If money is tight this summer, but you still want to go on some nice family trips, maybe it’s time to rediscover an American classic: Road Trips.

Imagine the endless possibilities offered by all these roads that stretch in all directions from home; scenic rides so beautiful that they rekindle your love of the country; cute little towns and strange side attractions on the road; missed exit ramps; spilled drinks on the fabric seats; moody young people just wanting to get home to their computers.

Is it possible to take the whole family on a car ride without tears or outbursts of rage?

After hundreds of road trips through this great country, I would like to give you some tips on how to increase fun and reduce stress during family trips.

Tips for better road trips

Make it short and sweet. Make a list of destinations within 100 miles of home where your family has never been. Let the kids work to downgrade it to their favorites and plan to do one or two every weekend. If you run out of ideas, get some brochures from the local tourist information centre. Maybe you’ll discover that there’s a river that offers tubing adventures only a few towns away. Or a pioneer fortress that lets visitors participate in the activities of the “old days”. Perhaps a scenic drive through a state park that you’ve wanted to show children for years. Family trips near home can be fresh and fun when you experience them with your favorite people. The advantage of these short trips is that you won’t be stuck in your car long enough to fight.

Leave the mobile media at home. Yes, it will trigger World War III, but if the kids drive you crazy with their video games and obsessive texts at home, imagine how annoying it will be in the back seat of the car. And if you haven’t been watching your kids lately, just read the headlines:

“Technical use by children, parents who are losing ground”.

“More teenagers obsessed with texts”.

“Children spend 8 hours a day on TV, Internet, texts.

Yes, cold turkey causes withdrawal symptoms (sulking, whining, unconscious thumb twitching). But as compensation…..

Imagine them facing a low-tech challenge. Get a small digital dictation machine and turn the kids into reporters. Invite them to ask things about their parents and each other that your family never talked about. Assign them a “story” that tells about each person during the ride. Spin some old family yarns that your parents told you. You will all learn something about each other and have a great souvenir to share with grandparents and friends at home.

Spark their creativity. Hold a photo contest on family outings. Create enough categories so everyone can be a winner. Categories like: Most difficult roadside attraction. Best morning bed head. Ugliest bug splat on the windshield. If your kids need to be rivals, the friendly rivalry of the competition can help keep the peace.

Eat outdoors. Ah, the persistent smell of roasted onions…. it just seems to cling to the car upholstery, doesn’t it? So why not drive past these passages and have picnics on the way? Pack a cooler and fill it up at a local grocery store with enough accessories for a simple but tasty lunch. Even if you have to resort to fast food, take it to a nice place, distribute a blanket and pretend to be the smiling all-American family in one of those postcards from the 1950s. Sure it’s silly. But it’s fun. Your gang will also eat better and experience a picturesque old tradition: family meals together. And this can be one of the best memories you can take home from your family outings on the open road.