Road trips are a great way to “fly” among families who love a bit of spontaneity and a lot of discovery between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Though there are “must-do’s” in every North American city, some of the best memories come from those accidental local finds: classic diners, obscure historic sites, cool neighborhoods or towns that did not exist 30 years ago, and rediscovery of a place you may have visited as a child.
On the other hand, nothing will take the air out of those experiences faster than an automotive malfunction. Even among those who prefer to take the road less traveled, overlooking the working order of the family car can prove to be a wrong turn. And you may want to consider alternatives to taking your own car depending on how far you plan to go and how old your vehicle is.
Rebekah Fleischaker, a.k.a. “The Car Chick,” in Sherman Oaks, Calif. insists that even in the loosest of itineraries, prepping the family car— or finding a more reliable form of transport — is absolutely necessary.
“You need to tell your garage right off the bat you are planning to travel across the country so they can ensure your car will be able to handle this kind of trip,” she says. “You wouldn’t want some random part like a hose falling apart 1,500 miles from home.”
Here are some of Fleischaker’s tips to keep your family’s travel plans in gear:
- Determine whether your trip is within your home state or a cross-country trip. If you are planning a cross-country trip, have an oil change and regular maintenance, and then have your mechanic check all the fluids, belts, hoses, tires and so on to be absolutely sure your car will be able make the extended trip. If you are doing a shorter trip of up to 500 miles, have your mechanic do a once-over to ensure you are caught up on the oil changes and fluids.
- Visit YouTube or automotive websites to find videos that demonstrate what a good and bad tire looks like, and what other parts look like when they wear out so you and your garage can prep your car accordingly.
- Check your fuse box to know where it is located in advance. Know what individual fuses and other parts look like. Print out information from online research such as the serial number of your fuse box, names of the components and model numbers, so they can be ready should you need to visit a garage in another city.
- Prepare a fully loaded emergency kit. In addition to first-aid items, include sunscreen, nutritious non-perishable food (dried fruits, nuts), a rag or a roll of towels for cleaning up if you open the hood or go underneath the car and at least one gallon of water per person. A gallon of water can keep a person alive for three days … and come in handy if your car overheats.
- Everybody traveling should also have comfortable walking shoes, as you may need to walk a certain distance to get help.
- If you fly across the country and rent a car, choose an office outside the airport to avoid airport taxes that may not appear in the prices of the deal you found. Taxes can end up costing more than the rental itself.
- Carry or add a rental car policy to your auto insurance rather than pay the rental agency’s high insurance fees covering only the rental car itself. Also, check if the credit card you plan to use to pay for the rental has insurance coverage.
- Save your precious cell and iPad battery power, and encourage members of the family to unplug and have a real conversation. Play word games to keep passengers awake, such as I Spy, spotting out-of-state license plates and round-robin guessing games. You can also visit AAA to get TripTiks to make the ride a learning experience integrating geography and math.
Lake Powell, a family-favorite vacation destination in the American Southwest, lies between Utah and Arizona — an ideal place to rent a houseboat and spend your time exploring the lake and its shores as a family, enjoying the sun, the water and plenty of adventure.
This summer, family travel at The Peninsula receives an upgrade with the debut of Camp Peninsula, a children’s experience that recreates the spirit of camping right in the heart of Beverly Hills. The journey begins with a special welcome from Peter Bear, the hotel’s lovable mascot, at check-in. After taking a picture with the life-sized teddy bear, kids will be whisked away by a Peninsula Camp Counselor to a luxurious guestroom where a charming teepee awaits. An afternoon of camp-themed games and activities, including a hotel-wide scavenger hunt, rounds off the family-friendly experience, fun for children of all ages. Whether it’s a luxe staycation or an extended holiday, Camp Peninsula is an ideal way to ensure the little ones are happy campers.
If you’re looking for a charming new island escape on the East Coast, get away to a locale many have yet to discover. Daufuskie Island considers itself the Nantucket of the South, a hidden gem off the Southeast Coast, near Savannah, Georgia, and Hilton Head. The luxurious environment is unpretentious, but filled with all the amenities discerning family travelers need.
A beach vacation is a family favorite in the summertime; the weather is nice, towns are thriving and there are fun activities all season. For families looking for the ultimate summer beach vacation, consider Ocean City, New Jersey.
Prior to any family trip, every responsible adult will have a checklist to ensure the journey and destination can be made as safe as possible for everybody. A packing list can incorporate healthy snacks, bug repellant, a first-aid kit and minor illness remedies (cold and flu meds; anti-diarrhea pills) while pre-trip cautions — depending on the location — immunizations and family discussions on how to avoid injury.