Winter travel in the Midwest can be interesting, uneventful, or unfortunately tragic. Planning properly before your next trip to visit extended family can prevent unexpected stops and unexpected expenses along the way. When I travel with my family for the holidays or simply during extreme weather months, I go through a checklist to ensure that my wife, son, daughter and I all travel safely and effectively. Here are seven worry-free travel tips for young families.
Check for Vehicle Readiness
The first thing I check is the vehicle that is making the trip. There are many things that can be checked on a vehicle before a departure, but here are my key areas:
- Check the tires for proper inflation
- Make sure your spare tire, tire jack and tire iron are present and working
- Check your oil quality and oil levels
- Check transmission fluid
- Top off wiper blade fluid
- Check and/or replace your current wiper blades
- Apply Rain-X to the outside windows of the whole car to maximize visibility
- Clean the inside of the windshield with
- Remove extra garbage and vacuum out the vehicle
- Set up a new air freshener and bring extras
- Have the carpets cleaned if you want to go all the way on cleaning
- Have your battery tested at a local auto shop
If you don’t think your car will make it, it may be time to shop Paul Conte for a new vehicle.
Plan for Warmth
Another good item to have during the winter months is a good portable snow shovel. I’ve had the unfortunate experience of getting stuck in the snow and having an extra shovel around can certainly help you get out of that situation. Blankets are also a must, so that if your car stalls in the middle of the storm, you can keep warm until more help arrives. Other helpful things to consider are packing a portable vehicle emergency kit with tools, a portable gas can, and flashlights with good batteries. You could also pack some extra food that will stay good in cold temperatures.
Plan for Extra Time
The thing about traveling in the winter to see family for the holidays is that it takes time, usually more time than what you anticipate. When traveling on the road I like to invoke the 20% rule. What’s the 20% rule? Budget your time and plan on your trip taking 20% longer than what it would take if you were driving in the middle of July. If your journey normally takes four hours, plan for five. If your trip normally takes eight hours, then plan for ten. The 20% rule is a simple way to give yourself enough of a buffer to plan for the things that happen that you can’t predict or control, such as flat tires, bad weather, bad traffic, road construction, accidents and other issues.
Plan to Stop
Another rule when traveling with children in the car is to plan a stop and take a break from the stress of being in the car. There are a lot of hotel chains that have good kid friendly options that are along the way of your trip.
Pack Extra Kid Supplies
It almost goes without saying, but another golden rule of traveling with children is to pack extra diapers, wipes, diaper disposal bags and all of the extra things that the kids need in order to stay clean and dry for the trip. To prevent needing to use those supplies, limit excessive liquid intake during the trip. Avoid the temptation to stop at the gas station and pick up candy and snacks for everyone. These high fat and high sugar foods often lead to stomach aches and being car sick.
Pack Kid Friendly Entertainment
The average child’s attention span is 5-7 minutes per year of age, so the average three year old has an attention span of 15-20 minutes. Plan accordingly with a lot of games, activity books and crayons, stamps, and kid friendly activities. Be sure to dress each child in comfortable pajamas, complete with their favorite pillows and blankets so they have every opportunity to sleep along the journey. Other things that can help pass the time include playing road games. Consider an educational device such as an iPod touch or small kid friendly tablet.
Plan to Have Fun
No matter where you are traveling, don’t forget to have fun! If possible, stop at a fun place to eat like the Hard Rock Cafe along the way, or visit a famous landmark like the Minneapolis Spoon. The better attitude you have about the trip, the better the attitude will be from your kids.
Nobody plans to go into the ditch, get stuck in the snow, or get delayed for hours by bad weather or traffic. Despite the best timing and plans of any family, delays can happen. By following these seven steps, you can travel worry free with your family during this winter season.
Chris Wensink is the Director of Information Technology for Heyde Companies, owners of the Americas Best Value Inn and Suites of Shakopee, MN. He is a husband, and father of two children, living in Chippewa Falls, WI. For more information visit http://canterburyinnshakopee.com