Monday, July 09, 2007

Road Trip Ready

What’s summer without a road trip? A little planning and strategizing will minimize the whining and smooth out the bumps along the way.

A couple weeks before the trip get your car checked. Make sure the fluids, hoses and tires are in tip-top shape. Don’t forget to check the spare! Nothing wreaks a vacation faster than a breakdown – especially if the problem could have been avoided with a little proactive maintenance.

Prepare an emergency kit for your trunk. You’ll want to stash the tools and instructions to change a tire, flares or flashers, flashlights with fresh batteries, jumper cables, and a first aid kit. Personally, I like to add a can of “Fix-A-Flat” also -- I have a fear of changing the tire in the middle of the night on a busy interstate. A milk crate or a large canvas bag can hold your emergency supplies together in the trunk.

A few games to entertain the kids will keep everyone happy. Sure you can bring along the electronic games and the portable DVD player, but try a few old-fashioned games for fun and family bonding. There are the classic games: Twenty Questions; License Plate ID; Rock, Paper, Scissors; and Hang Man. There are also lingo games: come up with a phrase from the letters on the license plates you spot, for instance. More ideas can be found on www.momsminivan.com and www.familyfun.go.com.

Paper, crayons, safety scissors, and glue sticks can be blissfully entertaining for hours, but the logistics of using them in a cramped car can be a nightmare. I just saw these ideas in a trade journal, and I think they are brilliant. Use an inexpensive jellyroll pan as a desk (most of us call the jelly-roll pan a cookie sheet, but it has a lip that goes around the pan). Magnetic alphabet letters can be used for a game and for securing paper to the sheet. Corral craft supplies in a shower caddy with suction cups and mount the caddy to the window. Tote bags with long handles looped over the headrests can store books, paper and other supplies in front of your child’s seat. You can store the jellyroll pans in the bags or under the seats.

Do you loathe hearing “Mom, I don’t feel so good” on your trips? Be prepared. Pack a basket with paper towels, healthy snacks, and bottled water for the front seat. Stuff the paper towel tube with plastic grocery bags, and snap a large rubber band around the roll to keep the paper towels in place. Add a container of baby wipes and you’re ready for most predicaments.

An AC power inverter is a handy gadget to keep in your glove compartment to accommodate standard power cords. You won’t have to worry about draining the batteries of any of your electronic devices.

A few well-planned rest stops along the way are important for passengers and the driver. Try to avoid going more than a couple hours between stops. Breaks keep the fidgeting down and the attention span operating at peak efficiency. You can chart out your breaks with www.randmcnally.com or with AAA. Who knows – you might even be able to take in a landmark or two along the way.

In the end remember it’s all about having fun and spending time together as a family. Keep it light with a little preparation and a few tricks of the organizing trade.
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