Everything you need to know about planning a great black family road trip this summer
Courtesy of Brown Family / ArthiaNixonMedia
The Brown family, from Decatur, Georgia, take their travels seriously. In February, they took a three-day jaunt to Beaufort and Edisto Island in South Carolina, and this summer they’re going to load up their car and drive to Baltimore. “Although we are jet setters, we enjoy the intimate family time we spend on road trips,” says Matriarch Tammy Brown. “We have interesting conversations and play games in the car – our favorite is the trivia game. We also like to sing as loud as we want. You can’t do that on a plane.
Tammy, her husband, Jayson, and their three children, Jayde, Jay’Elle and Jayson (nicknamed Lil Jay), ages 11-15, share the family’s vacation adventures in their book Brown Voyage! The Brownies Adventures and on their website, brownvoyage.com. What is the secret of a successful road trip? They have the car serviced and gassed, then check the weather forecast to determine how to pack and plan indoor or outdoor activities. They carefully research accommodations, looking for condos or villas with accessible pools and nature trails. To avoid frequent food stops, they pack a lot of snacks and drinks. Each member of the family chooses something they want to do at their destination, so everyone has something to look forward to. Most importantly, “Before we go, we have a prayer which is usually led by one of the children,” says Tammy.
The Browns will be among the masses hitting the freeways this summer and fall. Despite the availability of vaccines, some people are still wary of flying, but with the urge to travel, traveling to America by car is the ticket. According to a Tripit study, 83% of those polled said they would be ready to take a road trip in their own car by June. Robert Sinclair, Jr., senior director of public affairs for AAA Northeast, reports that the auto association has seen hotel, rental car and attraction bookings increase by 40% nationwide in recent weeks.
Before searching for your own car keys, here’s what you need to know to ensure a family getaway that creates treasured memories, rather than a trip everyone wants to forget.
Vehicle maintenance is vital. Check all systems and parts and don’t neglect the tire pressure. If your tires are underinflated and you are driving on the freeway, they could overheat and explode. Take your car to a certified mechanic; a breakdown is the kind of drama no one wants, especially on vacation.
However, safety is not just about the condition of your car. When you “drive in black”, strictly follow the rules of the road. For example, rear-facing car seats are required for children up to 2 years of age or older, depending on their weight. “Make sure there is nothing hanging out of the rearview mirror, as some states have laws against it,” says Gretchen Sorin, author of Driving While Black: African American Travel and the Road to Civil Rights. “You don’t want to give a reason for a police officer to stop you. ”
Leave little to chance
Holidays are fun first and foremost, but research and planning increase the chances of a good trip. Roadsideamerica.com and roadtripamerica.com provide a lot of valuable information to help you plan your excursion, as well as suggestions for places to see across the country.
The big question is, where to go? It depends a lot on your interests. Are you adventure seekers or water worshipers? And even if you have a central goal, choose a location that has something for everyone.
Once you’ve picked the perfect location, it’s all about the logistics. If you’re not traveling with your own vehicle, the sooner you book a rental car, the better. “I suggest renting early and canceling later for free, if that’s an option and something changes,” advises Kristin Braswell, founder of CrushGlobal, a travel agency specializing in themed and personalized road trips.
Use a rental car pricing service like Autoslash.com, hotwire.com, rentalcars.com or priceline.com before choosing a rental car agency, says Elaine Lee, managing editor of Go Girl! : The Black Woman’s Travel and Adventure Book. Membership in groups like AAA, Costco, or AARP may also offer you discounts.
Expect the unexpected
“Download apps that will help you navigate the roads if you lose cell service, such as Maps.Me,” says Braswell. “Also, budget well for costs like gas, which continues to rise. Lee says, “Remember to make sure your phone’s charger and USB ports are working.” »Consider using a phone for navigation, if your car does not have reliable GPS, and one for entertainment. Fill that aftermarket phone with music, podcasts, and / or audiobooks. Bring your laptop or tablet, along with downloaded movies, when you can’t access the internet. And download a gas station finder app like GasBuddy.
Choose wisely at home away from home
The accommodations you choose can make or break a vacation. Spend time on the hotel or vacation rental website, read reviews, or better yet, get recommendations. “Call the hotel to see if they can offer you a discount off the rate you found online,” Braswell explains. “But keep in mind that many hotels lost a lot of revenue last year during the pandemic, and the hospitality industry will be looking to recoup that in the months to come.”
Support black-owned businesses
The pandemic has hit the travel industry, so be sure to show some love to black-owned hotels, restaurants and other establishments. Tap into valuable resources like Martinique Lewis’s ABC Travel Green Book, which highlights African-centric communities, restaurants, tours, and festivals, and aims to connect the African Diaspora globally. The EatOkra app helps locate Black-owned restaurants across the United States, while the I Am Black Business app is a directory of black-owned businesses. For Braswell’s CrushGlobal Road Trip Guides, she has partnered with mixologists, winegrowers, historians and black chefs to amplify their activities. As for the Brown family, “We use Google to find black-owned businesses,” says Tammy. “For example, for our road trip to Edisto Island, we found the African village of Oyotunji and spent a day there learning about Yoruba culture and shopping with local vendors.”
Choose moments that are conducive to learning
Few things are sweeter than a trip where black history and culture is mixed with fun and lovemaking. For their foray into Baltimore, the Browns will include stops at the Button Farm Living History Center, which describes 19th-century slave plantation life and the Underground Railroad, and Boyds Negro School, among other sites. Tammy says, “It is very important for us to include African American history and culture in our travels.