Pit Stop! Three Ways to Plan Ahead for Joy in the Journey
Those last-minute road trips and mini-vacations before cold weather sets in can be fun, but they can also be stressful. When the unexpected happens, it can threaten to derail an entire trip. A flat tire, a missing item, or even a simple loss of direction can spell disaster when you’re trying to enjoy time away from home.
If you’re traveling with children, you’re probably acquainted with the question “Are we there yet?” You’ll be well aware of the need for multiple bathroom breaks on the way. Add a pet to the mix, and you’ve got a recipe for a long, frustrating car ride.
Fortunately, there are things you can do to prevent frustration before it sets in. This involves a little bit of planning on your part, but it can make the road trip more fun for everyone.
If you plan ahead for the difficulties you might encounter, you can turn the unexpected into a learning experience for your family, or even flip a bad situation into a good one.
Preparation is important in making sure your trip is as safe and successful as possible. Here are some things to consider when it comes to planning ahead.
Know Your Battlefront
With both children and pets, picking your battles is important. Most likely, you won’t want to battle full bladders on the freeway, though.
This is where some thoughtful parenting skills come in. Knowing is half the battle, as the saying goes. A week or even a few days before the road trip, take inventory of how often your pets and your toddlers can go without bathroom breaks.
Can they go for two hours?
Make sure not to give the young ones too much-unrestricted access to fluids during the trip unless you want to be stopping every twenty minutes!
What about their previous travel habits?
Do they get carsick?
Will they sleep a lot?
Or will they be crying to get out of their restraints?
Once you have these things in mind, pull up a map on your phone. Plan your route around how often you think you’ll need to stop, and why.
A good road trip app like InRoute can help you pin your pit stops to your map, so you know what to expect in advance. It’s also a good idea to keep in mind what your roadside service options are in case you should encounter car troubles along the way.
Plan Ahead, Stay Ahead
Don’t wait until you’re in trouble to start thinking about the basics. Planning ahead is the best way to make sure your vacation or road trip doesn’t get behind.
Start with the main method of transportation: your car. If your car goes, the rest of the trip goes with it. Hard to enjoy a road trip when you are sitting beside a road or in a cheap motel waiting for a tow truck and the inevitable repair bill, stuck far away from home.
Nothing kills the momentum, and the mood, of an optimistic road trip faster than that. Fortunately, the old adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure applies, and it’s much easier to do some prep work than it is to plug holes.
Before You Start the Car
The smart thing to do is check your car: fluids, tires, and performance. Take it in for a tune-up if you can. Make sure all your fluids are topped up. Filling the gas tank is a no-brainer, but it’s easier to forget power steering or transmission fluid.
Inadequate oil levels can also be disastrous, so make sure that you fill up before shipping out.
A tune-up would help give you peace of mind before a long road trip. Take the car to your mechanic and let him know what you’re planning, so he can help you make sure you’re in roadworthy condition.
Make sure you pack plenty of spare supplies. A quart of oil, some flashlights or road flares, maybe a few hand warmers in case things get chilly. Of course, make sure that you have your spare tire and that it’s in good shape.
Have any tools you’ll need in case you do have to replace the tire: jack, tire iron, etc. It might be a good idea to pack some of the flat-sealing compounds, in case you don’t even need to replace the whole tire.
The plan is simple. Have the supplies you need, and do the pre-trip checks to hopefully make sure you don’t need the supplies!
Do the Prep Work
Pack picnic supplies in a cooler, and remember to bring bottled water and collapsible food and water dishes for your pets. Make sure the children’s car seats are set up properly and get something like the Melior pet seat belt to keep your furry friends safe. You can also install a pet seat cover or hammock in case your pet gets sick.
If your pet has a favored scent, or a bed or toy, you can bring those along to provide a sense of comfort from home.
Fill a tote with simple, active toys that your children and pets might want to play at a pit stop. This could include balls or ropes for playing tug-of-war and fetch. You might also consider bringing a first-aid kit in case someone gets hurt during a bathroom break.
Music can be a great way to keep spirits high even during long stretches of travel. Entertaining fussy children is often easier with music or, if you have it, a backseat movie player. Playing some road games can also be a great way to build up the fun and the sense of anticipation.
Bring pillows and favorite blankets to help your children relax when it’s time to nap (or sleep, for overnight journeys). Bottles of water are good for freshening up in the morning and give you some water for brushing teeth without having to rely on water at pit stops (which you shouldn’t ever do).
All of these are great ways to help defuse potential issues before they create a problem.
Take Your Time
Make sure you plan in enough bathroom breaks for everyone, even if it extends the road trip by a few hours. It’s good to get out and stretch after long periods of sitting in the car.
One of the best ways to do this is to try to stop at spots where there’s something fun to do, such as a museum to visit or a park where kids and dogs can play. Make sure that everyone gets plenty of exercise.
This way, they’ll want to rest when it’s time to get back in the car. If everyone burns off that excess energy, you’ll find that the car traveling
Check ahead of time to see whether there are spots where your pets can run off-leash, but keep a leash and harness like the Melior Simba collar sets close by. This way, you can manage situations where interacting with other dogs might be a problem or if you’ll be in a city setting.
When it comes to your little ones, make sure you get plenty of pictures with them along the way.
Later, when you look at the pictures together, they’ll remember the fun they had, and they’ll be that much more excited for the next road trip.
The better you plan ahead, the less you’ll have to worry about while on the road. Keep the focus squarely on the fun, where it belongs!