Traveling with Parents and Parents-to-Be: Tips For Multi-Generational Road Trips

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Make elderly, pregnant or just plain difficult passengers comfortable and get your vacation off on the right foot. Road trips are easy when you understand how each passenger feels in the car and what they need to be comfortable. We spent some time with Ford’s engineers to learn how they understand their customers’ needs and were inspired to think about our families differently, too.

Road trip SheBuysCars Pinterest There’s nothing that sets the stage for a family vacation like a road trip from hell: Passengers who have to pee every 20 minutes, front seat passengers who cramp back seat riders, those who can’t hear, those who won’t turn the music down, and of course, those who can’t or won’t share the driving.

But understanding how your passengers will feel in the car and what challenges they’ll face during a trip can make your summer vacation a lot less frustrating (and take less time!) than winding through a TSA line. Plan a road trip that succeeds with all those on board, using these simple tips:

Be Considerate: A Little Passenger Empathy Goes a Long Way

I remember long drives with my grandmother when I was pregnant. Between the bathroom stops and snack breaks, I thought we’d never get to the beach. But I did discover a few good tricks, and at a recent demonstration by Ford, I learned a few more. Here are some ways you can have a successful trip with even the most challenging passengers.

Understand all your passengers (even the pregnant ones!) when you plan your road trips.
Shannon Entin learns the limitations of older drivers in the Ford Third Age suit. Photo: Mary Moore, @SheBuysCars

Pick the Right Car

Sounds silly, right? But if your car is difficult for your grandmother to get in and out of easily, consider renting an SUV, crossover or minivan for the trip.


In studying their customers, Ford found that we don’t all just hop in and out of cars like their young engineers do. Some of us have to slowly move our bodies in and out, and many people rely on hand grips or door jambs to steady the way into the car. Even though my grandmother had always driven a sedan, she found my crossover to be far easier to get in and out of, especially the back seat. Of course, being pregnant and with a toddler in tow, a crossover was perfect for me, too.

During the Ford demonstration, Shannon Entin had the opportunity to try out Ford’s “Third Age” suit; suit wearers get the chance to don a suit that adds 25-50 years to their age by adding weighs, constricting motion and even adding cataract-effecting glasses. Shannon was stunned at not only how much more of a challenge getting in and out of the car was, but also, at how a comfortable driver’s seat relieved some of the pressure on her back and joints.

Here is how Shannon’s test of the Third Age suit impacted her time in the Ford Explorer:

Picking the right car might mean your next purchase, too. Even though road trips are not something you do every week, if you plan car travel two or more times a year, this should be a consideration when shopping for your next car.

Ensure Everyone is in the Right Seat

When I was pregnant I couldn’t sit for hours without lumbar support. That meant the front seat for me. And while I thought my grandmother needed to sit up front, it turned out she was just as comfortable in the back seat. Figuring out who sits where before hitting the road made driver changes easy and eliminated confusion (or “discussion”); we all knew which seat to rotate to next.

During the demonstration with Ford expert Mary Heck, I was reminded about the subtleties of getting in the car, getting comfortable and getting out again when I was pregnant. TravelingDad editor Paul Eisenberg found out, too, when he put on the pregnancy empathy suit and got into a Ford Edge. His ‘pregnancy’ only lasted an hour, but the experience was priceless. We knew it would be good so we captured it on video:

Plan your road trip route. Make sure there are plenty of accessible bathrooms, easy parking and that the driving is as stress-free as possible. While winding back roads are prettier to look at, they can give some passengers—especially those who are small, pregnant or on a variety of medications— car sickness. Also, scenic routes don’t often don’t have the multitude of restroom choices that interstate highways have.

Tips for pregnant passengers
Ford’s list of things to do for pregnant passengers. Credit: Ford

Plan your Snacks

Food is always so important on a road trip, especially when you’re expecting. My grandfather never traveled without a jar of peanuts in the car, my mom never leaves home without a jug of ice water. When planning a road trip, I survey everyone for the snacks they prefer that are easiest to pack and eat while driving: granola bars, dried fruit, grapes, cheese sticks, bottled Starbucks latte, bottled water. Our snack bag lives in a central place in the car where everyone can reach it (right next to the trash bag).

Prepare for mishaps

Because they happen. Even though we no longer have babies, we keep baby wipes in the car. They are great for cleaning up upholstery, rubbing crushed crackers out of the carpet and wiping off dirty hands after getting gas (they also get bugs off the windshield). Other things to have on hand are plastic grocery bags for car sickness or trash, a first aid kit (pain killers, band aids, antibiotic ointment), a flashlight, extra phone charger and a paper map, just in case. The last thing you want is to make a wrong turn into no-cell-service land and get lost.

Disclosure: I was a guest at a Ford-sponsored demonstration of the company’s empathy suits. All opinions expressed are my own.

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About The Author

Prior to SheBuysCars, Scotty was the founding editor-in-chief of Luxe magazine, and wrote for the New York Times, Town & Country, Entrepreneur and Adweek, among others. She is the co-author of Stew Leonard, My Story, a biography of the founder of the iconic grocery company Stew Leonard’s, and developed program content for American Express Publishing’s Luxury Summit, PRWeek magazine’s annual conference and selected Luxury Marketing Council events.

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