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The Ultimate Summer Road Trip Outline and Manual Part 1: Packing Essentials and Your Packing Strategy

We are right in the middle of the summer and many families and friends still have big plans to hit the roads before school starts to experience a great American tradition; Summer Time Family Road Trips. Heck, I myself know of 3 families that are planning road trips of varying degrees. One is merely heading north to New England, another is traveling down to Disney World with the fam and another is making the ultimate journey and plans on driving across this great nation. Regardless of the miles each will travel, there are a number of constants that you must pay attention to as you plan your trip and finally start the engine on day 1.

packing essentials, preparing for a road trip, road trip planning

How to properly prepare and pack for your next family summer road trip

Remember this, no matter how hard you plan or how smart you believe yourself to be, you are going to have stressful moments not only on the open road, but also as you plan and pack. This is okay so do not fret. The perfect way to get out of the house with the entire family is to plan an adventure that will allow you to create memories that will last you a lifetime…and do so on budget that will not break the kids college fund! Just always go back to the fact that you are doing this to bond as a family, see many of the wonderful landmarks across this country, have fun, laugh and enjoy each others company without the normal day-to-day distractions that pull most families in different directions.

To minimize the amount of headaches during the trip, I suggest that you seriously put a large amount of effort and energy into planning the trip. While this isn’t the most fun or glamorous part of a road trip, proper planning will enable you to have a saner, safer and more jubilant time in your car, with your family on the winding roads. Some of these hot tips will strike you as being no brainers, but you would be shocked at how many basic items are overlooked in the midst of getting your little ones ready, making sure your vehicle is in top-notch condition and that you and your loved one are on the same page for the trip. Point is the basics are crucial and you cannot afford to overlook any of them.

Packing for Your Summer Road Trip

Pack with care! Pack smart! Pack & prep efficiently! For example, when I say pack smart, make sure that items you need to access on a regular basis are accessible. Make sure you enter all of your hard hours of route prepping into your GPS, and or Navigation, device. Furthermore, you need a backup so you must have all of your road maps, with your planned route outlined, safely packed in your vehicle. You must pack a spare key and the critical part of this rudimentary notion is that you put that spare key in your wallet. Think about it…if you pack the spare key in a bag inside of your automobile, what good will that do if you are unlucky enough to lock your primary car keys inside of the vehicle?

While I pray that no one ever needs to use the list of items I am about to outline, you must prepare for any type of emergency that may arise on the open roads so that you can navigate your family to safety while minimizing anxiety and the possibility of injury. Thus, here approximately 14 things to have in your car this summer in the event of an emergency.

packing the car, packing for a road trip, must have items for a road trip

What to bring and how to efficiently and adequately pack for your next summer road trip with your family.

A car jack in case you get a flat tire. You should clearly inspect and confirm that you spare tire is present before leaving as well. Otherwise, this car jack will have you feeling a bit more like a jack a**.

Purchase a spare charged cell phone or extra battery, which must be charged prior to hitting the road, so that you can still call for help in a pinch. Many of our great American roads are in isolated areas and may make it difficult to make an outgoing call. Therefore, you want to have as much battery juice as possible in case you need to hike to find a signal. Let me put it like this, it barely takes up any room in your vehicle and the benefit outweighs the added cost a million fold.

Road flares will assist emergency worker and rescuers  if your vehicle becomes disabled. If your vehicle has fallen into a ditch or if there is incremental weather, your road flares will greatly enhance the likelihood of you being found in an expedited manner.

Jumper cables in case your battery dies while parked at a monument or rest stop. Providing you had your vehicle professionally checked by a factory trained technician, preferably at a new car dealership like Windsor Nissan in East Windsor, NJ, the likelihood of your battery meeting its death on a summer road trip is very low. This is more of a concern on Winter crusade across country, but nonetheless, Jumper cables do not take up much room and should always be stored in your vehicle.

Emergency triangles to place in the road if your vehicle becomes disabled and cannot make it to the shoulder lane

Candles & matches as a backup to your flashlight or to assist in making a fire.

Flashlights & spare batteries will allow you to what is going once the sun goes down and will greatly enhance your ability to signal for help at night. Make sure you have a bright bulb and make sure you have extra batteries. While you want to conserve the use of your flashlight, you may find the need to use it more than expected since your children could be scared of the pitch black environment. Remember, you always want to keep everyone as calm as possible and using your flashlight to keep your family feeling safe might just do the trick.

Blankets for your entire family. You would be amazed how frigid it gets in the desert during the middle of the night and the ability to keep you and your family warm is vital in a scenario such as this.

First Aid Kits should always be kept in your vehicle. If you do not have one, go purchase one immediately regardless of your long distance driving plans. If you currently have one stored in your auto, make sure that the supplies are abundant in the event that someone is hurt in an accident. Keep in mind accidents can also occur as you explore hiking trails, explore monuments, visit amusement parks and just in every day daily life. One more thing, more important than making sure you have adequate supply levels, be sure you know what everything is in your First Aid Kit and you know how to apply or use it.

A basic tool kit that includes screw driver, hammer, wrench, small shovel, etc will enable you to fix minor problems on your own. Moreover, and a fact often overlooked, even if you do not know how to make minor repairs or corrections to vehicles, there is a very good chance that a passerby may have the knowledge / ability, but not have the necessary tools. Plus, a shovel will help you dig out of a ditch, wet mud and plenty of other scenarios. You can purchase a folding shovel similar to those used by back country skiers and snowboarders that will easily fit in your vehicle.

Water & dried food will keep you hydrated, alert and allow you to maintain your blood sugar levels. You never know how long it will take rescue vehicles or other road warriors to find you so you need to be prepared to keep your family healthy while you wait for help, or worse to be randomly found. Dried food like granola bars, dried fruit, power bars / cliff bars, beef jerky, canned nuts, peanut butter and other similar foods are perfect because they are packed with nutrients and protein that will enable you to keep a high energy level without going bad in the heat. Finally, these snacks will also be consumed throughout the good times of your road journey allowing you to save money, time and still eat nutritious.

road trip

Summer Road Trip Guide & Manual Part 1

Kitty litter or a bag of sand….yes, kitty litter acts as a very good tool to assist your vehicle in gaining traction. Similar to sand, by spreading kitty litter around your tire and wet mud, you will improve your traction tremendously.

Once you gather all of your essentials and pack your other belongings not only will need to make sure the most used items are located towards the top and hence easy to get to, but making sure everything is securely stowed is equally imperative. These packing tips are just the tip of the iceberg to the perfect summer road trip. In soon to be published additions to The Ultimate Summer Road Trip Outline and Manual we will be covering how and what you need to professional have serviced and prepped on your vehicle prior to your departure date, a few tips that will greatly enhance how you plan the actual Road Trip route, driving safety tips that every summer road warrior should pay attention to and some helpful links and websites that will make your family summer adventure not only safer and saner, but more FUN as well!

 

Planning a Road Trip

At this exact moment, thousands of parents are thinking about hitting the highway for a family road trip this summer. Destination? Anywhere but here. It’s an exciting prospect for kids, but it’s also fraught with difficulties, including sudden back-seat fights and frequent retreats to the iPod Zone.

Kids think road trips are cool, at least in theory. The mere suggestion that the family might be heading out on a week long odyssey usually ignites serious excitement. As soon as the wheels roll, of course, the anticipation instantly morphs into “Are we there yet?” The challenge parents face is to keep the excitement and sense of wonder alive, even on the long, potentially boring stretches.

Here are 12 tips gleaned from my own childhood memories and from conversations with parents, children and grown-up kids with road-tripping pasts.

PLAN AHEAD

Dredge up some family lore. Think of your road trip as a time to share some “family lore.” Every family has its own oral history, and road trips offer lots of together time, making them ideal occasions for storytelling. Dredge up those old favorite songs and games, too. As a child, I was an impatient traveler, and I am sure my folks find it amusing that I now make my living writing about the “magic” of taking road trips, but much of my enthusiasm for the road comes from those early family jaunts. Not only do I love the driving and the scenery, I can also sing dozens of vintage songs, play every car game known to man, and tell all the old stories passed down through generations of my family. I’m sure I whined, “Are we there yet?” often enough to drive my parents nuts, but those aren’t the memories that linger.

Brush up on your history and geology. Another gift you can give your children is a basic appreciation for the history and geology of the areas you travel through. Even if they grumble, squirm and roll their eyes, they’ll listen. I’m not the only one who can attest to the lifelong value of such discussions, including the sense of personal patriotic pride that arises from actually seeing purple mountains majesty, fruited plains and spacious skies. As an adult, I’ve became aware of just how precious this brand of knowledge is, and I now consider those family road trips some of the best education I received during my first 16 years on the planet.

Get low-tech. Which leads me to my next topic: DVD players, iPods and other electronic gadgets Call me a curmudgeon, but if these devices are used too often on a road trip, you might as well stay home. Nothing insulates people from their surroundings better than ear buds and a video screen. Take electronic gear along if you must, but limit its use if you want to create lasting road trip memories.

GET READY!

Hold a family planning session. Get a big map and plenty of highlighter markers, and then talk about the cool places that would appeal to all members of the trip. Gather information about your route from guidebooks and the Web. Discuss the scope of each traveling day, including how much time in the saddle and how much spent sightseeing and hanging out by the pool. Consider making each child responsible for a one day’s stopping places and restaurants. Including everyone in the planning process invests everyone in the trip and helps ensure a fun adventure for all. One of the most important topics to cover in the planning session is how often the kids will be able to rotate into the front seat. Make the right front seat, the “official navigator’s seat” and whoever is sitting there is designated as being “in charge” (at least for a few moments). The real treat is that it is much easier to see from the front seat and gets everyone involved. Of course, very young children should not be in the front seats because of the inherent air-bag dangers.

Make a trip clipboard. I recommend creating a trip clipboard to hold printed directions to the motels where you plan to stay; these are especially handy if you should reach a city after dark. (I use this technique myself on every road trip.) You can also include directions and information about specific sites and restaurants that you’re planning to see.

Check out your vehicle. Make sure your vehicle is reliable and ready to go. Of special importance is a check of the tires, coolant and engine oil.

GET SET!

Pack a “Go Kit.” Include bottles of water, a fire extinguisher, beach towels, personal pillows, maps and atlases. And here are some more suggestions.

Pack a “Car Kit” for each child. Choose age-appropriate items including crayons or markers, pads of paper, bandanas, personal travel pillows, games, small toys, a few treats and the first day’s “travel allowance.” Travel allowances allow kids to shop in gift stores and tourist traps without begging for money at every stop. Maps of your route are also good for children old enough to read them. They can trace their progress, learn to navigate and even stop asking “Are we there yet?” quite as often. Put everything in a bag or other container that the child can also use to hold souvenirs, interesting “finds,” and so on; nylon lunch bags or small daypacks work well. Let the children know that they’ll be getting their Car Kits the day you leave home. That will give them one more thing to look forward to, and you won’t have any trouble at all getting them out of bed. You can add to the Car Kits as the trip progresses, giving the kids a little something to look forward to each morning.

Pack electronic devices. Consider a CB radio, portable DVD player, GPS receiver, audio books and inverters. Electronic entertainment devices can be helpful if you’re stuck in a traffic jam or you’ve exhausted all other options. Audio books are a great way to be entertained and yet remain alert and focused on the tasks of driving. Many companies now offer rental GPS units, which are both useful navigational tools and a source of information about road conditions. Portable CB radios with magnetic mounts allow you to be in touch with other drivers on the road and to get accurate weather reports.

Pack good eats. Though the kids may argue this point, it is not necessary to stop at every fast-food joint along the way. In fact, it is possible to get good nutrition on the road. Make sure everyone drinks twice as much water as they might at home. Take a good cooler along and eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Prepare road trip snacks and consider packing a road trip picnic.

GO!

Eat and greet. Eat in unusual local restaurants at least sometimes, and make a point of speaking with locals or other travelers.

Keep it fun! Avoid vacationing at the same hectic pace as you live at home. A relaxing pace will be remembered more fondly than an overly ambitious one. Take the advice of a local or get off the highway at an unplanned exit and see what is to be found “around the next bend.” Drive fewer hours and spend more time lounging around the motel pool. By allowing time for serendipity, you will re-capture the wonder of the road trip adventure.

Got toddlers? Roadtrippers who are younger than five years old can sometimes present additional challenges. Consider organizing the traveling day so that you reach the motel after 8:00 pm, when the children are likely to fall asleep more easily. Pool time can be done in the morning. Spend the extra $$ to get as comfortable a car seat as possible. Plan to stop every two hours and let the little guys run, play, and blow off as much energy as possible. For more ideas, MomsMinivan.com has several good tips and suggestions.

As parents, you can design a family road trip that will give both you and your children memories to last a lifetime. Grab those markers and a map and start planning your escape!

The Ultimate Road Trip

We have all fallen witness to the fact that road trips can be long, drawn out, and downright miserable if not executed properly. A summer vacation to Florida can go from awesome to terrible in a matter of minutes if you have to listen to your mother correct your father’s driving skills for first 100 miles of the trip. If you want to steer clear of the bad road trip, all you have to do is follow the five rules to planning an ultimate road trip.

Rule 1: Create the Ultimate Mix Tape or Playlist

When planning a road trip you need to prepare music that everyone in the vehicle will enjoy. So, before embarking, ask all the members in your party what music genres they like and what their favorite songs are. Try to make at least one CD/Tape/Playlist per person, for each day you plan on being in the vehicle. Finally, compile each with a variety of music that pleases everyone. (This rule may be more difficult than you think! So please take the time to plan this out perfectly!)

Rule 2: Add Some Fun!

Road trips can be dull, there is no denying that. The task of continuously driving is tedious, and with out proper ‘fun’ it can make your road trip stagnant. So in order to pump up your road trip’s fun level, look up some car games on the internet. Try to avoid car games that require singing because you want to avoid irritating the driver!  Be creative with this; come up with games that are yours and yours alone (this will help make future road trips more alluring because people will have something to look forward to).

Rule 3: Shotgun Rules…Very Important

A week, or so, before you leave on your road trip ask your party to list 5 to 10 shotgun calling rules. Put them together, print them out, and then distribute them to all members of the trip. The shotgun calling rules will fun, but more importantly, the rules should prevent all in car or parking lot brawls amongst your buddies.

Rule 4: Snacks, Snacks, Snacks

Choosing the right snacks is crucial when planning an ultimate road trip.  First, and foremost, make sure that you pack snacks that will not be irritating to others in the car. For example, do not pack any type of food with an obnoxious odor. If you pack chips, make you they stay between the bag and your mouth because creating a trail of crumbs throughout the car is a pain to the owner of the vehicle. Instead of potato chips try chocolate covered raisins or oatmeal bars with candies in them. Another thing to remember is: limit snacks to ones that will not cause members of your party to have to go to the bathroom a lot. Multiple ‘pit stop’ interruptions are not fun and a complete buzz kill.

Rule 5: Pay Attention to Traffic

Being stuck in a traffic jam is the worst! Make sure you print out directions (as well as an alternate route), grab a set of maps, and, if you have a GPS system, pre-program your destination. Every once in a while listen to local radio stations to check for road delays and traffic jams. If you hear about a traffic jam early enough you can check your maps and avoid sitting in hours of bumper-to-bumper traffic. Also, do not let everyone in the car attempt to be Christopher Columbus and offer his or her personal interpretation of how to get to your final landing place.  Everyone does NOT have a great sense of directions so make sure you figure out who to listen to and who to ignore in the event that you get lost.

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