The Family Vacation: Then and Now

Posted on August 3, 2017

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Remember piling into the old station wagon for the annual family summer vacation? Back then, you may have been relegated to those third-row, rear-facing seats, staring out the back window. Air conditioning? You were lucky to have it in your house, never mind the car. While today’s family road trips are much more likely to take place in a climate-controlled SUV or crossover, many other things have changed over the years too. Take a look:

Family Vacation Map Icon


THEN: You may have missed some scenery while you were busy trying to refold the map of the last state you crossed through or unfold the map for the state you were entering. You needed a huge paper map for every state, unless you preferred the bulky road atlas you were never sure was up to date. Hungry? Keep an eye out for the billboards — that was how you knew which restaurants or hotels were ahead. Low on gas? Take the next exit and hope for the best — gas station locations sure weren’t on any map. If you wanted an idea of how long each leg of the trip would take, you’d measure the roads on your map using the key, and then try to do the math in your head.

NOW: You just push your blue OnStar button. Yes, that’s for all of the above. If you’re a planner, you can plan your route ahead of time and send destinations to your vehicle so they’re stored and ready to go. If you prefer on-the-spot directions, push your blue OnStar button and tell the Advisor where you want to go. You’ll get Turn-by-Turn directions,11 plus the Advisor can help you with a database of over 14 million points of interest. You may never miss another roadside attraction. When the kids get hungry, you can push the blue OnStar button again and ask the Advisor for dining choices and to download the directions for you. With Marketplace,12 the Advisor can provide rewarding offers to Members, from booking a hotel through to getting a deal on coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts. OnStar Members can do all of that using the mobile app,22 too.

Family Vacation TV Icon


THEN: You had the license plate game, the alphabet game (picking letters from road signs) or waving at vehicles behind you (if you were one of the rear-facing riders). “I Spy” was a challenge flying down the highway but worked well if there was a traffic jam. You may have even resorted to the repeating refrain of “99 Bottles.” Of course, when those got old there was the always satisfying “irritate-your-siblings” game — which usually took up the bulk of the trip.

NOW: Your vehicle may be equipped with OnStar 4G LTE and an available Wi-Fi® hotspot.13 With an Unlimited Data Plan, you’ll never run out of entertainment and fun. Rally the troops to research interesting facts about your destinations, or challenge each other to online trivia games. Share your adventures on your favorite social media sites. When they need downtime, the kids can tune into their favorite shows, movies and games at lightning speed. With the ability to connect up to seven devices, there’s no need to fight about who gets to watch what. And no need to ever listen to another rousing chorus of 99 Bottles. Unless you like that kind of thing.

Family Vacation Phone Icon


THEN: If you needed to make a phone call, you had to pull off the highway and search for a gas station or convenience store with a working payphone. Once you found one, the fun wasn’t over — you had to either dig through your car and pockets for change or convince a usually irritable cashier to give you change for whatever bills you had.

NOW: You just push your Voice Command button for Hands-Free Calling.14 Just say the number you want to dial or a name from your list of contacts. Whether you want to check in with family and friends back home or confirm your sleeping quarters, there’s no need to find quarters for a payphone — and you can do it all with your eyes on the road and both hands safely on the wheel.

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THEN: You put the hood up (universal signal for car trouble) and stood there forlornly until some kind soul pulled over to see if you needed a lift to the next gas station — which might be miles down the road. You’d hope that kind soul was a good driver and had room for your family. You’d leave your belongings locked in the car alongside the road. Then you’d hope that gas station had a tow truck and a good mechanic to get you back on the road within the next day or so.

NOW: All you need to do is push the blue OnStar button for Roadside Assistance8 (requires paid OnStar service). OnStar can send help to your exact location to get you back on the road quickly and safely. Better yet, you can have an OnStar Advisor run a Diagnostics15 check on your vehicle to make sure all key systems are in good working order. You’ll find out if you’ll need to make a pit stop at the dealership before you hit the road. By the way, if you do happen to see a stranded motorist who doesn’t have OnStar, you can always push your red Emergency button to be a Good Samaritan and request help for them.

Family Vacation Key Icon


THEN: There was no keyless entry, no remote access and, if you locked the keys in the car at a rest stop, you were in a bit of a pickle. Who remembers the feeling of returning to your locked car after a good meal or a good stretch, looking in the window and seeing your keys dangling from the ignition switch?

NOW: If you get locked out, it’s no big deal. You can unlock it yourself using your vehicle’s mobile app on your smartphone. If you are a paid Member, you can also call OnStar directly at 1.888.4ONSTAR and ask a friendly Advisor to send a signal that can unlock your doors any time of the day or night.

OnStar delivers so many services to help you whenever and wherever you travel, like OnStar Smart Driver,17 which provides driving tips to help reduce wear on your vehicle and can potentially qualify you for insurance discounts, and OnStar Family Link,®20 which lets you view your vehicle on a map or receive email or text alerts when family members arrive at their destination. When you have OnStar, help is only a button-push away, anytime and anywhere you need it. Which takes a lot of stress off of you — and helps make your vacation feel more like a vacation.