Road Trip Survival Tips

Heading to Hilton Head...

Our family and many of our friends said we were crazy. They were right, but we survived. A daunting, 16-hour trek to Hilton Head for Spring Break wasn’t actually so bad. Loading up four girls ages 3-8, a babysitter and all the games, bags, and snacks you could imagine…Spring Break here we come!

I’m hoping our trip serves as an inspiration while you plan summer vacations. Driving really wasn’t that bad. We started out looking for flights but when the prices were too high to even mention, I decided that a nice road trip would be good for my daughters, maybe even add some character to our spring break memories.

We had the car loaded and ready to go just as the older two were getting out of school at 3PM and took off successfully avoiding the Friday rush hour traffic around Chicago.

We stocked up on some new library books, audio books and even bought a few new movies for the kids to watch in between working on activity books, I-Spy, License plate hunt and the constant requests for food. We loaded up on sandwiches and snack foods (many that my kids never get at home, making vacation that much sweeter!).

We drove over halfway and found a hotel. We crashed, had breakfast the next morning and then finished our trip. We stopped for lunch, and other than that made it just after check-in time. I’m not going to say the kids weren’t asking, “Are we almost there?” numerous times, but all in all they were really good. That’s why we felt that it was important to time our drive home just as well.

Hilton Head Island is such a great place for families. We enjoyed tennis, nature hikes, and swimming. It was chilly, but the kids were content in the heated pool. The beach was a lot of fun, but also windy. We didn’t enjoy it as much as I wish we could have but the weather was just too cold (40 degrees most of the time).

Our strategy changed for the drive back. My youngest daughter turned 4, and we figured for her birthday we would take a ride to the Atlanta Zoo. Why would we drive four hours to a zoo when we have two great zoos in Chicago? Because the Atlanta Zoo has Panda Bears, and my daughter is obsessed with them.

She asked for one for her birthday, and I figured since that wasn’t going to happen, the next best thing would be to visit them instead. She was ecstatic. We decided she was a little young to feed the Pandas, which is an option, but the tour was once a day and too early for us, given that we arrived around 1PM. But I have a feeling we will be back.

The zoo was so nice, clean and had a ton of animals and some fun rides for the kids. They have a really nice playground that the girls spent a lot of time running around, climbing the monkey bars and going up and down all the slides. This was a great way to let them burn off some energy before getting back into the car for the rest of our ride home. Atlanta is only 11 hours from Chicago. So we drove over halfway and found a hotel with an indoor pool and spent the night. The next day we were only four hours from home so we were able to relax at the hotel, workout and spend lots of time in the indoor pool.

We made it home safe and sound. I’m not going to pretend that my 7 year old wasn’t asking every 15 minutes if we were almost home, but overall it was great. I’d highly recommend traveling by car. When you have small kids, it makes things easier. So great we might venture out this summer, only this time I might stick to 10 hours or less.

Christine Bachman

About Christine Bachman

Christine Bachman is founder and president of Plan It PR, a public relations and marketing firm. The mother of five shares tips and survival stories in “Play Dates and Power Lunches.” Ms. Bachman started working public relations after a long career in broadcast journalism, which included work as a television anchor, reporter and producer.