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Where to Take Breaks on Long Road Trips to Keep Your Sanity

by Susan Finch

Aug 29, 2018

© Monkey Business Images | Dreamstime.com

Travel Tips

Remember the days your parents took you on road trips? Chances are you could roam in the back of a station wagon and there was no stopping until it was dinner time or you were about to burst? These days, our kids have more entertainment at their disposal from tablets to gaming devices, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need to stop. Stretching can be crucial to everyone’s health and avoid issues related to circulation and sitting too long. It also keeps everyone in the family sane and puts an end to the nonstop chorus of, “He’s looking at me!” from the back seat.


At the same time, getting to your destination is the ultimate goal for a road trip and you don’t want to waste valuable time stopping every hour. That’s why you need a road trip strategy of where and when to take breaks in advance. Here’s how to get started.


Detour through state park © Welcomia | Dreamstime.com


State Parks

Local parks are fabulous for a break, but aren’t always accessible from highway exits. Meanwhile, state park exits are frequently located right off highways or major roadways and give your kids expansive roaming space. From feeding the ducks in the pond to hiking to playgrounds, state parks are an amazing place to pass an hour. The only problem is your kids are likely going to want to stay, so set expectations early.


Fast Food Playgrounds

Fire up your map app and determine where to stop for a long break in advance. Three hours is usually a good marker for a break, or you can plan to drive for four or five hours and take a long lunch. Stop at a fast food restaurant and let your kids know in advance what to expect. From what types of food they can order to how long they can play, keep your schedule and to a meal plan you can live with. If they’ve already loaded up donuts in the morning, make the fast food break after lunchtime and let them know they can order a smoothie and perhaps small fries as a snack. Then let them loose on the play area to get their wiggles and frustrations out.


Indoor Play Centers

Most decent-sized towns and cities offer indoor trampolines, bounce houses and play centers where kids can go absolutely wild without anyone giving them the evil eye. Indoor climbing centers are also a fun stop that also gives your kids time to stretch. Plan out your strategy in advance and give your kids a time limit they can live with. There’s no point in taking them to an indoor warehouse filled with nothing but high-impact fun for kids and then make them leave in 30 minutes.


The Mall

The mall is the last place I want to visit on an average morning or afternoon, but can be a surprisingly great place for a road trip stop. For starters, most malls open early to walkers, so if you’re traveling through the night, you can usually find a mall open as early as 5:30 a.m. Some malls even have play centers with indoor playscapes and mats where kids can roam and play.


Rest Stop Cook-Out

Rest stops are often overlooked as a place to actually have some fun, and not just use the bathroom and stretch for a hot minute. Put some hot dogs and hamburgers on ice, bring your grilling supplies and pull over at a rest stop midday. Most state rest stops offer grills and picnic tables so you can spread out and have some fun. Bring your own soccer ball, get a game of tag going or pack up the jump ropes and let the kids go nuts while you plan for a hot lunch.


Remember the journey is part of the fun. Make your road trip an enjoyable experience and start making memories right from that trampoline play center or rest stop. The art is finding places you actually want to stop and not just catering to your kids’ whims. So if an afternoon of hiking or hanging out in a fast food playground isn’t your thing, come up with a plan you’re excited to execute.


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