A road trip is a classic American vacation, but it takes planning to make it great.
Some states are better for road trips, while others are better treated as a single destination. In addition to considering the sights and scenery, you should factor in things like hotel costs and gas prices.
Another tip for family road trips? Keep the little ones busy, says Marielle Rishty, a travel agent with Ovation Vacations in New York. “Make trivia questions on the way as you’re passing certain landmarks,” she suggests, and strive to keep the pit stops kid-friendly. You don’t have to get too “sophisticated or fancy” at restaurants, she notes, but do give kids a chance to sample — and learn from — the local flavors and culture. “We recommend taking them to a place where they can try local things and have it relate to where they are.”
Finally, be open to new experiences. Word-of-mouth recommendations are great, as are in-the-know tips from your travel advisor. Now check out eight drives for your dream summer road trip, from the Pacific Northwest to the South.
Charleston, South Carolina to Savannah, Georgia
“You’re covering two great southern cities with great hotel options,” says Jessica Griscavage, of McCabe World Travel in McClean, Virginia, plus there’s the Lowcountry food culture. Drive an hour south of Charleston to stay at the five-star Sanctuary Resort on Kiawah Island, or save gas for a beach day at Hilton Head, which is only an hour further. The Cloister at Sea Island, an hour south of Savannah, is another good option for families, with plenty of swimming, fishing and nature walks.
New York City or Boston to Winvian Farm
It only takes three hours to get to this 113-acre resort, where you’ll find one suite and 18 cottages, all inspired by different themes. Tell stories by a crackling fire in woodsy Beaver Lodge, or immerse yourself in the wonder of the Connecticut forest in picture-esque Camping. The farm-to-table restaurant is worth the trip alone, but don’t be surprised if your little ones beg to go up in a hot air balloon instead.
San Diego to Los Angeles, California
At less than two hours, this drive is easy for parents and just long enough for the kids. “San Diego has the zoo, Legoland California and the beach,” explains Griscavage, while “in Los Angeles, you can combine Universal Studios Hollywood or Disneyland with the beach.” Parents will also appreciate San Diego’s laid-back vibe, sunny days and Mexican restaurants.
Seattle, Washington to Vancouver, British Columbia
In Seattle, parents can hit Revel for Bourdain-approved short rib dumplings, while kids will go bonkers for the Pinball Museum — it includes 50 games for the price of admission — and sampling the delicacies at Pike Place Market. In Vancouver, don’t miss the massive totem poles at the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia, or a jog along the 17-mile seawall in Stanley Park, located minutes from downtown.
New York City or Boston to Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Whether you choose to stay in a shingled cottage or a beachfront apartment, your kids will fall hard for the Cape. No trip is complete without a visit to Mac’s on the Wellfleet pier, where you can gaze at the water and feast on whole belly clams, or one of the Cape’s kettle ponds, which families often have all to themselves. The Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, with its five miles of trails and salt marshes, is also worth visiting.
California’s Pacific Coast Highway
Beginning in Orange County’s Dana Point and reaching north to San Francisco, this popular drive can be completed in under eight hours. But why keep it short? With many major stops — from sprawling Los Angeles to Carmel-by-the-Sea — you could make this road trip last for days. Driving from the south to the north, head to the top of the Topanga Overlook in Malibu for incredible views of the San Fernando Valley. Then, a few hours north in Santa Ynez Wine Country, relax with a glass of vino as you plot your visit to Hearst Castle.
New York City to Philadelphia to the Poconos
At Woodloch Pines Family Resort in the Pocono Mountains, East Coasters will feel like they’re back in summer camp — in a good way, promises Rishty. On and off the property, there’s plenty to do, from paintball to fishing, drawing and bowling. Dare your teens to take on the 600-foot Eagle Eye Zip line, or while away an afternoon playing pool in the Bunker lounge area. Not up for reliving your childhood? Here are five other scenic resorts in the Poconos.
Boston to Stowe, Vermont
In the summer, Stowe is an off-season ski town has some of the best beers on tap and is full of New England charm. Cool off with the kids at the Swimming Hole — the small heated pool has toys and a water slide — or see the real thing at the Waterbury Reservoir in Waterbury Center State Park. With 17 picnic sites and boat rentals available until Labor Day, you’re sure to keep the little ones preoccupied.