Six Great Family Road Trips

High airfares and long security lines are making road trips a popular choice for family vacations this year. Family travel by car is also an excellent opportunity to spend time together, bonding and creating great vacation memories. The key is involve the kids in vacation planning and allow every member of the family to have something to look forward to each day.

Here are six of our favorite family road trip itineraries, as well as suggested resources and tips for planning your own personalized family adventure.


It's A Shore Thing: Drive Route 1 from Portland, Maine to Acadia National Park. Stops could include Freeport for L.L. Bean and the outlet malls, Popham Beach State Park or Reid State Park for a swim, Round Pond for lobsters, and Rockland or Camden for a tall ship windjammer cruise. Take a stroll through Bar Harbor and go hiking in Acadia National Park. Don't miss the ice cream at Ben and Bill's Chocolate Emporium in Bar Harbor -- it's delicious.


A Capital Idea: Start your vacation in Washington, D.C., making sure to visit the monuments and kid-friendly museums. The Museum Of Natural History, the Air and Space Museum and the International Spy Museum are family favorites. Then drive down to the beach in Cape Hatteras, NC, stopping at Colonial Williamsburg, Busch Gardens Williamburg, Jamestown, VA, and spots throughout North Carolina's Outer Banks. Don’t miss the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kitty Hawk, hiking the dunes at Jockey's Ridge State Park, looking for shells at Coquina Beach, visiting Bodie Island Lighthouse and Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, and riding the ferry to Ocracoke Island -- home of America's best beach according to Dr. Beach. On your way back, be sure to stop for some barbecue at Pierce's Pitt Bar-B-Que in Lightfoot, VA.


Island Hopper: Drive from Miami to Key West, FL, detouring to visit the gators and wildlife in Big Cypress National Preserve and Everglades National Park. Here you can ride bikes or take a tram tour of the area. Stop at the Miccosukee Indian Village, take an airboat ride, and dine on frogs legs and alligator tail at the Miccosukee Restaurant. On the next day, begin your drive down Route 1/The Overseas Highway, a ribbon of asphalt and 42 bridges linking a 105-mile long chain of islands. Go snorkeling at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park (MM 102.5), swim with the dolphins at Dolphins Plus or Dolphin Cove in Key Largo, and kiss a sea lion at Theater of the Sea (MM 84.5). Cheeca Lodge in Islamorada is a great place to spend the night. The next day, continue your drive with stops to feed the tarpon at Robbie's (MM 77.5) and hike the Golden Orb Trail at Long Key State Recreation Area (MM 67.5). Soon you'll be driving across famous Seven Mile Bridge, one of the world's longest bridges and the site of the helicopter-limo chase scene in the Arnold Schwarzenegger film "True Lies," before stopping at Bahia Honda (MM 36.8) to swim and have a picnic lunch on the island's beautiful white sand beach. Look for tiny Key deer on Big Pine Key before arriving at the end of the line in Key West. Be sure to walk over to Mallory Square to watch the sunset and let the kids enjoy the nightly entertainment of jugglers and magicians.


Get Your Kicks on Route 66: Take your kids on the original family road trip along Route 66, the former "Main Street of America" and the "Mother Road" of kitchy Americana. Although Route 66 runs through eight states, Arizona has one of the most attraction-laden sections sections of the highway. Stop at Painted Desert/Petrified Forest National Park, stay overnight in a wigwam at the Wigwam Village Motel in Holbrook, check out the Meteor Crater, see the cliff dwellings at Walnut Canyon National Monument, visit the Grand Canyon, cool off 300 feet underground in the Grand Canyon Caverns, and cross London Bridge, which was shipped from London and reconstructed stone-by-stone in Lake Havasu City, Arizona.  For more information on creating a Route 66 road trip, see the www.historic66.com website.

West Coast

Cinematic California Coast: Drive California's Coastal Highway 1 from Santa Barbara to Santa Cruz, often called the best road trip in America. Visit the Old Mission Santa Barbara and play in the parks, stop at Ostrich Land outside of Solvang, take a tour of Hearst Castle, see the elephant seals at Piedras Blancas north of San Simeon, enjoy Big Sur's dramatic coastline and take a hike in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. Plan to spend plenty of time on the Monterey Peninsula. Here you can visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Cannery Row, kayak in Monterey Bay, browse the shops in Carmel, take pictures along Pebble Beach's 17-Mile Drive, and hike in Point Lobos State Park. Asilomar is a good place to stay in the area. Stop for artichokes in Castroville before heading up to Santa Cruz, the home of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, the Surfing Museum, and Cowell Beach, where the kids can take surfing lessons.


An Alaska Adventure: Drive the Seward Highway along the Kenai Peninsula from Anchorage to Seward. Have breakfast at the Snow City Café in Anchorage before heading out on your drive. Look for Dall sheep on the rocky outcroppings beside the highway along Turnagain Arm and stop to see the beluga whales at Beluga Point. Then it’s on to the Alyeska Resort in Girdwood to ride the tram and see the seven glaciers. Spend some time hiking the trails here and stay overnight if you have time. Then take a cruise on Portage Glacier aboard the mv Ptarmigan (MP 78), look for salmon at the Williwaw Fish Viewing Platform, and visit the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center (MP79) before heading on to Seward. In Seward, hike to Exit Glacier, check out Seavy’s Dog Sled Tour, take the Kenai Fjords National Park Cruise, and visit the Alaska SeaLife Center. On the way back, stop for a piece of pie at Summit Lake Lodge at Moose Pass and visit the tiny town of Whittier. For a longer version of this road trip adventure including Denali National Park, see this article on The Family Travel Network.

If You Go:

Planning and packing for family road trips can be overwhelming. This article on The Family Travel Network provides tips for avoiding "are we there yet" choruses, and for making packing and family car trips easier.

For help in planning your next family road trip adventure, see the following resources:

AAA: Print out maps and directions and get travel guide information from this site. Members can receive additional road trip planning assistance from the site or at local offices.(www.aaa.com)

America's Byways: This U.S. Department of Transportation website provides suggestions for family adventures along America's scenic roads and byways with itineraries and attractions. (www.byways.org)

Rand McNally: This site provides maps, directions, and detailed road trip itineraries. (www.randmcnally.com)

Roadtrip America: This site has an active road trip forum providing advice and travel for road trips across America, as well as road trip planning tools, articles and other features. (www.roadtripamerica.com)

Road Trip USA: Find detailed information on suggested routes and suggested stops on this website. (www.roadtripusa.com)

Roadside America: If you're looking for interesting stops or odd tourist attractions along your route, this is the place to look. (www.roadsideamerica.com)

Road Food: This site provides information and reviews of local restaurants and eateries along America's roads and highways. (www.roadfood.com)

See America: This Travel Industry Association of America website provides detailed information on all 390 National Park Service areas in the U.S., along with state guides, maps, attraction information and suggested itineraries. (www.seeamerica.org)

TripAdvisor: The state forums on TripAdvisor can provide helpful advice in planning family road trips, including information on where to stay, attractions, and good places to eat along the way. (www.tripadvisor.com)

TripWiser: This site provides insights on over 1000 family road trips, as well as family road trip tips, trip planning tools and an active trip planning forum for sharing ideas and advice.  (www.tripwiser.com)

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