January 20, 2022

Author: Beth Johnson; Business Support


As the summer days dwindle down, Labor Day weekend is quickly approaching. With most of us cooped up inside for the last several months, cabin fever is probably setting in strong! So, here are some tips and tricks for a safe, fun family road trip over the long weekend. 



Planning ahead is crucial during normal times, and even more so now. With the pandemic still ongoing, traveling will take more preparation. Taking the time to plan out the details now will make your road trip that much more fun and relaxing!

First thing’s first, before hitting the road, make sure your car is road ready! Have the fluids and the brakes checked beforehand, and make sure your tires have enough tread. Don’t forget to check on how the spare tire is doing as well! A car emergency kit is also essential in case you need jumper cables or a flashlight.

When planning your road trip, consider only traveling with those you’ve been quarantining with. Also, look at your route carefully and pick out ahead of time where you will stop to use the restroom or get in some stretching. Planning your stops as part of your trip will also give your little ones a time frame for when the next stop is. Speaking of restrooms, be extra vigilant when using public restrooms. Don’t forget to wash your hands for the full 20 seconds and use a paper towel to turn off the faucet and open the door. You can even bring your own toiletries, more on that later.

It’s also important to call ahead and make sure that your destination is still open or if their hours have changed. It also doesn’t hurt to ask about safety measures and what will be expected of you when you get there (wearing a mask, etc.). Things are changing rapidly and double checking with your destination might just save you a lot of grief!



It’s a good idea for each family member to have their own bag and allow kids to select their own toys. Separate packs keep items easy to access and find. Everyone should pack their own masks, hand sanitizer, and sunglasses, lip balm, and sunscreen (be sure to wash your hands first as alcohol based hand sanitizer can remove sunscreen), and any charger cables.  Some car items to pack include disinfectant wipes, water, and snacks. A cooler in the back of the trunk can be filled with apple slices, peanut butter, pretzels, grapes, string cheese, and Cheerios for healthy, mostly mess free, snacks!

Additionally, consider packing your own plastic utensils if you plan on stopping for a meal. And for bathroom pit stops, consider “bathroom bags” stocked with toilet paper and other toiletries. That way, stops can be as comfortable as possible. Speaking of comfort, items like pillows and stuffed animals can go a long way for naps in the backseat and reducing anxiety.



If your adventure is far from home, set expectations to be in the car for several hours. If you’re more technology savvy, bring the tablet with a movie already downloaded and a pair of headphones (Mom and Dad deserve peace and quiet too!) You could also find a kid friendly audio book or a portable gaming system!

A tablet to watch videos and a pair of headphones can do wonders, but what about if that gets boring? Consider one of these classic car games that don’t require any batteries!

  • I Spy: This is a road trip favorite. One person picks out an object and says, “I spy with my little eye, something that starts with the letter…” and then the other players have to guess what that something is.
  • I’m going on a picnic…game: You can play this game by following the alphabet, or for an extra challenge, not following the alphabet. The game starts with the first player saying, “I am going on a picnic, and I am bringing apples,” then the next person has to list what the previous person said, and add an additional item: “I am going on a picnic and I am bringing apples and a banana.” And so forth. Try to see who can remember the most items!
  • Car Bingo: This classic car game requires a pen and paper and a little bit of prep. Before your trip, think of a few dozen objects that you’re likely to see, and then once you hit the open road, start checking items off the list. Whoever completes the checklist first wins!
  • Bring some small toys that can be used as prizes – like a plastic dinosaur or a small action figure. You could also have a sing-a-long, or play the hypothetical game and ask each other questions like “If you could meet anyone from history, who would it be…”
  • The Quiet Game: This is a great game where everyone has to be as quiet as possible and the first person to talk loses!
  • Another idea would be to secretly pack some of the kids’ favorite toys and keep them under your seat, and then pull one out periodically for them to play with! Surprise toys!
  • Coloring books: While packing for the trip, get some small plastic totes and let the kiddos pack whatever they want in there! Crayons, stickers, coloring pages, etc. Maybe even some blank pages so they can make a little scrapbook of the journey!


Alright, so we’ve got our pre-trip preparation, planning, and packing out of the way. But now, the most important question: where to go?



Columbus, located about forty-five miles southeast of downtown Indianapolis, is home to Zaharako’s Victorian Soda Shoppe, which opened in 1900 and is still “serving classic treats.” They are open for dine-in and carry out options, 11 AM to 6 PM Wednesday through Sunday. Zaharako’s serves “sodas, sundaes, and smiles,” and they also have “Soda Fountain and Mechanical Music Libraries” on the second floor. Columbus is also home to the Indiana Premium Outlets mall if shopping is more your thing.



A unique and educational adventure can be found at Wolf Park located in Lafayette, about 65 miles from Indianapolis. Wolf Park offers guided tours, private tours, and even an evening tour known as “Howl Night!” Check out their website for more information and to reserve your spot!

Keeping with the nature theme, what about the Marengo Cave, located at 400 East State Road 64 in Marengo, Indiana? This destination offers two different tours. The Dripstone Trail cave tour lasts 60 minutes and is a mile long. The Crystal Palace tour, is 40 minutes long and a third of a mile. Activities are guided tours of the cave & mining for gemstones. There is also WiFi at the gift shop and cabins for camping. You can contact them at 812-365-2705 for more information.

For a little bit longer of a trip, try New Harmony, Indiana, which is about 180 miles from Indianapolis. This town is famous for having been the site of a social experiment to build a utopian society. Today you can find a Gallery of Contemporary Art and guided historic tours. There is also a labyrinth hedge maze located on Main Street.

For some more outdoor adventures, there’s the Tippecanoe River State Park, which offers hiking, fishing, swimming, boating, horseback riding trails, and reservable campsites.

In Bedford, roughly 75 miles from Indianapolis, you can find the Bluespring Caverns Park. This destination offers an underground boat tour through the caves! The tour lasts about an hour and you can see albino animals!

And if you want to stay close to Indy, or are traveling to Indy, there are numerous options! The Zoo, the Children’s Museum, the Museum of Art, the Eiteljorg, and the Indiana State Museum to name just a few. Or if you’re looking for a quick trip, what about the drive-in?


Families First hopes you and your family enjoy discovering some of Indiana’s greatest treasures… after all, that’s what road trips are all about!