Forget that bucolic and peaceful “over the river and through the woods” pipedream. Thanksgiving is the busiest travel day of the year and now more people are driving rather than flying due to the increased costs.
The key to making holiday road trips work is planning ahead. Remember, you won’t be alone on the roads this year. Families accustomed to the convenience of air travel may decide to endure a long drive instead to cut down on costs. With proper planning, you can have a safe and cost-effective trip that’s enjoyable for adults and children alike. But remember, it’s a roundtrip. So don’t forget to redouble your efforts for your safe return to home sweet home.
Schedule an Auto Check up
A week or so before you leave home check for any car maintenance left undone, inspect your tires, and if necessary, get a tune-up to help you get the best fuel economy on your trip. The key is to be car care aware!
Use The Internet
Plan in advance with websites like Rand McNally, Trip Advisor, or MapQuest to decide your route and get turn-by-turn driving directions. For inspiration, check out roadsideamerica.com and roadtripamerica.com.
Be Weather Ready
Before departure, consult the internet weather sites and check your route to prepare for the possibilities of inclement weather and bad road conditions. Use smartphones to stay current with weather alerts so as not to be surprised as you travel. Always pack a medical kit, and for auto emergencies, self-powered booster cables, tire pumps, a spare tire and flashlights. Also bring extra blankets, clothing, hand warmers, and water for each passenger.
Lay Down the Kid Travel Rules For the Road
Make sure your children know what you expect from them in the way of behaviour. You can make it as simple as firmly stating that “house rules apply” or have a separate list of four or five in-car behaviour rules. The point is that you should be in control at all times.
Decide The Seating Order
If you have several children, think about how best to seat them. Kids close in age will be able to easily swap in-car activities between themselves if you seat them next to each other. Alternately, an older child sitting next to a younger sibling can help to keep their little brother or sister amused and retrieve any dropped toys or books. If two of your children tend to clash more, seat them well away from each other if you have the space.
Keep Kids Occupied
Your preemptive strategy for staving off motor trip meltdowns is packing several immersive kid distractions. Sticker books, toys that don’t have too many pieces, an iPad (with new offline games), portable DVD player (with 2-hour-plus videos), and so on are your best bet. Don’t forget the headphones, and make sure everything is charged.
You know your kids best, so take along the kinds of things that occupy them most — and introduce new toys slowly over the course of the trip.
Pull Over If There’s a Problem
Constantly monitoring your kids in the rear-view mirror or turning around to try and exert your authority means your focus isn’t where it should be — on your driving. If any of your children act up in the car, pull over into a parking lot, rest stop or the side of the road to sort it out and switch the seating arrangement to keep the peace if necessary.
Most kids are content with small snacks throughout the day. Greasy “road food” definitely isn’t the right thing for staying alert or feeling good on trips. Bring fruits and vegetables that are easy to eat, like carrot sticks, bananas, and apples. Also consider easy snacks like granola bars and pretzels. Stay away from excessive caffeine and sugary soft drinks, in favor of juice and water. If you must use caffeine to stay awake, you probably shouldn’t be on the road.
Stop at least once every two hours for bathroom breaks and to stretch your legs and walk around a bit.
Make An Adventure
If the travel schedule permits, stop at a zoo or other local attractions in towns you’ll be passing through. Ask relatives or friends for advice for some en oute ideas that the kids might enjoy. Both you and your kids will look forward to these breaks that parcel the trip into manageable pieces.
Holiday travel — especially in heavy traffic and bad weather — may take much longer than anticipated. Allow extra time (which equals extra patience) and arrive safely in the mood for a Happy Thanksgiving! — and a pleasantly memorable return home.
All books are available at amazon.com. Click on titles to order.
Are We There Yet?
by Dan Santat
How To Fit A Car Seat on a Camel and Other Misadventures Traveling with Kids
by Sarah Franklin
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