It's the first Wednesday of the month and JEN TUCKER's back with 10 TIPS FOR ROAD TRIPS ... or, if you can prep for a road trip with the kids, the pets & Aunt Edna, an evacuation could be a piece of cake ....
Jen Tucker not only knows how to survive, and thrive, she has never met a gluten free cupcake that she didn’t like. A former teacher and educator, she worked with children in school, hospital, and enrichment settings for many years. In her years at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, it was Jen’s job to bring the “hands on fun” into the visiting exhibitions in the galleries. Who better than to turn a sometimes dull subject like Disaster Preparedness into TERRIFIC FUN?!! Jen broke away from writing children’s books and thematic units last year with her memoir “The Day I Wore my Panties Inside Out” which was a semifinalist in the humor category in the 2011 Goodreads Book Awards. Jen’s newest tale “The Day I Lost my Shaker of Salt” will be released in 2012. Jen lives in West Lafayette, Indiana with her husband, Mike, and their three children.
As of May 2, my children will have 17 school days left before summer vacation. How do I know this for a fact? My oldest son informs me every morning at breakfast where we stand in the daily countdown. “Hey Mom! 20 days, and a wake-up, until school’s out for summer!” The schools in our hometown are not fond of returning to session after Memorial Day. Something my children love at the time, yet loathe when they return to the classroom in mid-August.
I realized something in the days that remain before the last school bell rings. I am not the least bit ready for our vacation this summer. In June, my husband Mike and I, along with our three children, will be embarking on a road trip with my parents. Seven people, sharing space in a minivan, while trekking 17 hours and 7 minutes (according to Mapquest) from Indiana to Florida. That is a lot of togetherness, people.While planning the tourist-filled parts of our trip, my mind wandered to being prepared for the actual drive itself. Beyond having enough juice boxes at the ready, and the DVD player locked and loaded, I questioned what I needed to do prepare the travelers, and our vehicle, for this journey. Have you seen the 1980s classic comedy, Vacation, starring funnyman, Chevy Chase? The Griswolds set the bar really high for highway mishaps, didn’t they? We can learn a little something from them on how not to travel across country with your family.
- Keep your eyes on the road; not on Christie Brinkley! One of the perks of having several licensed drivers travelling with you is to rotate the job of driving. Staring at pavement divided by dashes of paint, or watching hot supermodels in sports cars pass you by, can be weary on the eyes. Set in advance the number of hours you are comfortable being the chauffeur. Some people really like to drive the entire distance. In that case, do you know how lucky you are? In all seriousness, be conscientious and alternate drivers.
- No pets with bladder issues near the food. Remember when Aunt Edna’s dog considered the picnic basket a great place to pee?Make sure if you travel with your pet, that they are comfortable, safely contained,walked often on leash in the designated areas at rest stops, and are never left alone in a hot automobile. Our golden retrievers, Jack and Henry, will not be joining us this time. For me, this means care giver plans, as well as vaccinations and instructions must be up-to-date. I want to make sure that my four-legged babies are well taken care of.
- Tune up the “Family Truckster.” Does your oil need to be changed? When was the last time your car had a tune-up? How are the treads looking on your tires? These are important things to check before you hit the road. Have your automobile in tip-top shape to preempt mishaps that can be avoided. Also, be sure to spruce up the emergency kit in your car. If you do not own one, now is the perfect time to purchase one ready-made, or build your own. Some items you may want to include are a flashlight, bandages, aspirin, cleaning wipes, small scissors, tire pressure gauge, bottled water, gloves, jumper cables, foam spray for flat tires, tow rope and reflective triangles to set on the road.
- Sorry folks, park’s closed. Moose outside should’ve told ya. If you are crossing state lines and time zones, to visit a place that is the heart and soul of your vacation, I beg you; please make sure that they will be open to visitors on the day you arrive. I worked for one of the world’s largest children’s museums years ago, and it was closed on Mondays for school group tours. The disappointed, little faces pressed against the locked, glass entrance doors could have been avoided with a phone call or quick web search. Know the hours of operation, and if there are any blackout dates to plan around.
- You shouldn’t drop off Aunt Edna if no one is home. You may love surprise visits at your home, however popping by unannounced is not always welcomed. Make sure that you contact family and friends, arranging visits with them in advance. Catching up with friends and family can make for great stops along the way; new memories to make. If they are hosting you for an overnight stay, bring a little gift to thank them for their hospitality. I would avoid bringing them a dead aunt, however. It’s just a thought.
- Put that car carrier on top after you pull the car out of the garage. Make great use of your space! Travel carriers are a magnificent way to store the items you will use once you reach your destination. Alternate cargo storage also gives everyone a little more leg room while en route. More elbow room can lead to hearing, “He’s touching me!” or “She’s breathing on me!” a little less often among siblings. This is not a guarantee that there will be less bickering for you to contend with; just a suggestion.
- I’m so hungry, I could eat a sandwich from the gas station! Dining out for every meal is expensive! If you plan to eat lunch and/or dinner out on the town, bring along breakfast. Pack a few containers with cereal, granola bars, or other items your family grazes on in the morning. If packing space is an issue, check the web for grocery stores close to your destination. A quick breakfast in your hotel room saves you time each morning so you can go about your day. Plus, think of all the extra cash you will have to buy ridiculous souvenirs? Win-win!
- Car crashes cause chaos. If you loathe backseat drivers, country music on the car stereo, or fear being a passenger while the driver tailgates and/or speeds, then work out those issues before you leave your driveway. The rule in our car is when it comes to music, its driver’s choice. Our kids bring their own forms of entertainment, complete with headphones, so that they do not have to listen to our “old people music.” Old people music means Seal and U2 by their definition. I tend to drive with the flow of traffic, and never tailgate or weave between vehicles. There are important lives in my car that rest in my hands. Getting there safely, and still liking one another trumps everything else.
- You’d better explain, or there will be a lot of explaining to do! Are we there yet? How much longer? Sound familiar? Talk through your trip with your children before you hit the road. Show them your origination and destination on a map or a trip planning website.Point out major cities and states that you will pass through while driving. Just as adults like to be in the know, children crave to be informed about the details too. For long trips in the car, I equate travel time to movies for my five-year-old daughter, Gracie. “The drive to Aunt DiDi’s house equals an hour. An hour is as long as one Care Bear movie.” She gets that math equation instantly. I also have treat bags packed for each of my children with their favorite things to do to pass the time, and snacks. The dollar stores are a perfect place to stock up on little things to entertain.
- Stuff Happens! Nothing is perfect, and situations will arise that were not on your agenda. Just laugh, and think of the story you will have to tell when you get home. Okay, maybe you will not be laughing in the heat of the moment, but I assure you it could always be worse.Being prepared for problems before you leave town does not automatically make you a “Debbie Downer.” You are getting your ducks in a row; Girl Scout style. Be prepared. Most importantly, be ready for wonderful moments with your family. Ferris Bueller coined the phrase, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Live the moments you experience with your loved ones; record the memories on your camera, but also in your heart.
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