy loved it and were right in the middle of the perfect age range to visit.  I’d say that a kiddo over the age of 10 would be less impressed.  So if your littles are still, well, little, get to a LEGOLAND Discovery Center, stat.  We spent about 3 hours inside and got to participate in every attraction and play area.  It all went really well, and the kids thought it was a blast.  Oh, and I found a coupon on a box of Honest Juices – one free kid ticket with each adult ticket.  That might help make up for the gazillion dollars you’re going to spend at the LEGO store that you have to exit through when you’re heading out.

Exploring

Because our hotel was in Dallas’s uptown area, that’s where we spent much of our time.  Westwood Village is a cool shopping district with familiar stores like, Gap and Banana Republic, along with some less familiar and unique shops.  And, side note; this area of Dallas seems to be full of attractive 20-something females.  They were everywhere – walking their dogs, jogging, shopping, eating on patios.  I’m not sure if it was just a coincidence or what.  But Ryan and I decided that it might just be a dream location for a 20-something heterosexual male.  Anyway, we chose Grimaldi’s and Chuy’s for our two Dallas dinners.  Meals are a big deal for us when we travel.  But since the kiddos were with us on this trip, we made sure to choose casual, kid-friendly places that would please all 4 of us.  The traveling meals goal is always to either eat at a brand new place we’ve never been to or at a place that we don’t have near our home.  Grimaldi’s was at Westwood Village and Chuy’s was in Highland Park.  Ahhh, Highland Park.  Now that’s neighborhood goals, y’all.  I’d say they’re giving Beverly Hills a run for their money.  Speaking of money, I’m not sure where they’re all making it, because I’m not familiar with the industry and economy of Dallas.  But whatever it is they’re doing, it. is. working. baby.  Fun fact: D’Andra Simmons and Kameron Westcott of The Real Housewives of Dallas both live in Highland Park.  Ryan and I like to explore amazing neighborhoods any chance we get when traveling.  We’ve seen the mansions of Palm Beach and Beverly Hills, the amazing, picturesque homes and streets in Winnetka, IL (where the Home Alone house is), and the cool homes perched all over the Hollywood Hills.  If you have your own car or a rental and a little time, I’d highly recommend simply driving around and exploring beautiful areas when you’re traveling.

Heading Home

After just 2 nights in Dallas, it was time to head home.  But the fun wasn’t over yet.  I think it’s a great idea to plan at least one small adventure on your way home when you’re on a road trip.  The ride home can be such a bummer, right?  So adding something to it, even just a meal at a great restaurant, not only makes it more fun, but also helps you get more out of your trip.  So we decided to take a small detour on our way back to Houston and stop in Waco, TX.  Back in the day, Waco was only known as the home of Baylor University.  These days, it’s known as the home of Chip, Joanna and The Silos.  That’s right, Fixer Upper fans.  We made a visit to none other than Magnolia, itself….us and hundreds and hundreds of others, that is.  Although it was a Monday, it was spring break in many parts of Texas.  And boy, oh boy, LOTS of spring breakin’ families showed up at Magnolia that day, including us.  There were loooooong lines to get into everything. But even so, I must admit that it wasn’t THAT bad.  I mean, it sure beats long lines at an amusement park.  There was a peaceful vibe, and it’s pretty.  So if I’m going to have to wait in line for 30 minutes to get into a store, doing it there with beautiful tulips everywhere, black and white awnings over picnic tables and lovely greenery at every turn, wasn’t so bad.  If you’re a big Fixer Upper fan, I’d highly recommend a visit to The Silos.  I’m not sure what the hell else you’re going to do while you’re in Waco.  But if you’re a diehard, then I imagine your visit to Magnolia will be all you’ll need.


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