Call the AAA. Check the roads before you go. Use this page which contains links to the Departments of Transportation for all 50 States. Every state’s site is different, but most contain important information on highway construction, road closings, rest areas and maps. Most also contain links to major cities within their own state.
Make sure that the car is clean. It will make everyone more comfortable.
Get rid of any odors that will bother people's noses. Try not to over scent the interior to cover up old odors. The smell may be worse than the old ones. If someone has smoked in the car, check all ashtarys for ashes and butts.
Fill the car with gas before everyone gets ready to go. An unecessary gas stop will only delay the trip and gas fumes aren't pleasnt for those packed in and anxious.
Each state's laws are different. But in most states you cannot leave a child unattended in a motor vehicle if it is running. This could put the child in danger. Also, you may not leave a child under the age of six unattended for a period of more than 15 minutes. Remember, since you can't leave the car running, that means no air-conditioning. That would risk the health and welfare of the child in less than 15 minutes !
The best rule is to avoid leaving your child unattended or unsupervised in a car for any period of time, in any weather, for any reason.
Know the roads that you are planning to use and determine whether there will be any road construction that you might want to miss. Avoid any unnecessary delays.
Plan to stop in attractive areas for breaks along the way. Help to make your trip less tiresome.
Try playing the old tried and true games in the car to help shorten the trip. Hunting for license plate numbers, adding up plate numbers on cars that pass you, playing "I spy", seeing who can find the most out of state license plates, etc. are all pleasant, fun, consumers of time.
Remember to bring games and toys to help shorten the ride. Leave items with lots of small pieces at home.
Consider awarding small prizes or presents at specific intervals along the way. Often, new toys bring new interest and help keep the kids occupied.
If the kids are old enough, give them a map of their own to follow. Ask them to keep track of your progress and appoint them as navigators.
Schedule some quiet time for everyone. This is almost mandatory for keeping your sanity. Enforce the rules and be sure that the adults are included.
Try bringing some new audio books on tape or C.D.s for story time.
Your music interests probably differ from your kids. Consider furnishing them with a CD or tape player with lots of batteries. Agree in advance concerning usage times.
Don't forget to take advantage of this "quality time" time together. Talk to your kids, and listen !
Remember to wake up anyone sleeping, a few minutes before each arrival. Give them time to be ready to get out as soon as 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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