Drive, family … drive!

With summer travel season in high gear, it’s a good idea to ensure the family’s next road trip will be memorable, and for all the right reasons.

By Jim Gorzelany CTW Features

Hitting the road with kids in tow for a good old-fashioned road trip this year? You’re not alone. A recent survey conducted by tire maker Bridgestone Americas in Nashville, Tenn., determined that (of 2,000 adults queried) 83 percent will be taking the family on at least one getaway by car this year.

While it’s usually cheaper for a family to drive to most domestic destinations rather than fly, 58 percent of respondents said they choose to take the car because it gives them added travel flexibility. One might encounter traffic jams and tollbooths along the way, but there’s little worry about getting to the airport in enough time to get through security, having a flight canceled or losing one’s luggage. “Our research confirms flexibility is king — it allows summer travelers to stay in control of their busy lives, even when they’re on vacation,” says Erik Seidel, vice president of branding for Bridgestone Americas. “In the land of Route 66, the Ventura Highway and Florida’s scenic route US 1, we know consumers enjoy the experience only car travel can provide, and we expect this trend to continue.”

Of course taking a family road trip means being confined in a car with children fussing in the back seat for extended periods, and there’s always the possibility of becoming lost or stranded at the side of the road with a flat tire or other mechanical malady, so it pays to be prepared before hitting the highway.

Here are the top 10 family travel tips to keep the kids happy and parents sane, provided by the travel experts at Consumer Reports:

1. Service your car. Get the family car checked out ahead of time to ensure it’s up to the task. At the least have fluids topped off make sure tires are properly inflated and have sufficient tread. 2. Plan properly. Plot a course ahead of time and bring along both a GPS or smartphone and a printed map to help stay the course. Try to drive during off-peak hours to avoid traffic or other delays.

3. Check your car seats. Make sure child safety seats are both properly installed and are both age and weight appropriate.

4. Pack well. Secure luggage in the trunk and keep toys and other objects in the cabin to a minimum — these could become dangerous projectiles in a crash.

5. Bring all the necessities. Pack enough drinks and snacks to cover both travel time and for any delays that might incur. Don’t forget to carry garbage bags, paper towels, baby wipes, etc.

6. Keep kids entertained. Tablet or laptop computers, portable DVD players and driving games can be invaluable here, though don’t discount low-tech options like playing I-Spy or 20 questions.

7. Connect to your location. Check smartphones and in-car navigation systems for information on restaurants and places of interest at which to stop along the way.

8. Keep focused. Have the front passenger manage the kids and cell phone to avoid driver distractions.

9. Take a break. Stop every two hours for a bathroom break and to let the kids run off some steam.

10. Know the laws. Traffic laws vary by state, so read up on local traffic rules, especially those regarding right turns on a red light and speed limits.

While following these tips will go a long way toward insuring the trip will be a pleasant one, the aforementioned Bridgestone travel survey determined that even the most thoughtful preparation may not be enough to ensure children’s contentment. Nearly three-quarters of parents who take a summer road trip with their kids say it’s nearly impossible to drive for an extended period without hearing either, “I have to go to the bathroom” (74 percent), “I’m hungry” (73 percent) or “Are we there yet” coming from the back seat.

© CTW Features