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How to Make Family Road Trips Fun in Tampa (or Anywhere)

Children play in the sand on the beach with colorful plastic beachtoys.
Keep your kids as happy in the car as they are at the beach. Photo courtesy of Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater.

The Tampa Bay area is suited to a rambling family car trip. But how to face the open road with a car full of antsy travelers? Consider carrying a master list of all that you’ve packed. Although it sounds monstrously fastidious, it helps to see where your gaps are, it allows you to easily keep track of things from car to motel to final destination, and if you generate this list on the computer, it can be used as the basis for future trip lists.

The list should be divided into categories: clothes and equipment (these are the things that go in the trunk, to be exhumed at your final destination) and the stuff that makes or breaks your travel time—food, entertainment, and car comfort. Older kids can each be put in charge of a category checklist as the car gets loaded.

When traveling in the car with small children, allow more time to reach your destination. Count on stopping every hour to stretch your legs and run around. Churches are good stopping spots if rest areas aren’t available, as they often have open, grassy areas and playgrounds. Traveling at night or during nap times is a good way to make up time. Put blankets, pillows, and any necessary stuffed animals in the back seat at the ready.

Your local party goods and dollar stores are perfect places to find inexpensive new forms of amusement. Wrap each new toy as a gift, to make the excitement last. Maze books, magic-pen books, stickers, a magnetic puzzle of the United States, even car bingo can keep everyone entertained. For long car trips, the book Miles of Smiles is filled with car games. Picture-puzzle books (like I Spy and Where’s Waldo) can be made into games as well: One person names an object for the rest to find in the picture.

Bring lap desks and art supplies for projects. Dated spiral-bound drawing pads can be a nice way to chronicle a trip, with each child keeping the finished pad (parents can annotate as instructed). Encourage older kids to journal with a cool pad and a set of gel pens.

Map of Tampa Bay Area, Florida
Tampa Bay Area

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