10 Best Cars for Your Family's Summer Vacation

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- No, we're not there yet.

There are still a few weeks until most U.S. schools let out, but summer vacations are looming. According to travel site TripAdvisor ( TRIP), 86% of Americans are taking a trip this summer, with 74% of those travelers going by car.

They aren't exactly planning short little jaunts, either. Most travelers (29%) indicate they'll drive between 100 and 200 miles to their weekend getaway spot. Another 21% will go 50 to 100 miles, while a bold and masochistic 11% will subject themselves to a Griswoldian drive of more than 500 miles.

That's a whole lot of time with the family in close, bathroom-free quarters and a whole lot to ask of the average vehicle. If you happen to be towing a camper or just a trailer load of stuff, that's putting a whole lot of faith in your day-to-day commuter and kid shuttle.

If you're having doubts about your family's old reliable school shuttle's worth as a long-distance hauler -- or just feel you could use a little more space and distraction between you and the folks just a few feet away from you while you're driving -- it may not be a bad time to consider other options. With help from the folks at auto pricing site Edmunds, we've put together a list of 10 vehicles that are up to the task of hauling your family and days' worth of its belongings while taking everybody's minds off the fact that there are still hours and miles between them and some fun in the sun:

10. 2013 Volvo XC 60

Starting price: $34,350

Ordinarily, summer vacations are the domain of the Volvo wagon. Since Volvo killed off the last of its trademark wagons a few years back, however, the trusty XC60 base crossover will have to do.

It's loaded with family-friendly safety features including a blind-spot warning system, a low-speed collision avoidance system, pedestrian detection and a driver-attention monitor that issues a warning if the driver appears to be drowsy at the wheel. Secure in the knowledge that your family will likely make it through the trip unscathed, giving them spacious rear seats with built in booster seats for the kids and an available dual-screen rear DVD system should keep them content as well. Toss in Sirius XM ( SIRI) satellite radio, HD Radio and Bluetooth hands-free communications up front, and you've one-upped the wagon in just about every way.

9. 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen diesel

Starting price: $25,795

Granted, there's still a whole lot to be said for the spaciousness and stability of the standard-issue wagon.

The Volkswagen SportWagen is among the last of its kind, offering roomy seating for five and 33 cubic feet of cargo capacity with the rear seats up. The quiet cabin and smattering of Volkswagen tech throw-ins are a nice touch as well, but it's the turbocharged 2.0-liter diesel engine that gets nearly 42 miles per gallon on the highway that helps a budget-conscious family spend a little more on the vacation itself.

8. 2013 Toyota Sequoia ( TM)

Starting price: $42,455

Of course, if you're less concerned about such things as budget and gas prices and more concerned about how you're going to get your family to the summer house quietly while still getting the boat in the water as early as possible, it may be time to consider something larger.

The Sequoia is one of the last of the giant, hulking SUVs of the past decade that placed size and sheer brute ahead of economy and efficiency. Its V8 engine has enough muscle to tow 7,400 pounds, making it a nice complement to the family boat or airstream. The Sequoia itself, meanwhile, is practically a tour bus. Its second- and third-row seats slide and recline, and the whole vehicle seats up to eight passengers. There's still 19 cubic feet of cargo space with all seats in place, but that expands to nearly 67 cubic feet with the rear ones out. Add a blind-spot warning system and rear-seat DVD entertainment system and you've just made yourself the envy of the interstate -- at least until you hit the gas station and start paying for your paltry combined 15.5 miles per gallon.

7. 2013 Toyota Prius V

Starting price: $26,650

So what if its combined 42 miles per gallon now lag behind the 50 of the original Prius? The V's 67.3 cubic feet of cargo space is what matters during a long haul with the family, and that's way better than the original Prius' 39.6 cubic feet. In fact, it's a whole lot closer to the cargo space of compact SUVs such as Toyota's RAV4. You're getting all of that space and still getting three times the gas mileage of the family you saw at the dealership climbing into that Sequoia. Not too shabby.

7. 2013 Nissan Altima ( NSANY)

Starting price: $21,760

When memories of "are we there yet" arise, they're usually set in one of two vehicles: A wagon or family sedan.

At some point, the old-fashioned family four-door became hell on radials for families trying to make a multi-hour trip without annoying the heck out of each other. The Nissan Altima is trying to shake that stereotype by offering a combined 33 miles per gallon to assure families that if they do stop along the way, it probably won't be for gas.

That 15.4 cubic feet of cargo capacity isn't a whole lot, but the cabin is quiet, the new tech features include satellite radio, Pandora ( P), Bluetooth and hands-free texting, and safety options include blind-spot monitoring, a lane-departure warning system and a moving-object detector.

6. 2013 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Sedan

Starting price: $51,900

An emergency monitoring service, driver-fatigue monitor, pre-collision automatic braking, blind-spot detection and a lane-departure warning system are all great reasons to make this a road-trip car, but they're not the reasons anyone who can afford it ever does.

That Mercedes engine and handling make the driver feel more like a racer than a chauffeur. Meanwhile the four-seater's Comand entertainment, navigation and communication system, Comfort Box beverage storage, ventilated seats and rear DVD entertainment system should keep everyone else sated while their driver's at play.

4. 2013 Mazda CX-5

Starting price: $21,195

It's definitely one of the sportier compact-crossovers a family can pick, but the Mazda CX-5's more practical features are the big draw here.

Let the driver play with the 155-horsepower engine and available Bluetooth hands-free phone and audio streaming, HD radio, Pandora Internet radio and TomTom ( TOM2) navigation system. It's the ample rear seating and up to 65.4 cubic feet of cargo space that are going to get you and your family through this trip. That, and maybe the optional blind-spot warning system.

3. 2013 Honda Odyssey ( HMC)

Starting price: $28,675A minivan can be a useful companion on a road trip, and the Honda Odyssey is our favorite pick in the segment. Its versatile cabin seats up to eight, with second-row seats that can be configured to fit three child seats. The Odyssey's removable center console offers a useful flip-up trash-bag holder, and there's also a "cool box" beverage cooler to accommodate chilled refreshments. Available features include a blind-spot warning system and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system with a 16-inch screen capable of displaying two different program sources simultaneously.

Toyota's Sienna and Odyssey have been slugging it out for families' affections for years, but the key difference for families is the Odyssey's slight space advantage. The Odyssey can carry up to eight people with enough room behind them for a small grill. More importantly, it can carry five family members, collapse the third row and have 93.1 cubic feet for more storage.

Yes, it's a minivan and still carries all the uncool connotations that image-conscious parents disdain, but Honda has no qualms with loading it up with features to make those selfish folks think twice. Second-row seats can be configured to fit three child seats. The Odyssey's removable center console has a flip-up and a "cool box" beverage cooler for sandwiches and drinks. Include the optional 16.2-inch split screen entertainment system that lets passengers watch two programs and once, and the Odyssey's practically daring drivers to find a reason not to load the family in.

2. Ford Flex ( F)

Starting price: $30,900

It's funky looking, but it's built for growing families. Basically a minivan in a crossover's body, the Flex has room for seven, 44 inches of legroom in the second row and a power folding mechanism for getting into the third row. A surprising amount of headroom makes it easy to transport a large crew or throw some gear in the back and take a long trip while giving travelers enough room to maneuver regardless of height. Options such as sliding second-row captain's seats, Microsoft ( MSFT) Sync phone, entertainment and navigation systems in its MyFord Touch screen, DVD entertainment center for the back, a multipanel sunroof and second-row fridge console for road sodas compensate somewhat for its roughly 22 combined miles per gallon. Potential buyers may be turned off by its looks, but that standout frame and spacious 80 cubic feet of cargo room make it a pretty ideal family hauler.

1.GMC Acadia

Starting price: $34,050

The Acadia has touchscreen navigation and radio as well as rearview cameras, but its single most important feature is its vast interior space. There's room for seven to eight passengers, fold-flat third-row seats that give it 68.9 cubic feet behind the second row and underfloor storage beneath the third row. The second row of seats even slides to let passengers out the side or through the middle. No, its 23 combined miles per gallon are no great shakes, but that all-wheel drive handles great in just about any weather and all that room tends to come in handy when you're loading up and leaving town for a while.

-- Written by Jason Notte in Portland, Ore.

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Jason Notte is a reporter for TheStreet. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Esquire.com, Time Out New York, the Boston Herald, the Boston Phoenix, the Metro newspaper and the Colorado Springs Independent. He previously served as the political and global affairs editor for Metro U.S., layout editor for Boston Now, assistant news editor for the Herald News of West Paterson, N.J., editor of Go Out! Magazine in Hoboken, N.J., and copy editor and lifestyle editor at the Jersey Journal in Jersey City, N.J.

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