The film is about Melanie Porter (Raven-Symone), an extremely smart 17-year-old college-bound girl who is getting ready to graduate from high school and really wants to go to Georgetown University. However, her over-protective father, Chief James Porter (Martin Lawrence) isn't ready for her to leave and study so far away from home. Porter has other plans for Melanie; he wants her to go to Northwestern University which is 28 minutes away from their home. Porter also receives problems from disagreements with his wife (Kym Whistley), the family pig Albert, who continuously annoys him, and his youngest son Trey, who spends much time with the pig. Melanie gets invited by a scout, who saw her mock trial performance, to an interview for Georgetown. Melanie gets invited by her two best friends Nancy (Brenda Song) and Katie (Margo Harshman) to join them on their college road trip to Philadelphia. Melanie is all set to go with her friends until her father surprises her with his own college road trip to Washington, D.C. On their journey, Porter still sees his seventeen-year-old daughter as a young child, while Melanie tries to get him to treat her like a woman.

On their way, Melanie reluctantly visits Northwestern to take a tour. Porter secretly fixes the tour as everyone turns out to be actors, one screaming at Melanie they lost an eye at Georgetown. Melanie almost falls for it until one of the actors says to her "Yeah, the chief's a pretty smart guy", since he never met Porter. Melanie is now more upset at her father.

Their car soon breaks down on the side of the road, in which they find Trey in the trunk with Albert, with a supply of oxygen, who Porter says will soon send him meet back to his wife.

They stop at a hotel (thanks to Albert's navigating) but end up causing trouble due to Albert eating coffee beans and becoming hyperactive and ruining a wedding. They later met an extremely happy father and daughter duo, Doug (Donny Osmond) and Wendy (Molly Ephraim), who are on their own college road trip. The two offer Melanie and James a ride since James' car broke down.

Melanie and her father become quickly annoyed, due to their consant singing, unusual greeting. They soon bond on the trip when Melanie remembers their song together on a tour bus, and tried to work out their differences. It is almost broken when she goes to a sorority house her friends and she has been anticipating, in which Porter intrudes, but they end up forgiving each other at the airport. After dropping off Trey, they must skydive down.

When they reach their destination, Melanie and James have learned a great deal about one another and from one another. In the ending James copes with letting go and the closing scene is when the whole family have a Thanksgiving dinner and Melanie introduces her friend Tracy (who is a guy, played by Benjamin Patterson). James learns to cope with this fact, but Doug's daughter announces her engagement to Scooter (Lucas Grabeel) which causes Doug to freak out and attack him.

Deleted scenes include an alternate opening where James foils a bank robbery and a phone conversation where Michelle Porter hears Melanie's and James's complaints while trying to sell a house. The couple think she is talking to another buyer and decide to buy the house themselves.

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