This summer many travelers will be taking to the highways on road trips. Road trips tend to be less expensive than flying and provide more time to spend as a family. Some of the best memories are made on the road with the kids. Whether you’re taking a trip across country or just heading up the coast, preparation is the key to having a safe and stress-free road trip. Follow these tips and you are sure to maximize your fun-factor when you hit the road.
Start Planning! Your ultimate destination will dictate a lot of the needs and requirements of your road trip. One constant is having a good game plan in place for your travel route. Road trips that cover long distances require careful planning and provide multiple sight-seeing opportunities. If your trip requires multiple days of driving, research hotels and resorts that coincide with your route and make reservations in advance. Try to limit driving hours to no more than 10 hours per day. Include in your plans all scheduled stops including gas stations, rest areas and restaurants. No matter what your husband says, get a map!
Prep the Car. Schedule a maintenance check of your vehicle at least one week before your trip is scheduled to start. This includes checking all the vital fluids (oil, coolant, transmission, and power steering), the battery, A/C system, breaks and the condition of the tires. Also make sure your spare tire is in good shape and accessible. Stock the trunk with an emergency roadside kit that includes jumper cables, flares, a flashlight with fresh batteries, a blanket for each traveler, paper towels, and a basic tool set that contains wrenches, a ratchet/socket set, screwdrivers, pliers, etc. If you don’t already have it, consider enrolling in a roadside assistance program either through your insurance company or a third party service like AAA®.
Schedule Events. Road Trips offer opportunities that other trips don’t. Depending on where your travel route takes you, there will be multiple opportunities to sightsee as you go. Research theme parks, monuments/museums, historical landmarks, and anything else that you will want to experience along the way and add these to your route. If reservations or advanced purchases are required for any of these Points of Interest, take care of this well ahead of time.
Pack Your Bag! Spend some time to think through and list the things you want to have with you on your trip. When packing your bags, be realistic with the amount of stuff you can comfortably fit in the car. Depending on the activities and climate of your travel route and final destination, you will need to pack specific clothes that are sensible for each instance.
Pack the Car! Packing a car for a road trip is easy as long as you take inventory of what you absolutely must have and what you would like to have. Decide which items on the list stay and which items go if you run out of space. Help keep your vehicle free of clutter during your trip with various car organizers and to keep loose items from moving around inside the trunk during the trip, pack your belongings in plastic bins and boxes. If you are traveling in a truck, secure boxes and bins in the bed with tie-downs and cargo nets. Anything in the bed needs to have a lid that can withstand high speeds, but it is always a good idea to put a bungee cord or tie-down around these as well.
What to Pack Travel Tips:
When packing for a road trip there are several items you will want to consider bringing with you. Some of the items you will want to include are electronics like cameras, cell phones with chargers, iPods, handheld video games, and DVD players. Drivers will need to have certain items accessible to them at all times during the trip; these items include sunglasses, maps, GPS/Navigation units, and cell phones with hands-free capability. Driver cup holder organizers are great for keeping all of these things in one place.
Fuel for the Travelers. Snacking is the #1 past-time for travelers on a road trip. Pack lots of healthy snacks for everyone in the car like fruit, granola bars, string cheese, trail-mix and 100-calorie snack packs. Packing food for the trip will help reduce food expenses as well. Keep everyone hydrated and avoid cramping up during your trip. Pack a cooler with plenty of hydrating fluids like water and sports drinks. Of course you may have to make a few extra stops along the way, but this gives you a chance to stop, get some fresh air and stretch those legs. Keep trash confined with trashcans designed for the car. These make for easy disposal of food wrappers, soda cans, etc. when you make a stop.
Entertain the Travelers. If you are planning on taking children with you on your road trip you will want to be prepared with lots of in-car activities to keep them occupied. Plan ahead with interactive audio or music CDs, travel-size games and play age-old road trip games like the Alphabet License Plate game. If you have a portable DVD player or one that is built into the car, DVDs are a great way to pass the time, especially for the little ones. Lap desks are perfect for family road trips too.
Road Trip Tips to Remember:
Have plenty of cash or traveler’s checks on-hand for the duration of the trip.
Take a rechargeable phone card in case cell phones don’t get service.
Pack a travel size first-aid kit.
Choose the scenic route any time you can.
Stop for gas when you get down to half a tank.
Share driving duties and rotate frequently; know when it’s time for everyone to stop and rest.
Charge your cell phone every time you stop for an overnight stay (or even just a nap).
Keep auto insurance cards and vehicle documentation together and accessible.
Tune into radio stations dedicated to traffic and weather condition advisories along your route.
Look out the window; take in the mountains, oceans, deserts, forests, etc and enjoy your road trip!