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A “Vacation Carpool” (Or How I Saved Our Family’s Summer Road Trip)

Last night it hit me… an absolutely brilliant idea that would help save our family’s summer road trip. (Like many families, we all but cancelled our trip after gas prices hit three dollars.) So, here’s my mega-watt plan: A “Vacation Carpool!” It may sound crazy, but allow me to explain.

Most of us are familiar with the concept of carpooling. Basically, it’s a shared ride between people traveling to the same destination (be it work, a child’s soccer practice or birthday party). With a “Vacation Carpool” you would travel to a specified destination in a shared vehicle with people you enjoy spending time with. Understand that this great idea of mine (ok, it may not seem that great to you) is still a work in progress. However, I have created a list of three main factors you should consider before deciding if a “Vacation Carpool” will work for you:

Travel Companions—This is perhaps the greatest consideration. After all, you don’t want to be confined to a vehicle for 10+ hours a day with aunt Hilda and her hiccups. Choose wisely! Find friends or family members with children close in age to your own and ask them if they would like to carpool. Having friends or family with children who get along with yours will not only be a sanity saver during a long drive, but it makes choosing a vacation destination a lot easier. Other factors to consider when choosing travel companions: look for someone who is willing to use the same amount of vacation time (you don’t want someone who can only take a week’s vacation when you have already requested two weeks off). Also, look for someone who shares your traveling philosophy. (See my blog: “The Family Road Trip: A Lesson in Compromising.”) If you are the take-things-as-they-come-travel-without-reservations type, you may want to think twice before heading out on a 10-day road adventure with a family who prides themselves on planning every minute of their vacation.

The Destination—As I just mentioned, once you have decided who you want to share a ride with, you need to decide where you will be going. The idea of sharing a trip with friends or family members with children close in age to your own comes in to play here as well. For example, if your pre-teen kids love roller coasters, then head to a variety of popular amusement parks or if you have younger children who love to camp and fish then vacation at a state park.

The Vehicle—Unless you can find a sucker (I mean generous friend or relative) who is willing to have their “wheels” be the official carpool vehicle then I would highly recommend renting a van. Frankly, it is unlikely that you will find someone with a vehicle large enough to accommodate two families, especially if each has multiple children. A van will, at minimum, give everyone enough room to create their own personal space. If your five-year-old doesn’t like to share his toys, imagine what he’ll do when faced with the prospect of having to share a seat with someone. If you decide to rent, make your reservation well in advance, especially during peak travel times.

I’m in the early stages of organizing our “Vacation Carpool”. Stay tuned to read how it turns out.

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About Michele Cheplic

Michele Cheplic was born and raised in Hilo, Hawaii, but now lives in Wisconsin. Michele graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in Journalism. She spent the next ten years as a television anchor and reporter at various stations throughout the country (from the CBS affiliate in Honolulu to the NBC affiliate in Green Bay). She has won numerous honors including an Emmy Award and multiple Edward R. Murrow awards honoring outstanding achievements in broadcast journalism. In addition, she has received awards from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association for her reports on air travel and the Wisconsin Education Association Council for her stories on education. Michele has since left television to concentrate on being a mom and freelance writer.