Road Trip with Friends & Kids? A Pro/Con List

road trip

Cue the “Holiday Road” music. Check to make sure the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are packed — crusts optional. The luggage is loaded, the GPS is fully charged. It’s time for a road trip.

It’s theme park season signifying summer with long, hot days, steep drops on roller coasters, sno-cones and oversized stuffed animals. One of the decisions you’ll face when you consider piling into the minivan for a trip is whether to invite along your best friends and their kids. Taking a trip to a theme park with friends will likely do one of two things — strengthen your friendship immeasurably creating memories that will outlast your sunburn or ensure that you’ll never want to see “those people” again.

Before you decide, take stock of the state of your friendship. Can you only take your friends in small doses or are they people you, your wife and your kids get along with in virtually any situation? Do you share parenting values, attention to detail and methods of handling the inevitable crises that will arise?

There are obvious pros/cons of such a decision. Some of the pros:

Share the Fun
This is one of those “Tentpole Moments.” It’s a shared family activity that is enhanced by spending it with those closest to us. It creates unique, long-lasting bonds and gives our children a lifelong memory. And it’s not only sharing the fun. It’s sharing the driving, the cooking, the planning, etc.

Extra Sets of Hands
With another couple on the journey, you can give each other a break. The moms want to shop and grab a margarita or three? Great. The dads can corral the kids for a while before switching off. Everybody wins.

Divide and Conquer
Let’s say two of the kids are dying to ride the latest and greatest roller coaster while the other kids want to watch the Justin Bieber-wannabe singing his lungs out in the air-conditioned performance center. The ‘Rents get to draw straws and split up. Perfect.

There are a few cons to consider, though:

Too Many Cooks
Everyone has an opinion and no one is afraid to share it. This can lead to tense moments and hurt feelings. Consider whether you can put your ego and parenting style on hold for a few days for the good of the group. If not, there might be a problem.

No Escape
If things do get testy, there’s nowhere to turn. We’re all adults but sometimes tensions get the best of us. If it gets so bad that you’re ready to sneak away in the middle of the night to escape the drama, you might not have any option but to stay.

Plan Ahead
One family wants to get an early start. The other prefers to stay at the park late. One family wants to zip through the park quickly while the other family is more leisurely. Make sure you discuss the plan of attack ahead of time or decide that you’ll go your separate ways and meet up occasionally during the day.

Also, don’t sleep on another big decision — how to pay for gas, tickets and meals. If you figure that out before you drive one mile in the car you’ll be way ahead of the game. It’s a matter of personal preference but it’s always worked for us to have separate bills for meals. Each family handles their own business and there are no questions. Trying to keep track of who spent what on the last meal and who owes what to whom takes too much effort and puts too much pressure on the friendship.

The bottom line is if you are confident that your friendship can withstand the rigors of a lengthy car ride, constant demands to change the in-car music/movie, early mornings, late nights, long days at the park and exasperated cries of “Dad, he’s touching me!” then you should hit the road.



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Two boys, one wife and a ton of material. I live for family and I’m one of the most blessed people you will ever meet.

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  1. Brad the Dad says:

    A ton of good stuff here:

    “Consider whether you can put your ego and parenting style on hold for a few days for the good of the group. If not, there might be a problem.” — Totally. If you believe in putting your kid in timeout no matter when and where, then do it and hopefully you are choosing to vacation with friends who understand this. BUT, if you are Mr. “it’s cool to swear in front of my kids,” you better check yourself around your friends who don’t believe this.

    “Make sure you discuss the plan of attack ahead of time or decide that you’ll go your separate ways and meet up occasionally during the day.” — The biggest success of our last trip with friends was this. Some of us went here, some went there, some took a rest, some went on the paddle boats, then we’d converge and all go on the tea cups, etc… I’ve been in group situations where there is stress in trying to stick together and make sure everyone is doing everything together. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Vacationing with the right friends AND the smaller theme park setting definitely allows for a stress free, wallowing kind of day at the park….and in my eyes, that’s the good stuff.

This is what I think...