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Dec 18th
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Home Travel OnTravel Blog Careful Planning Makes Your Family’s Road Trip More Safe, Enjoyable

Careful Planning Makes Your Family’s Road Trip More Safe, Enjoyable

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Road trips are the perfect way to experience America and especially the wide open spaces of the West. But too often I find that when folks set out in their car, or even an RV, they don't plan for the trip in the same way they might if they were flying.

Road trips require the same amount of planning as flying and possibly more. First make sure the family car or RV is in good shape and serviced. Be sure and check tires and replace them if worn past recommended levels. It's a lot easier to get that tire replaced at your local tire shop than when you are stranded hundreds of miles from nowhere.

Now its time for fun. Involve the whole family in planning the trip. Even young kids can feel valued members of the family when they get to choose a special place to visit. And spend some time with them telling them about the legends of the West in places you will visit. Don't overlook museums, since today many have special programs for kids.

Next plan your route in a way that provides for not only the sightseeing you want to do but also plenty of reasonable rest stops. Every survey we have seen indicates that fatigue is a major cause of accidents, and since this is your vacation why get worn out driving? Those truck drivers you pass on the road often have over a million accident free miles and they take resting seriously.

OK, now that you've got the basics out of the way it's time to pack.

This is a challenge. Everyone thinks that traveling light doesn't apply to road trips. Remember those old comedies when everyone packed everything on top of the car and the load towered over the car? Bad idea.

Anything you pack on the top of the car reduces your gas mileage. So think about what you take. Most road trips are really casual, so pack accordingly. With a car it's easy to find laundry facilities, and many hotels and motels have coin-operated washing machines for guests.

One more tip: We have found that duffel bags make more sense in a car that hard-sided luggage.

Do take some quiet games and maybe even DVD players and ear buds for the kids to pass those long hours in the car. And we always take a small portable radio to listen to local programs in our hotel room at night. You can really get a feel for a local community that way.

Finally, do take along some survival gear suitable for the season just in case you do get stuck along the road. Plenty of water and some nutrition bars are mandatory no matter what the season.

While we don't literally pack the kitchen sink we do pack a bag that we consider our "car trip kitchen." Of course, if you have an RV you already everything we are going to mention here, so feel free to skip ahead a paragraph.

We take a small electric kettle to boil water, and camping eating utensils. They make great lightweight and nearly indestructible plastic utensils for camping. We don't do any actual cooking in our room, but that kettle and cups allows us to fix tea, or hot chocolate. We also pack a couple of camping meals that will reconstitute in hot water just in case it's late and we don't find a local place where we want to eat. Also this "kitchen" allows us to picnic along the way.

The American West has some of the world's most spectacular scenery. Small wonder that everyone headed for the great outdoors as soon as the roads were built for the automobile. Even motels were perfected in the West. Where else could you sleep in a teepee?

Road trips are a great way to build family bonds that you will all remember for a lifetime. Remember those canvas water bags travelers used to hang on the front bumper? I still remember - and cherish - the memories of our family camping trips to the national parks as soon as school was out and the family car was packed.