By Brandi M. Seals
Whether you decide to do a road trip vacation or are otherwise just traveling across the country, it is always a good idea to be prepared. Road trips can be trying. You have to spend long hours in the car, everyone is generally on a different bathroom schedule, and stopping for food is really the only time you get to spend more than a couple of minutes outside the car until you reach the goal destination. In these conditions, it is no surprise that people's patience often gets tested. However, you can help prevent a road trip meltdown by being prepared.
The first step is to pack and to pack well. The major thing to take into consideration is trunk room. You will want to make sure that everything you bring along can fit in the trunk. Trust me; you will want as much actual car space as possible. If your trip will be long and you are worried about running out of clothes, remember you can always do a load of laundry while on the trip.
I will not advise you on what to pack because each person is different, we all have different priorities, and the items required will vary by when and where you are traveling. Just try to make sure all your clothes needs are covered.
The next thing you will want to do is pack snacks. Snacks are a lifesaver. If you have them on hand, you will not need to stop off somewhere every time someone is hungry. I like to keep chips or crackers on hand. Also make sure you have a few beverages on hand. You can bring along a small cooler and keep it in the car as you travel. You can pull out something to drink whenever you get thirsty. Snacks and beverages are the only things that do not breath, besides maps, that I allow in the car. I am all about leg room and when you hit your 7th hour in the car, you will agree.
Before leaving for the trip it is up to you to do some research. If you are going on vacation, you will want to create an itinerary. It does not have to be too elaborate, but you should lay out how many days you will be gone and where about you think you will be each day. If you care to go a bit farther, you can add it tourists' sites you want to stop at on the list. I like to do this if there are a lot of things to see on the trip. It helps me to cut out items that will end up taking to much time or are too far away to really do right.
The itinerary is your guide. It can always be changed if you suddenly decide you just have to go off track to see the world biggest ball of yarn. Better yet, the itinerary will help everyone in the car get an idea of how the trip will be laid out. This is great if you have kids in the vehicle. Now you will finally be able to answer accurately how much longer they will be in the car.
One thing I recommend having on hand is a guide book. If you plan to stay at hotels, grab one of those books with maps that list where all their affiliate hotels are located. It is much easier to find a hotel with good rates at 2 a.m. when you have book in your lap that details all the information. If you will be staying at camp grounds, grab a KOA guide. Like the hotel guide books, it will show where all the KOAs are located. Keep in mind that you will probably not want to set up camp in the dark. Give yourself time to do it during daylight hours.
As long as you plan ahead and know what you are getting yourself into, there is no reason you cannot have a fully enjoyable trip. The one thing that I recommend is to never become a dictator. One person does not get to decide when everyone else gets to use the restroom. If someone has to go, you have to stop. It will keep the peace in the car which will go a long way towards everyone having a good experience.