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Successful family road trip takes planning, patience – and spirit of fun

  • Chicago Tribune
  • Published Wednesday, May 29, 2013, at 11:14 p.m.

A cross-country drive with the kids can be a great family experience.

Or it can be hell.

“When you go on these trips, it’s very character-building,” Eric Litt said. “So you have to make it as creative as possible and get through it.”

Last summer, Litt, his wife, Alice, and their three children drove from suburban Chicago to Los Angeles. That’s 10 states, 12 days, 5,000 miles. What kept them sane?

“National Lampoon’s Vacation,” the movie.

The 1983 film was the inspiration for the trip. They didn’t retrace the Griswolds’ exact route, but they kept the spirit of the odyssey.

“We watched it ahead of time and tried to incorporate it. The meltdowns, the song, as many silly roadside attractions as we could,” Litt said.

Where the Griswolds visited Dodge City, the Grand Canyon and the fictional Wally World, the Litts traveled to Stonehenge Jr. in Riverside Park in Wichita, Yosemite National Park and Disneyland.

“No one wanted to see the world’s largest house of mud,” Litt said. “I didn’t want to pick up Aunt Edna and have her die in the back seat or kill off a dog. There’s only so much you can incorporate. So we tried to go to many of the same states.”

Litt suggests visiting roadsideamerica.com for ideas as you plan a trip.

The song he referred to was “Holiday Road,” which got endless airplay in the family’s minivan.

“Every time we did anything on the trip, we played it,” Litt said. “We started out, we played it. We got gas, we played it. Every time we stopped for anything, we played it. By Nebraska, we were pretty sick of it.”

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