Choose which roads you’ll want to take. Be particularly careful to determine if you’ll be traveling through areas of major road construction.
Estimate your travel time. Try to have an idea when you will reach certain points along the way. This schedule will let you to plan rest and meal stops. Avoid traveling through major cities or areas of road construction, especially during rush hour.
Have your car checked thoroughly. Pay particular attention to filters, belts and all fluid levels. Have the oil and oil filter changed. It may take time to get an appointment so don’t wait until the last minute. Remember, parts may need to be ordered. Take some time to drive around a little before the trip. Make sure that any repairs stay fixed
Check the wiper blades, especially if you rarely use them..
Check your turn signals, brake lights and high and low beams.
Do a very thorough check of the tread on your tires. Have them rotated if possible.
Be sure that the car is prepared for any unusual weather that you might run into on the trip. If your in cold weather country, you might need antifreeze, snow tires or chains. Warm weather territory ? Make sure to recharge the air-conditioning.
Many cars have fancy wheels rather than hubcaps. They are often locked to prevent them from being stolen. If your car has wheel locks, make sure you know where the key is stored and how to use it. A flat tire could become a major problem if you don't know how to get the wheel off the car.
Have the car washed. A clean car seems to run better and you’ll feel better.
Carry an emergency medical kit in the car. Be sure to include motion sickness medication in the event that anyone is susceptible to it. Remove any unnecessary items from the car. If you don't need them, leave them at home.
Take some games, books and other on road entertainment. Include CDs, tapes of music and/or audio books.
Check your license plates, vehicle registration and car insurance information. Make sure that they are all valid and that you have the proper paperwork with you. Always have your insurance company’s emergency phone number in the glove compartment or somewhere else safe in the car.
Make sure the driver’s licenses of all the drivers in your party are valid and haven’t expired.
Be sure that your car insurance is valid and that the coverage is sufficient for your trip.
If you are leaving a second car at home, arrange for someone to start it occasionally during very cold or very hot weather.
Gas up before packing the car. The fumes while fueling can bother your passengers. Have someone check all fluid levels and tire pressure. Tire pressure can not only affect the ride, but also the gas mileage that you get.
Load the car inside the garage, with the door down. Don't advertise that you're leaving on a trip to people driving by.
Check before you go. This page contains links to the Departments of Transportation for all 50 States. Every state’s site is different, but most contain detailed information on highway construction, road closings, rest areas and maps. Many contain links to major cities within their own state.
Bring music or interesting audio books to listen to on the trip.
Your music interests are different from your children’s. Consider giving them their own CD or tape player. Bring an extra supply of batteries and negotiate in advance about usage time.
This is a chance for "quality time". Take advantage of the opportunity and talk !
Create some games to play in the car. It will help shorten the trip. Try finding different license plate numbers, add up license plate numbers, look for out of state plates etc. The kids should do well since they will be in the backseat and don't have to pay attention to driving ! See who can find the most different models of cars, the most convertibles or the most Hummers ! .
Play "once upon a time". Have one person begin a story, then they pass it to the next person. They can add on or embellish the story and passes it to the next person. Try to keep the story going as long as possible before someone finally finishes with "the end".
Bring games or toys to shorten the time. Avoid any with a lot of small pieces. Award small prizes or presents along the way. For small children, new toys usually create the most interest and keep them occupied.
If they are old enough, let them follow a map of their own. Ask them to help keep track of your progress and appoint them "navigator".
Agree on some "quiet time" for everyone. Be sure to enforce the rules (adults included) and use that time to relax and unwind.
Try to awaken anyone that is sleeping, a few minutes before you arrive at various destinations. Give them time to adjust and be more ready to get out when the car stops.
If you bring plenty of water and snacks in the car, it will be much less expensive. Buy them at your own local grocery store rather than on the road. It will also save some extra stops.
Try to stick to water rather than soft drinks. It's much easier on your body. Avoid large amounts of caffeine. It can wear on your nerves and make you irritable. If you need a lot of caffeine to stay awake, you should probably consider pulling over for the night.
Keep control of snacks and treats. Make sure that mealtimes aren’t ruined.
With all the junk food spots along the road it would be easy to make yourself sick. Eat a healthy meal at least once a day and bring along healthy snacks.
Careful with the kids. If something has made them sick at home, it's pretty certain that it will make them sick on the road.
Ironically, some of the less healthy, fast food places have play areas. McDonald’s and Burger King both offer free play areas at most of their locations. This might be a good place to stretch and give the kids a chance to burn off some energy. Adults can take their time with a cup of coffee or light snack. This way the little ones won't get bored and over-tired waiting at the table.
Use caution when using public rest stops on the road. Avoid them if they aren’t well lit or look unsafe. Always lock your car doors when you go to the rest rooms. Many rest stops are centers for criminal or drug activity. Always accompany your children to the restroom and stay with them.
For a safe place to take a quick break, look for a well-lit, busy gas station.
Truck stops are also a good bet to provide a safe place for a comfort stop. Be aware however, that you could encounter some "adult" literature or other items in their gift shops.
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