"Road trip!" When we were twenty, this was as simple as hopping into the car, care-free, and heading off on an instant adventure. Some years later, the thought of planning a road trip can seem as daunting as organizing an excursion to climb Everest. Here are some tips to plan your trip that will help you experience the joy of getting on the road again.
Plan Ahead. Make sure your home is cared for while you're away. Depending on the length of your trip you may need to arrange for: mail to be held at the post office; watering your plants and yard; care of pets; payment of upcoming bills. Ask a neighbor to keep an eye on your place to deter thieves and check for any weather damage.
Car Care. Get your car serviced before you go. Check the fluids, tires, lights, windshield wiper blades, etc. Learn how to change a flat tire. Sign up for a road-side service plan and make sure your car manual is actually in the car. Get organizers that fit over the front seats to help keep the kids' stuff easy to reach.
Get a map. By all means take advantage of technology - use a GPS and print out turn-by-turn directions for your route. But get an old school paper map too. You'll be able to discover nearby attractions that the disembodied voice on your dashboard will never mention. Sometimes the best distance between two points isn't a straight line.
Feed me. Hungry passengers are cranky passengers. Take along a cooler with healthy snacks and water. Nuts, dried fruit, cheese and crackers travel well. Bring a paring knife and tablecloth to take advantage of roadside fruit stands for impromptu picnics.
Play it safe. Follow the rules of the road. Nothing spoils a vacation like getting pulled over by the police. Make sure your insurance is up-to-date. Lock your car when you venture out. Keep any tempting valuables out of sight or take them with you. Switch drivers or pull over as soon as you feel sleepy.
Beat boredom. While some parts of the country are absolutely stunning, there are likely to be stretches of your drive which numb the mind. Bring along car-friendly activities like travel Bingo, audio books, and CDs and DVDs. Play the old favorites such as I Spy, 20 Questions, and license plate games. Have some hidden surprises - toys, books, tasty treats - that you break out for the kids (and adults!) every hour or so.
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Be prepared. Little mishaps can make a long drive incredibly unpleasant. Stock the car with a first aid kit, sunscreen, trash bags, the adapter to charge your cell phone, disposable wipes, and a roll of toilet paper. Pillows and blankets will add comfort. Earplugs and headphones might be a life saver.
Allow for serendipity. Pull over at scenic overlooks, follow the directions to a country fair, read the historic markers, stop at local ice cream stands, slow down when you see a Moose Crossing sign. Organization and planning will help smooth your way, but remember that the journey is as important as the destination.
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