Pick a trail, any trail
Spending time outdoors doesn’t have to include booking an overnight stay. Use the National Recreation Trails database from American Trails to find hiking or cycling spots within driving distance. Water and snacks are, of course, a must-have.
Bonus: When you start road trips with very young children, they learn how to navigate time in the car. That’s what parenting blogger Stephanie Loomis Pappas discovered. “When [our son] was first born, we didn’t have a choice about road tripping: It was either pile in the car for 10 hours or not see his grandparents,” she says. “Before he reached his first birthday, we’d already logged thousands of miles with him in the car.”
Tip: Packing a day-trip cooler, weekend-away tent, and camping supplies? Fold down the second-row seats in your Golf Alltrack for even more space.
Enjoy a national park
Whether you’re driving cross-country to Yellowstone or just driving across town, you’ll probably be able to find a national park: There are 417 sites (at least one in every state and in the U.S. territories) totaling 84 million acres. A good way to plan a visit is to use the National Park Service directory. Have a child age 15 or younger? They get free entrance all year; for everyone else, check out the list of fee-free days each year.
Tip: Taking the scenic route to get there? Use the available driving mode selector, which includes an Off-Road Driving Mode and Hill Descent Control.1
Try camping (or glamping)
Sometimes the perfect weekend means packing a tent, sunscreen, and s’more supplies and jetting off before the traffic hits. Not ready to go sans electricity? Look for “glamping” setups, outfitted with hotel-like amenities out in the wilderness.
And listen to your kids’ perspective on travel — you might be surprised how they view the scenery. “My absolute favorite part of traveling with my family is seeing a destination through my son’s eyes,” Stephanie says. “I might be focusing on the drive down a twisty wooded road, but my son is laughing and asking, ‘Who wants to hide a driveway?’ every time we pass a Hidden Driveway sign.”
Tip: Navigating directions to your camp (or glamp) site can be tricky with a map alone. Available VW Car-Net® Guide & Inform2 can help with enhanced navigation for traffic, weather information, and more.
Seek out some music
Small and big music festivals abound for every genre, from country to rock to electronic and all tunes in between. Many festivals have an app so you can navigate the ins and outs of parking, admission (children are often free), and carry-ins such as your own snacks.
Tip: Savor the journey by taking turns as a family (even the littles get a turn!) picking podcasts, audio books, or songs to play through Car-Net® App-Connect.3 (That’s just one of Stephanie’s strategies to maintain the fun on the road.) Use that captive time in the car to learn (or sing) something new.
Plan a city retreat
There’s no such thing as knowing too much about a new destination. Check out child-friendly atlases (no pun intended) and city guides from the library so kids can think about what they want to see — and make it part of your itinerary.
Ask your library if it has a toy rental program that includes a collection of travel packs specifically designed for road trips. “Our last travel toy bag included a [toy] license plate game, a pair of binoculars, a kaleidoscope, and magnetic games,” she says.
Tip: Use available features like Park Distance Control with Maneuver Braking4 to help you navigate in (or out of) tricky city parking spots.
Book a beach (or lakeside) escape
When the weather warms up, water fun is (nearly) mandatory, but you don’t need to be oceanside to get wet. Try a new-to-you pool or check out local adventure outfitters for activities such as tube floats down area rivers.
One idea to break up longer journeys where water fun is the final destination: Plan mini breaks and give kids first dibs on a stop. On a trip to New York City, the Pappas’ son picked a candy store to check out. “Knowing that he had that stop to look forward to earned us goodwill during unexpected traffic on our trip,” she says.
Tip: Make transporting gear such as kayaks and bikes easier with a rooftop rack — or add even more space for “necessities” (water bottles, games, rain gear, pet toys, and more) with a cargo organizer.5