Summer Road Trips: Tips for the Tarmac- How to Prepare and What to Pack
Summertime, the livin’ is easy and the road trips are plentiful
So, you’ve got your vacation all planned out – it’s 350 miles to Cape Cod -or the Catskills, Tahoe, Big Bear or, maybe, the Wisconsin Lakes – but, what should you bring? There are a few obvious take-alongs, such as a steamy novel, your iPod and iPad, sunscreen and a big towel. But, what do you really need to make those endless hours on the Interstate or slow going onAmerica’s two-lanes fly by? How do you prepare?
We’ve done some research and created a checklist. Here are a few tips for the trip.
Front Seat Comfort
When you’re planning to be on the road for hours, comfort is a must. If your vehicle is equipped with technology features like programmable driver’s seat adjustments and multi-zone climate control, take the time to program those settings so that you don’t have to mess with multiple dials and switches just to find that “perfect” driving position or the right temperature, when switching drivers at a rest stop in 100-degree heat.
Another pointer is to adjust your seat’s lumbar support: some cars come equipped with an electronically-adjustable, low back cushion, but many drivers who don’t have this helpful feature in their vehicle suffer through unnecessary back pain, especially on long drives. If lumbar isn’t integrated into your seat, invest in a lumbar cushion that straps around your seat and will stay in place when you shift positions. Or, if you’re in a bind, grab a beach towel, roll it up and place it in the small of your back against the seat: instant relief!
It may be a cliché, but “Are we there yet?!” is still a favorite refrain from mini backseat passengers. To help pass the time, take advantage of your vehicle’s infotainment system, if it has one. Another idea is to buy DVDs or borrow books on CD – choose family-friendly titles that all can enjoy or, if you’re truly fortunate and have screens and headphones for rear-seat riders, set the back-seaters up with their own entertainment and choose something different for the “rents”. Books on CD are easy to buy and even easier (and cheaper) to borrow – check your local library’s children’s section. Bonus: you’ll have lots to talk about when the book is done.
One trick that works wonders is making road trips a special treat by putting together a small basket or bag with special goodies for the ride. This doesn’t need to be fancy – an 8-pack of crayons, a small notebook, some stickers and a bag of Goldfish crackers can last a long time! (A tip to new parents: make sure the crayons are washable and get used to the fact that those stickers will immediately end up on the inside of the passenger windows.)
Traveling with Fluff and Fido is always an adventure, but you can make it easier on you and your pooch or kitty by investing in a crate or pet carrier that is as big and comfy as your car (and budget) will allow. Remember to put in a toy or two from home, and make sure that you map out a route that allows for ample pit-stops. Carry a few extra bottles of water to make sure your pet stays hydrated during long stretches in the heat or in climate control; look for specially-made, collapsible bowls for travel that hold your pet’s food and drink, and prevent spills.
Paramount: Pet websites and stores also offer tethers or restraints that can attach to anchor points or car seats to keep you and your pet safe, in the event of a collision. Remember: unrestrained pets can become flying objects at risk for injury; they can also injure you and your precious cargo.
Cargo, Goods and Gear
Just as it’s important to secure and protect your mini riders and pets, it’s also imperative to stow your suitcases, goods and gear, with safety and accessibility in mind. Use cargo nets, when provided, or find other creative ways to keep loose items from becoming flying objects, under hard braking or in the event of a collision. Use tie-downs and your auto’s stowage compartments and make sure you have good rearward vision, when driving. Use roof carriers and racks to carry extra gear, making sure all is secured each time you make a stop along your journey.
Health and Safety
Some safety rules go without saying: never leave your pet or your children in the car, even with the windows down. Don’t try to read a map while driving—or use your cell phone to make calls or send text messages: pull to the side or the road or take a break at a rest stop. Don’t promise dinner at a steakhouse when you know all the highway has to offer is fast food (your passengers may try to hold you hostage!).
In the age of technology, it’s worth revisiting some taken-for-granted safety guidelines. Take theGPS, for example: instead of trying to program it on-the-fly (and behind the wheel), take a few minutes to program your route and waypoints the night before you leave. Take a good look at an old-fashioned map, and make sure you have a sense for alternate routes in case you encounter hold-ups or road closings.
Other advice: if you’re traveling across state lines, make sure to visit the neighboring state’s transportation websites to familiarize yourself with its hands-free cell phone laws. The laws are different inConnecticutfromMassachusetts, for instance. Don’t learn the hard way; put the phone down as soon as you cross the border.
Also, before heading out on your road trip, check all your vehicle’s fluids and perform any maintenance needed. Complete a visual inspection of your vehicle’s tires, checking for tread wear, damage to the sidewalls, and tire pressure. Include your spare tire on the list, as well.
Finally, don’t forget to pack these essentials:
- First aid – Buy or make a simple kit for treating scrapes, cuts, bites, stings and burns. Get one that can fit in the glovebox or is easily accessible, in case it’s needed.
- Medicines-Remember to bring extra medicines, have a list of prescriptions and your physician’s contact information.
- Insurance cards –Bring the whole crew’s cards for more streamlined treatment, in the event that someone should fall ill or get injured during your trip.
- Sunscreen – Did you know you can burn even in the shade? Use 30SPFand higher; make sure to reapply after swimming.
- Bug spray – It’s an absolute must, if you’re visiting parks, camping, or biking along a rail trail; check with your doctor, if you have a baby on board.
- Emergency blankets – Even in summer, nights can get chilly, so keep a few blankets on hand in case you get stuck overnight.
- Snacks and water – Pack enough to last the group 24 hours in case you’re stranded in your auto or in an emergency situation, and you need to wait for help.
- Emergency flares and a spare tire changing kit –Keep flares within easy access and know how to change a tire on your vehicle before you need to!
Veteran road-trippers know that i-spy is a classic road trip game, and spotting license plates can occupy even the most cynical teenagers for a while. There are also dozens of websites that offer creative and inventive ideas to alleviate car-trip boredom.