Road trips can be times of transportation bliss or the stuff of nightmares. Protect yourself from the Are-we-there-yets and the Do-I-have-to-turn-this-car-arounds with these tips for a perfect road trip.
1. Anticipate needs. Being prepared for all manner of road trip woes will, ironically, prepare you from being woeful. Stock your car with the following: jumper cables, washer fluid, first aid kit, wet wipes, napkins, sacks for garbage, air-tight sacks for carsickness, water bottles, chargers for phones and electronic equipment, as well as extra straws and plastic utensils.2. Share the playlists. Let everybody take turns playing DJ on the trip. Have kids prepare mix CDs or iPod playlists ahead of time and then give everyone equal time to share their tunes. Schedule in time for peace and quiet, too! 3. Play podcasts and books on CD. A great way to entertain everyone and help the time pass is with podcasts or books on tape. Most podcasts are free to download, and most libraries offer a great collection of books on CD. 4. Give the kids the camera. One of the best ways to keep kids entertained on a long road trip is to let them use the camera or video recorder. Let them snap shots from the trip from their perspective. What catches their eye? It's a great peek into their minds when you upload the photos. If you have a small video recorder, kids can interview each other or channel their inner Spielbergs by creating a feature film for the family. (All buckled in, of course.) 5. Be an early bird. Strange but true, a road trip feels significantly shorter if you leave early in the morning. You'll usually avoid traffic problems, make the most of daylight, and arrive with a fair amount of energy at your destination. 6. Have a variety of snacks. Save money and time by stocking a variety of easy, portable snacks in the car. I like a mix of savory and sweet items, fresh fruits or veggies, as well as a little bit of indulgent candy and junk food. Buy or pre-package your food in snack-sized bags to keep messes and overeating at a minimum. 7. Check roadways for construction, delays, and detours. You'll thank yourself again and again for doing an online search of the major roadways you'll be traveling to check for possible problems. Knowing ahead of time will save you the agony of beating your steering wheel in frustration in a traffic jam or back-tracking when you encounter a major detour. 8. Reward good behavior with new activities. A great trick with little ones is to keep a bag of tricks at the ready: games, puzzles, videos, books, etc. Instead of giving them several different options, tell the kids what you've planned first. Reward their participation and good behavior with another activity at the top of the next hour. They'll love the surprise element, and you'll be surprised how quickly time will pass. 9. Comfort is key. Loose, comfortable clothing is a must for all passengers. A layering element (sweater or scarf) helps when passengers disagree on the temperature inside the car. Small travel pillows and blankets are also a great idea and encourage blissfully quiet naps. 10. Do the math for the gas. Your car will get different mileage on a long road trip, compared with the everyday stop-and-go traffic you might be used to, so keep a watchful eye on the gas gauge. At each fill-up, calculate your mileage and estimate (conservatively) when you need to refuel. If you're unfamiliar with the area, ask an attendant where the best places are to stop along the way. It's also a good idea to check your oil level and tire pressure at each fill-up to maximize your gas mileage. Those are my best tips. What are yours? Share them in the comments section!