The Great American Road Trip: the quintessential family vacation, a rite of passage, a necessity for people moving. I learned a lot the hard way during several road trips (including one from Connecticut to California alone). Here are my Top Five tips for having a successful and fun road trip.
1. Bring maps!
With a plethora of GPS devices at our fingertips: in-car navigation, portable units, and cell phones, it would seem that maps are unnecessary. However, GPS units are unreliable, due to terrain, distance from town, weather, or construction. Take a few days to map out a route in an atlas to bring with you. Considering that 60 percent of people have gotten lost while using GPS, a map can be helpful for getting back on track.
2. Get your car checked.
Two weeks prior to your road trip, get your car checked at a trusted mechanic. Get an oil change done if you will need it during your trip. Make sure your windshield wipers are good, fluids are topped off, and your tires are in good shape. This will ideally prevent mechanical issues during your trip.
3. Bring an emergency kit.
Get one from an auto parts store with basic first aid supplies, jumper cables, road markers, and Fix-A-Flat. If you already have one, check it and replace anything missing. Although I never needed it, Murphy’s Law does prevail — and you do not want to get stranded in a remote area because you lacked basic repair supplies.
4. Plan for rest and fun, even for adults.
Days on the road get long, and even the best of friends can hate each other after eight hours of driving. Plan to stop every two hours for bathroom and stretch breaks. In addition to a music playlist, consider downloading comedy acts and books on tape. There are a lot of areas without any radio stations to choose from! For kids, pack coloring books, crayons, and games, such as Road Trip Bingo.
5. Pack healthy food.
Driving long distances is hard on the body. Along the way, it is challenging to eat healthy. Coffee, donuts, and burgers are only going to make you feel groggier as the days go on. Pack water — aim for about 64 oz. per adult per day — to stay hydrated. Portable, healthy snacks such as bananas, apples, raw nuts, and whole grain crackers will help you avoid the afternoon energy crash and do not have to be refrigerated.