Holiday Travel Tips Making Road Trips Safe and Fun for the Family

"Over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house we go," so sings the old childhood song.  But, how many of us are traveling over the holidays with small children and don't plan on flying because of the cost and the economy?  Long car trips with little ones can be grueling and dangerous if you are not aware of a few small helpful tips and plan ahead.

Consider your tires - Tires are a big deal but thought of very little when getting ready to leave on a long trip.  If the treads on your tire are worn, this could be the difference between life and death or a crash, loss of control of vehicle or not.  There are two ways to check the treads on your tire - One is to use a quarter with George Washington's head facing downward.  Place it between the treads on your tires.  If you can see his entire head (not covered with any tread), it is time to start tire shopping, but you still have some time before it it urgent to replace the tires.

  • Next, take a penny.  Place Lincoln's head downward in between the treads.  If you can see Lincoln's head entirely, your tires are in need of replacement immediately - Especially if you are planning a long trip.
  • But, don't despair!  If you can't afford all 4 new tires, experts suggest that you get two new tires and place them on the back of your vehicle - Not the front!  If placed on the back of your vehicle, even though the front two tires are bald, you have a better chance of making it through situations such as water on the road without causing the car to hydroplane.

Another safety consideration, if you have small children, is their carseats.  Make sure they are installed properly.  If you are uncertain, stop by your local fire house.  Firemen are trained on how to insert carseats properly and can even place the child into the carseat & make sure their 5-point harness is attached and in the right position.

Once you have checked these and other safety concerns about your individual vehicle, it's time to pack some fun for the little ones aboard.  Start a week or so ahead of time and visit a local dollar store.  Collect little (quiet) fun toys that can be enjoyed on the long journey.  Some suggestions might be colored pencils (sharpener) and tablets of paper or coloring books.  The colored pencils are better than markers, pens or crayons because they will not melt into the car (though in the winter this may not be an issue), and will not make a mess if the child suddenly becomes creative and decides to color outside of the "box" (the paper).  You don't want to enjoy miles of travel only to turn around and find your backseat has been colored orange.

If your children are old enough and have gaming systems such as Nintendo DS or Gameboy, etc. purchase new cartridges for them to enjoy.  This can keep them busy for hours of travel if it's a game they're interested in.  If you have an older gaming system, you might need to plan ahead of time and order off of Ebay or other sources since stores are phasing them out.  Just a note on gaming systems:  A lot of parents don't like to see kids' noses stuck in a gaming system when a conversation is going on around them.  But, a long-distance car ride is the ideal time to enjoy these kinds of games since there is a lot of time to keep children still and happy so you can concentrate on driving.  They can save their conversation skills for Aunt Betty and Grandpa Jo once they arrive at the destination.

Once you've gathered all your little "toys" a nice touch is to wrap them or put them into small gift bags.  One mother waits till they have covered a set number of miles before breaking out a new "gift" for the children.  If you have an extremely long ride, you might even consider some healthy snacks in some of those bags so you don't have to stop so frequently at fast food places along the way.  One stop on/off an unknown exit ramp for food, bathroom and gas can take as much as 15-45 extra minutes.  By the way, if you do stop frequently at unknown restrooms, make sure you have disposable potty seat covers and hand sanitizer and/or soap along for the ride.  You just never know what condition you'll find a rest stop.

Of course, there's the old standbys of Auto Bingo, Name the License Plates, etc.  If you want to involve some education, you can even include a map with some fun facts about each state you drive through.  Upon reaching a new state's border, break out that particular state's information.

Most importantly, be prepared, be safe & have fun on your journey.


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