My Car Wish List for Adventurous Road Trips, and Everyday Family Travel

by Sandra Foyt on December 8, 2011

in Road Trips

I haven’t quite made peace with letting go of my Chevy Suburban, even though I know it’s the right thing to do.  We need a smaller car, one that makes sense for my solo trips and diminishing chauffeur  responsibilities. But even though we’re downsizing, I don’t want any loss of the car features that are essential to living in the Northeast or for adventurous family road trips.

Chevy Suburban on Beach - Gulf Coast, Texas

Family Travel Car Wish List

What we need is a car that can seat 5 comfortably, with gear and a dog in the rear, and that can handle our snow conditions. The Suburban had 4-wheel drive and some kind of stability thingamajig that seemed to keep it true even on the iciest roads. So I want that in this next car. Other necessities to look for in the next car:

  • Heated seats (at least for the driver) covered in a wipe-able fabric – I don’t care if it’s leather or leatherette – as long as its not easily stained and dirtied cloth. Lumbar support and arm rests are also much appreciated on 12-hour driving days.
  • Lots of cup holders of the kind that adjust to hold Starbucks lattes snugly. Other storage compartments are a plus.
  • Plugs –  We need enough plugs to charge iPhones, run multiple electronic gadgets, and keep the car refrigerator running. Doesn’t everybody?
  • Mirror Gauge – I like seeing the thermostat gauge change when driving across temperate zones; and it’s helpful to see what direction we’re headed in when completely disoriented by blinding snow or endless plains.
  • Fuel efficiency – In the nearly 10 years that we’ve had the Suburban, gas prices have sky rocketed from $1.00/gallon to seriously scary numbers. I don’t want anything less than 20+ mpg.
  • A quiet ride is a given. I’ve come to expect that in the Suburban, and I demand no less in the next vehicle. My husband’s car rattles & shakes when hitting 80mph, which is not a big deal when you live in a 65mph-or-less zone, but it would be annoying on the open road.
  • iPhone Integration – I’ve been jerry-rigging an iPhone adaptor so that I could listen to audiobooks on long car rides. But I want plug and play ease.
  • Cargo Space – Our new car must be able to hold at least 4 pairs of skis (out of the 14 pairs that are apparently necessary to a ski team family,) two skim boards, beach chairs, umbrellas, backpacking back packs, and much more – often all at the same time.

That’s it. My car needs are pretty simple. I want to get from Point A to Point B with a modicum of comfort, in the least expensive way possible. Oh, and the vehicle has to look pretty for my travel photography across America.

Can you think of anything else I should be looking for in a new car? What’s the one feature you couldn’t live without? And what cars do you think belong on my short list?

| Sandra Foyt is a storyteller, photographer, and road trip junkie. A veteran of six cross-country road trips, she drove Route 66, the Lincoln Highway, the fossil freeway, the extraterrestrial highway, and even “the loneliest road in America.” Find her on, an award-winning destination guide to extraordinary travel in and from Northeast USA, on her portfolio site at, and in freelance gigs on Family Travel 411, Minitime, Huffington Post, and Matador Network. Email:, Twitter @SandraFoyt.

Sarah Rain December 9, 2011 at 9:43 am

Ah, America, where we consider heated seats and iPhone integration to be mere modicums of comfort.

Sandra Foyt December 9, 2011 at 11:03 pm

Terrible, isn’t it, Sarah? Yes, I’m spoiled. I’ve come to count on heated seats to help me weather those 0 degree days. But iPhone integration is more of a dream than an expectation, and not one that’s likely to be fulfilled.

Mike February 5, 2012 at 12:30 pm

I love my Suburban. Can’t imagine being without it. Have you looked at the new ones. They get much better fuel mileage. Otherwise, I would take a look at the BMW X5 diesel or the Volkswagon Toureg diesel. They’re both very quiet, get excellent mileage for an SUV and have all of the other amenities you’ve mentioned. Good luck, however, I suspect by now you’ve already made your decision. I look forward to additional posts.

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