Be PreparedMake sure your car is up to date on it’s regular “check ups”. Fill it up with gas, check the oil, rotate the tires. Or, just, bring it to someone who knows what needs to be checked. Then, clean the car. Clean it well. Driving for hours with a sour-milk scent slowly smothering you is not a pleasant experience. Throw together a first-aid kit for your trip. Include:
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- Emergency telephone numbers for EMS/9-1-1 in the areas you’re visiting
- Home and office phone numbers for your emergency contact
- Bandages and gauze
- Antiseptic wipes or baby wipes
- Coins for pay phone
Power Up the PhoneThere’s an app for pretty much everything nowadays. Before you even set foot in the car, download the ones you’ll want to use, including any other phone-related media. That way you won’t spend data on the download. Some great apps to try out are:
- iExit - tells you what’s waiting for you at upcoming exits, so you can get your caffeine fix or find a bathroom
- GasBuddy - locates the cheapest gas in the area
- Google Maps - why unfold a map when you can just google it and get directions right on your phone
- Swim Guide - find out if the water in the area is safe for swimming and if there are lifeguards on duty (for that afternoon rest stop)
- Hotel Tonight - get deals on unbooked rooms for the evening
- Nearify - the inside scoop on all of the festivals and events in the area
Set your Drive Time & RestDriving for an entire day may seem necessary, but it’s not. It never is! Take the time to set a limit on how many hours you’ll drive in a day and stick to it. Then, plot out your rest stops as you plan your trip. If you’re pregnant (or travelling with someone who is), plan to stop every 90 minutes. If you have children under 2 in the car, stop every two to three hours. Every time you stop, make sure to stretch. Our bodies were not made to stay seated for long. Here are some quick and easy yoga stretches you can try, in the car and out.
Go on AdventuresDon’t be afraid to get lost… or at least to take the “road less traveled”. Get off the highway and into the trees. If you plan these forays out ahead of time, you can pick interesting locations to visit. Your final destination turns into another “adventure” in your journey, as opposed to the main goal. This is especially helpful if you’re travelling over several days and don’t need to be anywhere specific in a hurry.
Multiple Overnight StopsSpeaking of multiple-day trips, if you are going to be staying in multiple hotels or locations, pack a single, small bag with just the overnight essentials. It will be the only thing you have to take out of the car at the end of the trip, and the only thing you’ll need to pack up the next morning. Makes everything a lot easier than having to lug all of your bags in and out each day. Your bag should include:
- Clean underwear
- Clean socks
- Clean shirt
- Clean pants (optional)
Food ‘N StuffsPack healthy/yummy snacks, reusable bottles of water as well as anything else you’ll want to chew on (gum, sugarless candy). Also, pack an “emergency cooler” with two to three days worth of food (dried or easy-open cans) and a pack of water bottles. This helps in two ways: first, it will keep you from starving if you’re stranded; second, if you run out of food in your day-pack, you’ll have this cache to keep your full. It’s highly recommended that you avoid salty or sugary foods, as these dehydrate you. Plus, you can pick these up at most rest stops. Instead, pack the healthy snacks you won’t see while you’re on the road: grapes, apples, oranges, bananas and the like.
Stay EngagedIf there are just adults in the car, you can chat, listen to music, read and sleep (unless you’re driving). Even then, if your road trip is pushing the four hour mark, even that can get boring. Play visual games, like I-Spy or the license plate game. Research where you’ll be driving so you can look for specific landmarks - make it a scavenger-hunt-style game. Once you throw kids in the mix, the stakes are higher. Especially if they’re siblings. Schedule your trip so that each block of time is for something different - have quiet time, snack time, game time, discussion time. That way, you can let your kids know what’s happening next and when. Some ideas for engaging with those back-seat cuties:
- Games - I-Spy, License Plate, Landmark Scavenger Hunt, hangman
- Audiobooks - great for older children, and up
- Books, puzzles - good for “alone” time
- Video games, iPad, portable DVD player - the usual screen time part of the trip
Treasure ItOften, we think of the drive to our vacation location as the worst part of the trip. It doesn’t have to be. Buy a notebook and some pencils. Pick up a disposable camera or a cheaper polaroid camera. Write about each leg of your journey - what you saw, what you did. Where you deviated from the plan. This journal will be your record of the journey, so when you get to your destination, it’s like you’ve already had your vacation! The kids will love it too - get everyone their own journal and camera. When the whole trip is over, you can review everyone’s journals to see the trip from another perspective.
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