Preparing for a Long Road Trip

by Oscar Collins
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preparing for a long road trip

Did you finally give up, cancel your plane tickets and decide to hit the open road for your family vacation? Maybe you need to travel to satisfy other obligations. Either way, you need to pack up your car and spend some quality time behind the driver’s wheel. When you’re preparing for a long drive or road trip, it’s natural to pack haphazardly, thinking you can pick up forgotten items along the way. While that might be true, to an extent, that kind of thinking wastes time and money. Save yourself a headache by remembering to bring these five easy-to-forget items.

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Securing Your Home

Did you remember to unplug your straightening iron? It’s always wise to turn off appliances to conserve energy and money while traveling. Some exceptions exist. For example, while there’s little point in leaving your water heater running during the summer months, turning it off could prove disastrous in the cold season. Dialing your water heater down to 50-55 degrees prevents your pipes from freezing and bursting. Leave a faucet dripping as well.

Did you lower the garage door after you left? Thanks to the wonders of technology, you can check the status of your lock even when you’re miles from your house. Smart home devices even do the job for you from a distance if you forget, saving you the mad rush back or an embarrassing call to your neighbor.

Nevertheless, it’s still wise to ask your friend next door to keep an eye on things while you’re away. A pile of uncollected newspapers or an overflowing mailbox tells thieves, “There’s no one at home — come on in.”

(Photo Nancy Zaffaro)

Medicines and Hygiene Needs

If you take prescription medication, talk to your doctor about getting a travel kit long before you depart, especially if you take any of those on the controlled substance list. Otherwise, you might not be able to get a fill if you forget yours on the road.

Another set of must-haves that folks frequently forget is their hygiene equipment. If you wear contacts or glasses, a travel set to keep in your bag can save you considerable frustration. Finding a drug store for saline solution at 11 p.m. in an unfamiliar location is no one’s idea of fun, especially when your eyes are tired and burning.

If you do forget your toothbrush, check with your hotel front desk before rushing out on a late-night hunt. Many higher-end establishments provide complimentary items like combs to guests upon request.

Getting Your Car Serviced

People define “fun” differently, but we’ve yet to meet one person who lists “breaking down along a deserted highway” as their idea of an enjoyable time. Plus, if you travel to remoter areas like the desert southwest, you could face miles of hazardous conditions on your walk to the “nearest” convenience store.

Take your vehicle in for an oil change and have them perform an inspection of all belts and hoses. Your mechanic can top off the levels of other fluids and advise you of any potential hazards.

When you stop to fuel up on your travels, take a minute to check things like your oil level and your tire pressure. While these steps take a few extra minutes, prevention pales beside waiting an hour or more for AAA to rescue you.

Packing Plenty of Provisions

One rule of road tripping is that you will never find the snack you crave most at the first convenience store you hit — or, sometimes, your third. Spare yourself unnecessary growling tummies by packing plenty of provisions.

This advice goes triple if you follow any dietary restrictions that make roadside eating problematic. You’d be shocked how many commercial snack foods that should be gluten-free, like popcorn, contain enough to cause trouble for those with celiac disease.

Make sure to stave off dehydration with a supply of water for the entire family in case you break down. On average, each individual needs half a gallon per day, although this figure may increase in desert regions with little shade from the drying sun. Coffee doesn’t count — sorry. Although it is better than nothing in a pinch, caffeine dehydrates you more quickly than H20.

Keeping the Littles Entertained

“Are we there yet?” This inquiry has made otherwise patient parents scream since time immemorial.

As much as you want to limit their screen time, part of preparing for a long drive might mean easing up on the 30-minute rule. If your child’s “Baby Shark” tablet keeps them occupied while you navigate, go for it. They’ll revel in the freedom while you pay closer attention to the road.

Use some of your road trip to connect with your loved ones beyond the tablet. Brush up on classic favorites like “20 Questions” and “The Alphabet Game.”  You’ll enjoy the  family time and make the miles pass more quickly.

Remember These 5 Things When Preparing for a Long Drive

When preparing for a long drive, you might overlook the five items above. Make your list and check it twice to make your next road trip more holiday than headache.

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