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1. Make a plan, but not a rigid one.
Don't research your stops beforehand. It's OK to have an itinerary for vacay, because let's admit, we all have that one person who has to have complete control! (Trust me, I am one of those people!) But try to add some spontaneous stops to your trip; it's not like your taking a field trip with your elementary class!
2. Bring a real map (you know the ones that fold and have lots of colors).
Also bring a pen/sharpie to mark where you've been and where you're heading. Sure, GPS are great to have, but they aren't always trustworthy. Plus you can lose the wire or it can get damaged, so having a real map takes care of that problem.
3. Pack light so there's room to collect.
If you're anything like me, a woman who doesn't pack light, no matter how hard I try, this will be extremely hard! I normally have one gigantic bag for myself and one for my husband and kids. I mean come on, I've gotta have room for makeup and hair-styling accessories. Anyway, always try to consolidate you and your spouse's clothes into one bag. It'll be a real pain in the wazoo when you have all these souvenirs to take home and no where to put them, because you couldn't decide on which boots to bring so you brought all of them.
4. Get a gas card.
Gas is something that you'll need for your entire trip. Go to Walmart, and buy a prepaid gas card, and load that sucker up! It's always so much easier because it won't cut into your extra spending money if you happen to need more gas.
5. Watch how to make your stops.
The longer the drive between stops, the longer the resting period needs to be. You may prefer, for example, to stop for 10 to 15 minutes every couple of hours rather than taking longer breaks less frequently. You will need to consider your passengers as well, particularly children and animals.
Health is a big deal when taking a trip. Always go to your doctor for a visit the week before your trip. You don't want to be carrying maybe a stomach bug wherever you travel. You'll be miserable. If you're flying, you definitely need to have a checkup. With certain conditions, flying may not be a good idea. So bottom line is always have a checkup before you leave! My father-in-law had a heart attack last year as he was packing the car to leave the next day. Thankfully he is in good health now and we are actually leaving for Tennessee soon!
If you're traveling out of the country, look up the monetary conversion before you go. Make sure your credit card will work in the country you're visiting, if you'd rather use your card. Always have local cash on hand as well. Lastly call your bank or credit card provider just to make sure your account is in good standing before you leave.
Now if you're driving with children/toddlers... like I will be soon 🙈
1. Drive at night.
I'm sure everyone dreads driving at night. You're either tired from a long day at work, or you're just plain tired. It'll actually help in the long run, because if you leave at night, the kids are sure to pass out and sleep the majority of the drive. It'll save you from hearing cranky kids! Talking from personal experience! But if you do decide to drive at night, make sure you have a passenger for a support system. Someone to help keep you from falling asleep.
2. Bring toys.
Always have some form of entertainment with you. Most people have DVD players that will keep the little ones occupied, but for those unfortunate ones, invest in a cheap tablet and download some of their fave tunes. Bring along a pair of volume limiting headphones (for the younger kids) and let them jam out! It'll be quiet for a little while, and you won't hear "Are we there yet?" every 10–20 minutes! You can also bring a lot or two of your child's choice! You're welcome!
3. Put him/her in something comfy.
When we take a trip I always put leggings or cotton shorts on my girls. If they're anything like me, I can't stand wearing jeans on a long trip! They don't allow you to breathe, and if I'm not comfortable I get cranky, which I'm sure the same goes for kids!
4. Snacks on Snacks on Snacks!
Always have snacks handy! Kids can get pretty cranky when they're hungry. Bring snacks such as single chip bags, or those premade nut and fruit packs. Having these snacks handy prevents you from stopping at every McDonald's your child sees, which prolongs the drive. It also can keep your kids busy. If they're eating, what can they complain about? It's a win-win for you, Mom!