If your typical summer agenda includes a family road trip, you may be especially looking forward to it this year, after months of staying close to home due to COVID-19 risks. Here are a few things to brush up on before leaving.
Have the Car in Top Condition
No time is convenient for an overheated engine or a dead battery; but the absolute worst time is on a crowded highway or low-traffic road, hundreds of miles from any town (or auto service) you’re familiar with. Have your regular mechanic approve the car in advance of long-distance travel. Join a reputable auto-service club in case of emergency. And remember that gas stations are farther apart on long-distance-travel routes.
Have the Family in Top Condition
If anyone is overdue for a physical checkup or vaccination, get one while your regular doctor is still convenient. And if your vacation plans include out-of-the-ordinary physical exertion (or thinner air or colder/hotter/more humid weather), add extra physical conditioning to the family routine, starting a few weeks before your trip.
Pack All the Essentials
Most road-trip vacations call for:
- Clothes and toiletries (remember to bring clothes appropriate for your destination and for en-route stops)
- Maps, emergency phone numbers, and a written itinerary
- Spare tire, jumper cables, and basic car tools
- First aid kit
- Items for any special medical needs
- Snacks/meal fixings and water bottles
- Smartphone charger(s)
- Leisure-activities materials (books, games, etc.)
- Any special equipment for planned activities
- Hand sanitizer and face mask(s)
But Don’t Overpack
Some people can’t leave for one weekend without dragging along a TV set, two desktop computers, three jigsaw puzzles, four gaming consoles, and enough hard-copy reading to fill a bookcase. Even if your vehicle has plenty of room, the pack-mule approach makes for a stressful, cluttered trip: either you’ll be constantly grumbling over the bother of keeping track of stuff you don’t use, or you’ll be so busy using it that you might as well have stayed home for all the attention your destination gets. Plan for getting away from your everyday world, not bringing it with you.
Stay Up to Date
As long as COVID-19 remains a potential threat, and especially while few vaccines are available for children, it’ll pay to do your homework on every place you might stop: What health regulations and practices are in place? Which businesses are closed or operating by reservation only? How many recent diagnoses and hospitalizations have there been?
Other things to be aware of:
- Which local areas are considered safest—and least safe—for children and family activities?
- Are there any social tensions or recent major disruptions?
- What sort of weather is expected?
- Will there be major events that could mean dangerously large crowds, difficulty getting motel reservations—or opportunities your family wouldn’t want to miss?
Finally, don’t forget that the purpose of a vacation is to relax and enjoy yourselves—not to get every sightseeing stop checked off your list. Suspend all “hurry up” nagging for the duration of the trip, even if that means a few spur-of-the-moment plan changes. If you practice this consistently, not only will everyone come home truly rested, but you’ll have a great start on a habit that will prove very practical in “everyday” life.
Blessings to parents and children of all ages!