Before you blow out of town and head out on the road en route to your family vacation, take heed of these summer driving tips. You can save yourself time, money and more than a little aggravation.
Plan ahead. Do whatever it takes to firm up as many details of your trip as possible – before you head out on the road. Get brochures for stops or sightseeing along the way, stock up on items you’ll need for your trip, pack lightly, and go over your itinerary often. Don’t try to cram too much into the time you’ve got, but do have some optional activities or places to visit if the weather turns nasty or you wind up with extra time on your hands.
Safety check your car. Anytime you’re going on an extended trip with the family, do a safety check of your car. Check all tires for the proper air pressure (do this in the morning when the tires are cool), fluid levels, and have any necessary repairs completed. A good tune-up may be just what your car needs – for your peace of mind and your family’s safety.
Map it out. Plug in your destination to your GPS (OnStar, Garmin, Tomtom, Magellan, etc.), but don’t just rely on that to get you where you need to go. Always bring paper maps with you. Besides being a back-up to GPS, maps are a convenient way to look up alternate routes and “see” the distance you’ll be traveling.
Gas up in the morning. Be sure to fill the tank all the way, but don’t overfill it. When you’re low on fuel during the trip, use Gas Buddy or similar apps to find the nearest station with the best gas prices.
Avoid peak traffic hours. Nothing gets you more frazzled than sitting in traffic. Besides wasting fuel and increasing emissions, you’re not getting to your destination in a timely fashion. Avoid this by steering clear of major traffic congested areas during peak hours. Plan a stop so you get past this crush time and then get back on the road.
Take frequent breaks. Every long road trip is grueling. Sitting in the car is tough on everyone in the family. Make frequent stops to stretch your legs, play with the kids, eat a picnic lunch or see an attraction. This will make the journey much more fun and cut down on travel fatigue.
Bring snacks and water. There’s nothing worse than being thirsty and hungry and you’ve got nothing to offer. Always bring nourishing snacks and plenty of water so you’re not in this predicament. Moist towellettes for a quick clean-up are a must.
Don’t forget kids’ entertainment. This includes movies, DVDs, CDs, puzzles, coloring books, comics, novels – whatever will keep your children entertained and occupied for long stretches at a time. Even a short stretch – until they take a nap – will help ensure family peace along the way.
Stop for mini-destinations. Part of your advance planning will really pay off here. When you know you’re going to stop for a particular attraction, it makes getting there seem to take half the time. Be sure it’s something that the family is looking forward to. AAA tour books are a great help, and they’re free (along with maps and Triptiks) when you have AAA roadside assistance.
Don’t push your limits. Sure, time is a precious commodity. But don’t be tempted to go a couple hundred miles more to try to get to your destination sooner. Putting in too many non-stop hours behind the wheel or trying to cram the drive into one day is putting you and your family in jeopardy. If your intended destination takes two days to get there (and the same amount of time back), either plan an alternate vacation trip or allocate the time you need to drive there safely and back.