Planning Overland Trips the Whole Family will Love

Research Before you Go

Before you even start thinking about choosing your route, the best thing you can do is research. On all overland trips and especially trips with family, research is vital. There are a number of things to consider before you start, and one of the most important is to plan your overland routes thoughtfully. You can use a computer, a paper map (our fave), or a combination of both.

Critical factors that can impact your timing include potential weather issues, road closures and border crossing times. Consider if you have four wheel drive to tackle more intense areas, or if your vehicle is better suited to well-paved paths. We highly recommend using an app to keep an eye on road hazards during your overland adventure as you go, just so there are no surprises. You’ll also want to think about overnight locations, cool sights along the way, and potential food stops.

Planning overland trips with kids

Be Flexible with your Itinerary

While you should definitely have an idea of what route is ideal and how long it may take, you also need to be flexible when there are extra people along. Life happens while you’re on the road, and you may run into unexpected delays. If you have a flexible itinerary, you’ll be able to easily adjust things, like your driving hours, to make sure you don’t miss anything important. If you have a general idea of timing and where you want to go, you can lean into your energy – picking up extra hours on the road when you feel motivated, and taking it easy when you need a break.

No matter what you do, don’t try to cram in too many long hauls in a row. That’s a quick route to exhaustion, and it won’t make the trip fun for anyone. By staying flexible, you’ll be able to take advantage of unexpected finds. You may discover an amazing roadside attraction that you didn’t know about, or come upon a place that you want to spend more time exploring. This is one of the best things about boondocking or staying in a National Forest on overland trips: you don’t need to make reservations, and can easily go with the flow.

While your driving schedule may be all over the place, your daily routine doesn’t need to be. Keeping similar times for things like wake-up and bedtime as well as breakfast, lunch and dinner will give your group stability, familiarity, and an open space for dialogue in case anyone is uncomfortable with aspects of the trip or wants to talk through an experience they’ve had.

Pack Smart

Packing for overland trips is probably the most stressful part for most families. Trying to figure out how to get everything you need arranged can be a challenge, especially if you’re new to this. Keep it simple, just as you would for any vacation.

Pack a variety of clothes that are appropriate for the season and that are suitable for your planned activities. Make sure to pack LOTS of extra clothes if you’ll be away from washing machines for extended periods of time, and pack a variety of warm layers, cool layers, and wool socks no matter what the forecast is. This is especially important when you’re traveling with young children, since they’re not as accustomed to the elements as adults are. For little ones, don’t forget diapers and any other changing items. You’re also going to want to make sure to pack things like sunscreen, bug spray, and appropriate footwear.

As far as food, decide ahead of time if you’ll be cooking every meal at your overland vehicle, or stopping for meals along the way. There are a ton of different ways to cook for a family on the go, from cured meat, cheese and nut boards to packaged meals over a jet stove, cooler or refrigerator-kept meals over a campfire and more. Don’t forget to bring lots of extra water for drinking, and a way to wash up!

Sleeping arrangements are another crucial arena to consider when taking overland trips with family. You may simply hit the road and ‘wing it,’ but less-experienced family members are probably used to pillows, blankets, and a standard-sized bed. Make sure that there are sleeping bags for everyone, and enough sleeping spaces – whether that’s in the form of a rooftop tent, pull-behind trailer, hammocks, or ground pads.

Finally, don’t forget entertainment options such as games and books to keep everyone entertained. It’s also a great idea to load up an energizing playlist to set the mood for your trip. There’s nothing like the mountains passing by to the tune of a killer soundtrack.

Take your Time and Enjoy the Ride

You may think that a slower overland experience will be less exciting, but that’s not always the case. Traveling at a slower pace can actually help you to enjoy your trip more. You’ll have more time to sightsee, and you’ll be able to relax and take in all the new and different things that you’ll see along the way.

Be prepared that while you’re on the road – especially if you haven’t gone out a lot before – you’re bound to run into some bumps along the way. Car troubles, traffic, weather, illness and other unexpected things are bound to happen to everyone while they’re traveling – either on this trip or a future one.

Stay relaxed, and try not to get too stressed out about the small things. If you’re traveling with the family, this is especially important. You don’t want your trip to end with the crew being stressed out.

Don’t Forget to Bring These Things

Knowing that hiccups happen, you can prepare NOW so that inevitable setbacks don’t derail your entire experience. As they say, failure to plan is a plan to fail.

Bringing gear needed for overland trips
  • First aid kit: Don’t forget to include things like bandages, antibiotic ointment, pain relievers, and allergy medications – even if your family doesn’t often use these things.
  • Prescriptions: Bring your medication bottles, and make sure you have copies of any prescriptions your family members are taking with you. It’s not common, but some places in the United States have laws requiring documentation for certain medications.
  • Extra cash: You never know when you might need some extra cash on the road. From coin-op laundry to just buying souvenirs, having cash on hand always makes things easier.
  • Chargers: You’re going to want to bring multiple chargers for all your gadgets. This will make it easy to keep phones charged up, especially if you’re traveling with a large group. Car chargers are a great idea, since you’ll obviously be spending a lot of time in your vehicle.
  • Identification for each person traveling with you. This includes passports, visas, and any other travel documents that may be required. If you’re traveling with kids and have a custody agreement in place, have that accessible as well.

Don’t Forget to Do This Before Leaving Home

Check your car’s maintenance schedule, so you don’t wind up caught in the middle of nowhere with an unexpected car problem. You should also check your insurance policy to make sure you’re fully covered for the activities and areas you’re traveling to. You may also want to look into travel insurance if your medical insurance doesn’t cover remote areas or transportation back home in case of emergency.

Consider pets. Are they coming along with you? If so, they’ll need all the gear that you regularly keep at home, and they may need to catch up on vaccinations before hitting the road. If they’ll be staying home, make sure that they are cared for by someone familiar with their needs.

Overlanding with a per

Finally, leave a rough trip itinerary with a trusted friend or family member, and set a check-in schedule. You can also text updates of your location and next destination along the way. If they don’t hear from you within a certain amount of time, they’ll know to start looking in case you’ve had a mishap in a remote area away from cell service or easy help.

Planning an overland trip can be a ton of fun, but it also takes thorough preparation. By taking some time to plan ahead, you can make sure that your trip goes smoothly. With all the right documentation, a well-maintained vehicle, proper packing and insurance, you’ll be able to take your time and enjoy the ride.

Leave a Comment