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Planning the Perfect Colorado Road Trip – With or Without the Kids

July 9, 2014

Taking a road trip is an American summer tradition. Most of us probably have childhood memories of being packed into the back of a station wagon or minivan and hauled around to the Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore or Disneyland. With so much great scenery, from big cities to open country, and all kinds of attractions to suit every age and sense of adventure, it’s no wonder that many families plan road trips as their summer vacations (and why many adults continue to enjoy them, even without kids along). If you live here or are just visiting Colorado, a summer road trip will be fun for everyone in your family.

Road Trips in Colorado

Colorado has so many different classic American elements, from towering mountains to open plains, from modern cities to ghost towns of the Wild West. You can build a road trip around many different themes, whether you enjoy history, getting out into nature or pursuing adventure sports, or you can just drive across country and look for something new.

It’s easy to start a road trip from Boulder, Aspen or Denver and explore the local area, as well as taking advantage of extra time to enjoy the city’s attractions. Rocky Mountain National Park provides hiking in some of the most beautiful scenery in the West. Mesa Verde National Park is home to thousands of archeological sites. Ponderosa Gorge and Glenwood Canyon are just two areas known for whitewater rafting, and numerous guest ranches provide adults and kids the opportunity to experience horseback riding and the cowboy life. No matter what you are interested in, there’s a Colorado road trip to match.

Road Trip Tips to Keep in Mind

In order to have a successful road trip, especially with kids along, some advance planning and preparation helps – but knowing when to leave planning behind and strike out spontaneously can make for truly memorable trips. Create a general route and make some loose plans, but don’t schedule your itinerary so full that there’s no opportunity to stop and savor a special moment or to try something on a whim. Don’t research everything ahead of time. Give yourself the opportunity to explore and be surprised by what you find.

Most of us love our technology but keep some old-fashioned items in the car for backup. Bring a paper map for reference in addition to relying on GPS, especially if you get into remote areas where you may not have service. If you have kids, you can use the map to trace the route you follow, creating a tangible reminder of this family trip. Some cash can be handy for emergencies or unexpected tolls, and keep a spare car key tucked in your luggage. While we’re talking about items to bring, pack as lightly as you can. You’ll have fewer items to worry about lugging around, and you’ll also have more room for mementos of your trip.

Finally, make a point of chatting with people. Ask locals where the best restaurants are or if there’s a more scenic way to get to the next town than the main road. Connections are what make the best trips – both with your family or traveling partners and with the people you meet along the way.

Always Prepare for the Unexpected

No matter how carefully everything is planned, there’s always the chance of something going wrong. Again, preparation can help you get back on track as easily as possible and can turn a car breakdown or getting lost into an adventure, rather than a crisis. Pack plenty of water and nourishing snacks and replenish supplies as you use them. Make sure your car is in good shape before you leave, including emergency items such as a spare tire and jack. Bring chargers for all of your phones, including at least one car charger. Tissues, paper towels, wet wipes and hand sanitizer are essential if you have kids, but they come in handy for adults, too.

Make sure that you have updated emergency info easily available for everyone in your group, especially if there are any medical concerns. Let some trusted people back home know about your itinerary – even if it’s a loose plan – and make a plan to check in occasionally with them, just in case. Being prepared for emergencies will help you to relax and enjoy your trip, confident that no matter what happens you’ll be able to handle it.

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