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The United States is one of the best countries in the world for road trips. There are so many different and unique places to see that it’s hard to know where to start. Luckily, we’ve compiled a list of the best family road trips in the US so you can start planning your next adventure.
One of the best things about road trips in the United States is the sheer diversity of landscapes and attractions you can experience.
No matter what your interests are, there’s sure to be a road trip that’s perfect for you. From the beaches and coral reefs of Florida to the glaciers and mountains of Alaska, the US has unlimited options for road trips to experience as a family.
Here are the best family vacations in the US if you love the open road:
- Best Family Road Trip Ideas in the United States
- The Grand Canyon and Monument Valley Road Trip
- Yellowstone National Park
- Yosemite National Park
- The Rocky Mountains
- Mount Rushmore National Monument
- Florida Keys Road Trip
- The Outer Banks of North Carolina
- Blue Ridge Parkway Road Trip
- Pacific Coast Highway 101 Road Trip
- Tour the Northeast Coastline at Acadia National Park
- Zion National Park
- Road Trip to Niagara Falls
- The Great Smoky Mountains Road Trip Tour
- Alaska’s Seward Highway Road Trip
- Vermont Route 100 Road Trip
- Historic Route 66 Road Trip
- Finger Lakes Waterfall Road Trip
- Grand Circle Tour of Southwest’s Finest National Parks
- The Oregon Trail Road Trip
- Skyline Drive Road trip
- Travel Tips to Have the Best Family Road Trip
- 1. Not being flexible
- 2. Skimping on better comforts
- 3. Not grounding your expectations
- 4. Not listening to your kid’s needs
- 5. Not keeping your children entertained
- What are the best family road trips in the United States?
- Where should I go on a road trip with kids?
- What are some things to do on a family road trip?
Best Family Road Trip Ideas in the United States
The Grand Canyon and Monument Valley Road Trip
This road trip is one of the most popular southwestern USA road trips. The Grand Canyon is over a mile deep and offers stunning views of the desert landscape. Both are conveniently located in Arizona, and there are plenty of activities to keep the whole family entertained, from hiking and biking to rafting and camping.
A road trip can be made on a short weekend like the ones we do, but there are some long trips, particularly to Monument Valley. The Monument Valley is located in northern Arizona and southern Utah and is home to some of the most iconic landscapes in the American Southwest.
The valley has towering red rock formations, mesas, and buttes featured in many movies and TV shows. The best way to see the valley is by taking a self-guided tour or hiring a Navajo guide.
There are plenty of places to stay in the area, so you can make a long weekend out of it or even wait for a week or more. The southwestern US has so much to offer visitors, so make sure to add it to your list of places to visit in the US.
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park is one of the most popular destinations for families who want to experience breathtaking scenery and wildlife up close. The park is located in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho and has abundant wildlife, including bison, elk, bears, and wolves.
Yellowstone is also famous for its geothermal features, such as geysers and hot springs. Plus, there are great summer campsites, so if you enjoy family camping this is a great spot. Visitors can take advantage of the many Yellowstone road trip itineraries that are available online.
These itineraries can help families plan their trips to maximize their time in the park. Yellowstone is a truly unique place that should not be missed on any family road trip.
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park is undeniably one of the most sought-after travel destinations in the United States. The park boasts some of the most recognizable natural landmarks in the country, such as the towering Half Dome and the majestic El Capitan. Yosemite is also a great place for hiking, with hundreds of miles of well-maintained trails that wind through meadows, forests, and rivers.
In the spring, the waterfalls in Yosemite are especially spectacular, as they are fed by melting snow from the Sierra Nevada mountains. If you’re looking for a great road trip destination, Yosemite should definitely be at the top of your list.
The Rocky Mountains
Driving through the Rocky Mountains is an amazing experience that the whole family will enjoy. You’ll wind your way through towering peaks and verdant valleys, enjoying breathtaking views. In addition to driving, there are plenty of other activities to enjoy in the Rocky Mountains.
Hiking is a great way to explore the area, and you can also go camping, fishing, skiing, snowboarding, and mountain biking. The Rocky Mountains make for a great family vacation trip because you’ll find plenty of activities to keep you busy in the Rockies. In addition, the scenery is stunningly beautiful.
Mount Rushmore National Monument
Mount Rushmore is the perfect road trip destination for families who want to combine a bit of history with beautiful landscape views.
The monument is home to the massive sculptures of Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. Kids will love getting close to the sculptures and exploring the Monument grounds.
There are also plenty of hiking trails with stunning views of the surrounding Black Hills region. Mount Rushmore is a great way to introduce kids to some of America’s most important historical figures while allowing them to explore the great outdoors.
Florida Keys Road Trip
The Florida Keys are a chain of islands located off the southern coast of Florida. The Keys offer beautiful beaches, crystal clear waters, and plenty of fishing, snorkeling, and diving opportunities. You can also enjoy the laid-back vibe of Key West with its quaint shops and restaurants.
There is a huge variety of wildlife on KeyWest. Take a ferry over the ocean for about 150 miles for a family road trip between Miami and Key West. It is also possible for families to travel in just a day to make more stops and stay overnight.
The Outer Banks of North Carolina
Are you looking for a family road trip with kids in the Southeast? The Outer Banks, a chain of barrier islands off the Atlantic Ocean coast of North Carolina, is the perfect destination for a family vacation. The islands offer miles of sandy beaches, as well as sound side activities such as kayaking, windsurfing, and kiteboarding.
You can also visit the historic town of Kitty Hawk, where the Wright brothers first flew a plane. Plus, there are plenty of restaurants and cafes to enjoy on your Outer Banks road trip.
Blue Ridge Parkway Road Trip
Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the most popular family road trip destinations in the United States. Stretching over 469 miles, the parkway offers spectacular views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
There are also many trails and picnic areas perfect for hiking or exploring. In addition, the parkway is home to 19 different National Parks, making it the perfect destination for a springtime road trip. To plan your trip, be sure to check out the Blue Ridge Parkway website.
You’ll find an itinerary planner there to help you make the most of your time on the parkway. And if you’re looking for a unique place to stay, be sure to check out Asheville, North Carolina.
With its lively arts scene and family-friendly atmosphere, Asheville is the perfect place to end your Blue Ridge Parkway road trip. Like what you are hearing? Check out these family-friendly areas to stay at while visiting Asheville.
Pacific Coast Highway 101 Road Trip
Pacific Coast Highway 101 is one of the most memorable road trips ever. The journey spans approximately 1,525 miles from Seattle to San Francisco and takes you through some of the most beautiful scenery in the country.
Along the way, you’ll have the opportunity to explore charming small towns, tour world-famous wineries, and hike in pristine forests. And, of course, no trip to California would be complete without a visit to San Francisco.
This vibrant city offers world-class museums and delicious restaurants that any family would enjoy. Whether you’re looking for adventure or relaxation, Pacific Coast Highway 101 is the perfect destination for your next family vacation.
Tour the Northeast Coastline at Acadia National Park
Acadia National Park stands out as one of New England’s most sought-after tourist destinations. It’s no surprise considering the breathtaking views of the Atlantic coastline, extensive hiking trails, and ample opportunities to spot local wildlife. The park is in Maine, just a few hours’ drive from Boston.
Acadia is the perfect place to take a road trip with the family – there are plenty of scenic pull-offs where you can stop and explore, and the kids will love seeing all the different animals.
Acadia is also a great place to hike – there are trails of all levels, so everyone in the family can find a hike that’s right for them. And no matter what time of year you visit, Acadia will surely offer an unforgettable experience.
Zion National Park
Zion National Park is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Utah, and for good reason – it’s home to some of the most stunning landscapes in the country. The park offers a variety of hiking trails, as well as camping and rock climbing opportunities.
Road Trip to Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls is one of the most popular road trip destinations in the US and for justifiable grounds. The falls offer stunning views and are one of the most popular places for a honeymoon. You can also take a boat ride to the base of the falls or enjoy a bird’s eye view from the Niagara Falls State Park Observation Tower.
The falls are a sight to behold and will impress the kids. You can also enjoy a variety of fun activities in the area, including boat rides, hikes, and visits to amusement parks.
Niagara Falls is also located close to a number of other tourist attractions, including the Buffalo Zoo and the Niagara Falls Aquarium. So, if you’re looking for a place to take a road trip this summer, be sure to add Niagara Falls to your list.
See Related: Things to Do in Buffalo, New York
The Great Smoky Mountains Road Trip Tour
The Great Smoky Mountains are one of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States. The park is located in Tennessee and North Carolina and offers a variety of activities, such as hiking, camping, and fishing.
You can also take a scenic drive through the park to enjoy the views. This road trip is a great option for families who want to experience the park’s beauty.
The road trip takes you through the park and allows you to experience a variety of different activities. You can also stop at different points to take in the views. The Great Smoky Mountains road trip is a great way to experience the park’s beauty and create lasting memories with your family.
Alaska’s Seward Highway Road Trip
Alaska’s Seward Highway is one of the most beautiful drives in the world, and it’s the perfect road trip for families. The highway winds through Chugach State Forest and National Wildlife Refuge, between mountain ranges and the coast. Sometimes, moose wander through the marshlands, or even eagles fly above the water.
The scenery is constantly changing, and there are plenty of places to stop and enjoy the view. From Anchorage, the highway runs for less than 150 kilometers before reaching Seward, Alaska’s most populous town. From Seward, head for the Alaska Sea Life Centre to learn more about the marine life of Alaska.
See Related: Best Places to Visit in Alaska
Vermont Route 100 Road Trip
On this journey, you will pass some of the most famous ski resorts in the nation, as well as several kid-friendly stops. Spend an evening exploring Burlington’s small hip city, then take I-89 over Green Mountain to VT-100.
Before heading south, you can visit the Ben & Jerry’s factory in Waterbury. Stowe is a charming small village just north of VT-100—an excellent nightlife destination for visitors and the ultimate fall getaway in the United States.
See Related: Things to Do in Anchorage, Alaska
Historic Route 66 Road Trip
Historic Route 66 was one of the first highways in the United States. From Chicago to Santa Monica, this road is approximately 244 kilometers long.
In 1985, it was officially declared abandoned by the American government. However, Route 66 has been revitalized as a popular tourist destination.
A road trip along this iconic highway is a great way to explore the American Midwest and Southwest. And, with so many fun and interesting attractions along the way, your kids are sure to love it.
So, what are you waiting for? Start planning your Historic Route 66 road trip today!
See Related: Things to Do in Henderson, Nevada
Finger Lakes Waterfall Road Trip
The Finger Lakes region of New York State is a beautiful and popular vacation destination—this series of 11 Finger Lakes, each with its unique character. The Finger Lakes Waterfall road trip is the perfect way to experience the best of what Finger Lakes has to offer.
The trip takes you through 400-foot gorges, 200-foot waterfalls, and the beautiful Finger Lakes region. The trip is perfect for families or groups of friends looking for a fun and relaxing vacation.
If you’re looking for a breathtaking driving experience, look no further than the Finger Lakes Waterfall road trip. You won’t be disappointed. Plan your trip since this is one of the best road trip destinations on the East Coast. It can get very busy.
Grand Circle Tour of Southwest’s Finest National Parks
A Grand Circle road trip is the perfect way to see some of the most beautiful national parks in the Southwest United States. The tour begins in Las Vegas, Nevada, home to many Southwest National Parks.
Zion National Park is Utah’s most important national park. Zion boasts rocky red rocks soaring in the distance and a river running through the area. Summer days bring scorching temperatures and long shuttle routes, but the Riverside Walk at Sinawava Temple provides an opportunity to cool off while enjoying the views.
Bryce Canyon National Park is known for its striking hoodoos and spire-like rock formations created by erosion over millions of years.
The best time to see hoodoos is during the summer when they are illuminated by the sun. Cedar Breaks National Monument is a beautiful place to see colorful wildflowers in the springtime.
Grand Canyon National Park is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. The canyon is immense, and there are plenty of hiking trails and scenic overlooks to enjoy. No matter what time of year
The Oregon Trail Road Trip
The Oregon Trail was one of the most critical routes west during the 19th century, and today, it’s a popular road trip for families. The journey takes approximately 3,000 miles, and along the way, your family will visit some of the world’s most incredible wonders, including Niagara Falls and Mount Rushmore National Park.
The Oregon River Trail is a great place to stop and take in the scenery; several recommended hotels, including the Best Western Plus Hood River Inn, are also along the way.
A guide to surviving the Oregon River with children is also available on Amazon; this will help you plan and prepare for the trip and offer the opportunity to learn more about the history.
See Related: Things to Do in Seaside, Oregon
Skyline Drive Road trip
Skyline Drive is the perfect road trip for families who want to experience the beauty of the Appalachian Mountains. The 105-mile roadway runs the entire length of Shenandoah National Park in Virginia and offers stunning views of the mountains.
There are numerous pull-offs along the route where visitors can stop to enjoy the views, take photos, or hike one of the many trails that crisscross the park. Skyline Drive is open year-round, but the best time to visit is when the leaves change color in the fall.
Skyline Drive is located on both sides of the Blue Ridge mountains of the Virginia Shenandoah National Park. Visitors can enter Skyline Drive from either I-64 or I-81. The speed limit is 45 miles per hour, so visitors can take their time and enjoy the scenery. No gas stations are along Skyline Drive, so visitors should ensure their tank is full before starting their journey.
Plenty of restaurants and lodges are located near Skyline Drive, so visitors can find a place to stay for the night if they don’t want to drive back home in one day.
Travel Tips to Have the Best Family Road Trip
Toddlers can be erratic balls of energy, and their unpredictability can spell disaster for parents traveling unprepared. If you’re vacationing on four wheels, fret not. You can have the best trips with kids by taking note of the most common travel faux pas.
A road trip with children can be overwhelming. Hair will be pulled, milk will be spilled, and no, you aren’t there yet – but the inquiry will be made a million times.
An unprepared parent will always be on the brink of a total meltdown. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
A road trip with kids, especially younger ones, can be an enriching experience. If you plan to rent an RV, we suggest that you look for better options before jumping to a conclusion.
Nothing beats seeing your wide-eyed children behold beautiful locations while soaking up experiences and learning new things. You have to be prepared. In this case, however, rigorously prepared.
To have the best road trips with kids, you must plan well, adjust your expectations, and be patient and flexible. Avoid these common mistakes and sail through your next road adventure without going off the deep end.
1. Not being flexible
Travel can be unpredictable, but this uncertainty can reach exponential levels when going on a road trip with kids. Flights, luggage, food, destinations, and your schedule need to be carefully adjusted to make way for your children. That said, flexibility distinguishes between a road trip failure and one for the books.
Selecting your destination
In most cases, parents must eschew their first choice destination in exchange for less logistically demanding locations. That 8-hour road trip around the Olympic Peninsula Loop may have to wait until Bethany can sit through the ride without screaming like a banshee.
Thinking that a hike to Mammoth Cave in Kentucky is family-friendly enough? Wait till Johnny has to pee. The best American road trips with kids are those with carefully selected destinations with your children in mind. Mentally list your kid’s quirks and imagine how they’ll behave throughout the journey. Now, pick a location based on that.
If you’re thinking of more locations to travel to, you might want to look at these Midwest road trips, vacations, and getaway ideas we compiled for you.
You can also try to research the best California road trips to give you an idea. Don’t miss considering taking a Route 100 Vermont Road trip with your kids.
While we love moderating everything about our kids’ lives, whether screen time or sugar, road trips may sail more smoothly with some rule-bending.
Since road trips don’t happen often, your kids are safe from serious long-term consequences. Rules can be laid back down once the road trip is over.
This may mean buying kids the best road trip snacks, even if they’re processed or sugar-laden. It may also mean giving them full access to their Nintendo Switch unlimitedly. Family vacations are justified times to spoil your kids, so cut them some much-needed slack.
If you think you’ve budgeted just enough, think again. When traveling with young children, set aside just enough for unprecedented circumstances. Toddlers get sick often, and mood swings are common.
An emergency trip to the hospital may be warranted, and sometimes, the only way to appease a belligerent child is to bribe him with snacks (or even a new toy). While we understand that rules are rules, spoiling your kids when there is no other choice, such as on a road trip, requires money.
2. Skimping on better comforts
Some of us are working with a tight budget, and that’s okay. But if you can afford to splurge on better comforts, traveling with younger children is the right time. That power bank you’ve been eyeing for days may be super expensive, but think of your fifth hour on the road with a child and a dead iPad.
The right gear matters
If you’ve ever used a stroller with wheels that have their own lives, you know how the right gear matters when getting around with children.
If you take many stops on your road trips with kids, consider buying a good stroller with sturdy wheels and enough storage space for snacks and necessities.
A road trip in a cramped car is hell, so you may also want to rent an RV and look for suitable options.
And for children who are fussy with beverages, look for the best travel cooler for a car (trust me when I say that sometimes, the only thing a defiant child needs is a can of ice-cold Coke to chill out).
I also suggest that you check out these best travel coolers for road trips for your reference.
Here are some items to keep in mind:
Baby wipes, diapers, and extra clothes
You’ll be driving for hours, and restrooms may be few and far between. It’s wiser to overpack when it comes to diapers and baby wipes. Packing extra clothes will also come in handy should spills and splashes happen.
Toys, gadgets, and accessories
If your child is on a digital detox, a road trip may be the best time to loosen the reins. My road trips with kids are those where the children are thoroughly entertained every hour of the way (sometimes, only a trusty iPad or mobile phone can do this) and are having fun on the journey.
If you aim for less screen time, why not consider some of the best road trip books for kids? These books have many fun activities everyone in the car can participate in (a round of Mad Lib, anyone?).
Of course, it’s wise not to overpack too many toys for your toddlers. Select just two or three of your tiny tot’s favorite items. Add in a few fun road trip games to make the much more enjoyable with your family.
A first-aid kit
Sometimes, no matter how carefully you watch over your children, the inevitable happens: they trip over and bruise their shins. A fully stocked first aid kit with bandages, ointment, and basic meds is a must, especially on an extended road trip.
See Related: Best Portable Car Seats for Travel
Selecting your accommodation
While selecting a humble and more affordable Airbnb outside the city and away from the action is tempting, getting to and from the sites you want to see becomes a real ordeal – especially when traveling with young children. You’ll have to factor in eating schedules and nap times.
This is especially true in bigger cosmopolitan cities. The best road trips with long car rides are those with accommodations close to the sights and activities in your itinerary.
Find a journey with kid-friendly stops like quirky roadside attractions, museums, or outdoor activities. Road-tripping can be a lot of fun if you have a fun route.
See Related: Most Beautiful Places in the World
3. Not grounding your expectations
Parents who have never gone on a road trip or an extended vacation with kids often underestimate the stress and logistical difficulties involved. The truth is that traveling with kids can be a massive (but rewarding) ordeal – even if you planned well and covered all bases.
It’s time to accept an irreversible truth: With kids around, you won’t be able to travel as you did before. Unrealistic expectations will only lead to frustration, stress, and disappointment.
So, why not focus on the positives? The value your kids get from going on a road trip is priceless. They get exposed to new things while expanding their worldview, increasing their confidence.
Mind your travel pace
You’ve invested so much time and money to make this road trip idea happen, so it’s natural that you want to get the most out of it. When traveling with kids, you’ll have to adjust your pace.
Depending on how old your kids are, you’ll have to consider stamina, mobility, patience, and interest level. You’ll also have to factor in sleeping and eating times while dreading a potential meltdown, sudden mood swings, tantrums, and energy crashes.
In this case, the best plan is to have no plan. While having an itinerary on hand is wise, don’t hesitate to divert from it. The goal is not to cross things off your travel list but to have the best memories and experiences with your children.
Add buffer days
Were you considering requesting a three-day leave from work to compensate for a two-day road trip? Request four or five days off instead. Adding buffer days to your total travel day will be useful if you want to have one of the best road trips for kids.
You may want to take a break and consider staying the night in a hotel when going on long road trips. Kids, especially toddlers, can be a handful, and you can be burned out sooner than you know.
Already got your trip organized, but want more ideas? You might be interested in our list of the best road trips in the US.
See Related: Tentrr Review
4. Not listening to your kid’s needs
Let me tell you a story of a father who, in a hurry to get an early lead on his family’s road trip, completely ignored his toddler’s plea to answer the call of nature. (Spoiler: It did not end well, and a full hour was wasted on the road trying to scrub the muck off a thoroughly soiled backseat).
Young children have particular needs that must be respected for the entire family’s well-being (and the fate of the road trip).
This means that you absolutely must not force a child with ADHD on an 8-hour road trip to Crater Lake, and if your child says that he’s hungry or thirsty, respect their mealtimes.
Here are more tips:
- Kids have lots of energy. Sometimes, the only way to deal with a restless youngster on a 5-hour road trip is to stop, swing by McDonald’s, and order a happy meal. Stops offer children opportunities to stretch their legs and release pent-up energy.
- Allow your kids to decide what to do and where to go. The great idea is to reserve a block of your travel schedule for your kids! Kids who have something to look forward to are generally more cooperative.
- Homesickness can be a real issue, especially for young children not used to traveling. Bring a blankie, a stuffed toy, or anything that reminds them of home.
Always remember that kids are easier to handle when their needs and wants are recognized and respected.
See Related: Free Printable Travel Planner
5. Not keeping your children entertained
There’s only so much to do in the backseat of a car, and for young kids with short attention spans, this can be a recipe for disaster.
The best road trips with kids are those with many planned activities that can entertain and stimulate the mind for hours. Here are some suggestions.
The mobile phone is nifty, and if you aren’t limiting your kid’s screen time, then this might be the only thing he needs to keep himself occupied.
Consider downloading road trip-specific mobile games like The Wheels on the Bus, Trivia Crack, the karaoke app Smule (not advisable if you’re looking for peace), and GeoTouch (an educational app about geography).
This might also be the perfect time for your kids to bring their handheld consoles. The Nintendo Switch has many kid-friendly games your tiny tot will love.
Try offline road trip games
Some parents detest seeing their kids’ faces buried in mobile phones for hours. If you’re a digital detox advocate, there are other ways to keep your kids occupied without needing a device.
Consider bringing some of the best road trip books for kids (some are a compilation of fun games and activities you can do inside your car). Other fun offline games include I Spy, the State License Plate Game, and Category Game.
Don’t skimp on snacks
Believe me when I say that nothing’s worse than a hungry child. The best road trips with kids are those with a good stash of delicious snacks, and while it’s wiser to select an assortment of healthy food, don’t be afraid to throw in some junk here and there (come on, you’re on a vacation and your kids deserve it).
An alternative to driving by a fast food outlet is packing snacks and having a picnic in an excellent scenic spot. This will fill you up and give your kids chances to release pent-up energy!
What are the best family road trips in the United States?
There are many great family road trips in the United States. Some of the best are along the coast, such as California’s Pacific Coast Highway or Florida’s A1A. Other great options include the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia and North Carolina or the Beartooth Highway in Montana.
Where should I go on a road trip with kids?
There are plenty of great family road trips in the United States. Some of the best include a trip along the Oregon Coast, a drive down the Pacific Coast Highway, or a journey through the stunning landscapes of the American Southwest.
Other great family road trip ideas include exploring the East Coast’s historical sites, visiting the Midwest’s charming small towns, or even taking a road trip across Alaska.
What are some things to do on a family road trip?
There are many great places to go on a road trip with kids in the US. Some of our favorites include exploring national parks, visiting historic landmarks, and spending time at the beach.
- About the Author
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Joshua Lagandaon is a writer from the Philippines. He has been writing professionally for more than a decade after taking a Creative Writing degree at the Philippines’ prestigious Ateneo de Manila University. He writes for local travel, fashion, and lifestyle magazines while dabbling in theater and the arts.