From car safety to keeping the kids occupied, before any road trip, it’s important to make a checklist to make sure you’ve left no stone unturned. Once you’ve done that, it’s time for action. Getting the car serviced and gassed up, gathering healthy snacks and fun activities for the kiddos, and making sure you’re well-rested are just a few of the things you’ll need to take care of before embarking on your trip. Here are some tips for where to begin.
Even if your trip won’t take much more than a couple of hours, it’s still important to make sure your vehicle is properly maintained. It’s a good idea to take it into a trusted dealer for an oil change and make sure all the fluid levels and tire pressures are where they need to be. If you haven’t replaced your windshield wipers in a while, go ahead and change them. You don’t want to be stuck on the highway with a blurry windshield when a freak storm pops up.
What will the kids need?
Depending on the age of your children, they will have different needs in the car. Most kids of all ages will appreciate having something to do, so it’s not a bad idea to put together a small bag or backpack for each child that holds coloring books and crayons, MP3 players, books or E-readers, and tablets. Make sure each child has their own headphones or earbuds to keep fighting over noise levels at a minimum. If you’re planning on stopping for fast food during the trip, grab a small basket from the dollar store for each child that they can put their food and drinks in. This will keep hot food off bare legs and help prevent spills. If you have a child who suffers from motion sickness, stock up on medication to keep their symptoms at bay and keep paper bags and a small package of baby wipes handy in case someone gets sick.
There are tons of games kids can play in the car if their activities lose appeal; find a list here.
Snacks like raisins, fruit snacks, granola bars, and packs of cheese and crackers can be invaluable on a car trip, especially if you’ll be driving for long stretches in between stops. You can throw some of these into each child’s bag so they can grab what they want without distracting you from driving.
Prepare for the weather
Even if you check the weather forecast every day before you leave, it’s impossible to accurately predict what you might be driving through; sometimes Mother Nature likes to throw a surprise in just to keep us on our toes. Check the weather report, but prepare your car for any contingency. Keep a strong flashlight, some emergency ponchos, road flares, snacks like granola bars or raisins, and a gallon of water in the trunk. If you get stuck during a flash flood or bad storm, you’ll be prepared, and if you have to stay put for a while before help comes, you’ll have water and food for everyone.
One of the most important ways to prepare for a trip is to make sure you’re well-rested. Lack of sleep can cause severe harm to the body and brain, which can spell trouble when you’re behind the wheel. If you find you have too much on your mind in the weeks leading up to the trip, get organized. Having lists and being prepared can help you relax when it’s time to lay down in bed at night.
Don’t forget the house
It’s not a bad idea to go through the house and make sure all the doors and windows are tightly locked, that batteries in smoke detectors, alarms, and carbon monoxide detectors are new, and that possible fire hazards–such as blocked dryer vents–are taken care of. If you have a pet sitter coming to take care of animals who can’t make the trip, make sure they know the rules of the house and that they have emergency numbers and alarm codes on hand. If no one will be at home, you can set your thermostat a bit higher (or lower, depending on the time of year) than it would be normally to save your energy costs for the month. Knowing your home is well taken care of can give you peace of mind that will allow you to stay fully focused while driving.
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