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The Family Car: Home Away from Home

By Sue Mead, December 23rd, 2017

A recent survey reveals that nearly two out of three parents report that traffic is the most stressful part of the American family road trip. The Harris Poll, conducted on behalf of Chevrolet, found that the perennial "Are we there yet?" refrain from children has been replaced by the stressors of traffic, parking, and costs. It also found that new in-vehicle technologies have added greater "peace of mind."

The poll discovered parents bring an average of 6.6 mobile devices in the vehicle on family road trips and close to two-thirds said they would prefer to take their motoring trip in an SUV over any other type of vehicle; more than two in five prefer a large SUV with three rows.

"The vehicle is the new family dinner table, where memories are created and bonds grow strong," said Steve Majoros, director of marketing, Chevrolet cars and crossovers.

Traffic levels are known to increase during holiday breaks, and survey respondents say that in-car technologies can help reduce the stress of gridlocks and bring more peace and quiet to the "home-away-from home" atmosphere in the cabin of the family car.

Beth Shustack and her husband Dan, of North Adams, Mass., use a number of coping skills to make their family's travel and other motoring adventures more palatable with their six children, who are all under the age of 13!

"There are a number of things we can control: among them are the seating arrangements in our minivan that we change-up for road trips; bathroom and rest stops, when we take a break of at least 30 minutes and have "active" and game breaks; plus, each child has their own Kindle and backpack with personal things and activities," she said.

"We have a compartment in the rear of the vehicle where there is a cubby for each family member and places to store food and other important travel items. We also have a binder that we update for each trip with activities for the road."

Practiced as they are at the family road trip, Shustack added, "traffic is the unforeseen stressor, and sometimes we then add audio books, read-aloud books, the license plate game, and other activities."

"We have a minivan and sedan for our family cars, but always use the minivan for longer road trips," said Kerri Ann Ruthven, of Cary, N.C. "My husband Todd and I and our 13- and 16-year-old children value USB ports so we can keep phones and DVD players charged for the road. We like to listen to audio books and use our cellphone for navigation and to keep on top of traffic and other road hazards, such as accidents and detours."

What are the top reasons for America's love affair with family road trips? Chevrolet and Harris Poll found that spending time with family (80 percent) ranked as parents' favorite thing about road trips, as well as exploring and stopping at interesting locations/destinations (69 percent). The survey also showed that more than half of polled parents said that Wi-Fi/Internet connectivity would help make road trips more enjoyable, making it the top in-vehicle tech on their wish list for family road trips; this technology would make them take longer and more frequent trips.

So, despite nerve-wracking or unexpected moments, the spirit of the American family road trip remains alive and well. The vast majority of American parents (93 percent) enjoy road trips with their family, with more than half (53 percent) responding that they "love" them.

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