Freshly back from our holidays in the U.S.A. I did compile a little list of observations while we were on the road. Road tripping with kids is never easy but we love it. Hopefully, these little tips will make your life easier.
Just a word of warning: this is written from a European's perspective. Most of you in the US may find this obvious. But to us, Europeans, it wasn't necessarily.
1. Distances are huge. What looks like a small stretch of road on your map, usually takes a lot longer than planned. Allow plenty of time.
2. Interstate 10 between Louisiana and Florida is boring. There is no other way of putting it. There is not much to see on the road itself. Avoid it if you can! If you live along it, sorry.
3. As opposed to Europe, the rest areas on most interstates (except around Miami and Orlando) only have toilets. If you want food, fuel and more, you need to exit the motorways.
4. You have to pay for some stretches of motorways. Most tolls have a coin booth. However, be careful if you drive around Miami (the Miami turnpike). All tolls are automatic and if you don't have a little transponder, you will be sent a bill later (and we were told rental agencies charge fees on top). Better get one beforehand (in local shops). You can also avoid those stretches of road but it is not always easy to find which ones are toll-free.
5. Americans undertake as often as they overtake on the motorway. Don't be scared if someone overtakes you from the right hand lane. This would be really frown upon in most European countries, but we found people doing it all the time in the US. You can even exit or enter the motorway from the outside lane (crazy!).
6. Super 8 motels (with refurbished rooms) are really worth the extra money when compared to Motel 6, for example. We stayed at both and found they were cleaner, didn't smell, the internet connection was better and the rates included breakfast. They also had a coffee machine, microwave and mini fridge. What else would you need?
7. Most American hotels and motels offer rooms with two double beds: practical and cheap when travelling with kids. No need for cribs or cots, just pad with pillows.
8. We found that our credit card did not always work when filling up on fuel at the pumps. We had to go inside and pre-pay the cashier (as opposed to paying at the pump itself). Not easy when you don't know how much fuel your rented car takes.
9. Most likely not the cheapest place to buy food, but we loved buying our supplies at Whole Foods. Great selection of fresh products of great quality and also prepared meals. Good for baby food too.
10. We travel light and didn't want to lug around a car seat. We found buying a car seat for baby E was cheaper than renting one for 3 weeks. We ordered on Amazon and had it shipped to a hotel we were staying at. It was really easy. In the end, we donated it.
Maybe most important of all, don't try and see/do too much. A road trip with kids is challenging and has its ups and downs. We love road trips but there is nothing worse than spending hours in the car with a crying baby and a whiny child. If you set the bar high, you are bound to be disappointed. Take one day at a time, plan ahead (we had booked all of our accommodation ahead) but leave a little flexibility during the days to take it easy, spend a bit more time at the beach or let the kids have a decent nap.