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Ready, Set, Go!

December 11th, 2008 by bsmith | Filed under Road Trips, Smith Family Misadventures, Travel Tips.

Guest blogger Joanne Smith gives more great tips for family roadtrips, travel safety saving money, and dealing with family misadventures.  I wish I had followed her paper map suggestion.  The GPS on our new  (to us) family adventuremobile was an absolute joke!  Thanks Joanne, and let us know how your mystery trip goes!

Happy Trails,


Alright, we don’t have the money to travel this year. Still,  since for once we’re all off for the same two weeks, some how we’re going to pull off the surprise of the year!  Getting ready to travel long distances requires a detailed plan.  Fail to plan and you’ll end up with some mighty good stories… if you survive the trip. 

Our car is in desperate need of repair.  With a transmission that is slipping and an engine that is finicky at best, the first stop is at the local mechanic for a tune up.  But there is that money issue.  We’ve found that, if you ask around ,some places offer a 90 days same as cash option on car work including tires.  Within 90 days we’ll have that tax return money and a car that runs instead of one that I’ll have to tow into the dealer to fix.  The other reason this car fixing business is so important is that we are traveling through some very wintery areas to get to our final location.   I, for one, don’t want to get stuck in a snow bank along some lonely stretch of road with no cell service.

In the car consider carrying paper maps.  Maps are a necessity.  Mapquest, GoogleMap or use a GPS for your main route all you want, having a hard map at hand when there is road construction or an accident up ahead is crucial for that last minute detour.  Have some snacks or better yet, prepare some sandwiches for a picnic lunch/dinner.  This not only saves a bit of money while traveling, it’s also essential if you get stuck on the HWY.  Remember that passes can be treacherous this time of the year and at any moment a Department of Transportation can close them leaving you stranded between exits.  Don’t forget the water either.   Water is the most essential thing to have in an emergency.  And while you’re packing an emergency kit complete with a set of tools, gloves, chains and the water, add in some matches and a fire starter.  My motto is: if you’re prepared you won’t need anything you packed.  The state of MN has an excellent Winter Survival in Your Car guide.

Now the question is what to pack for the kids?  If you read my first blog you know I recommend books on tape/CD as an alternative to the DVD player.  But I will include a power source for my laptop and some DVD’s because you just never know what might happen. 

Check the weather where you are headed.  I know I’ve had family come to visit us and they’ve not been prepared for the snow and the cold we have here and conversely, I’m ready for snow, but often times snow coats are too heavy for just rain and a 20 degree shift in temperature, so while I’ll have my warm coat in the car I’ll also make sure we have some lighter weight rain gear.  About a week before we leave I’ll begin making a pile of things I don’t want to forget and I’ll make a trek to the library as well.

What about the pets?  Ideally they get to come with you, but it’s not always a possibility.  The next option for us is having someone stay at the house with them or have a neighbor check on them daily.  The last option is calling a kennel.  If you have to kennel your animals make sure you call well in advance of leaving as kennels fill fast over the holidays.  Although traveling with animals has its good points, more often than not, losing their routine and having to be in someone else’s home with them can cause problems, especially if where you are going has animals as well. 

Even with a house sitter I will stop my mail.  Put in your vacation hold about 3 days before you plan to leave.  You can do this by filling out a form at the Post Office.  If you forget, don’t worry, most Letter Carriers will accept a signed note left in your mail box on your way out of town.  Unless you are only gone a few days, plan on retrieving your mail at the Post Office after you return.  You can do something similar with the newspaper or offer to let the neighbor pick yours up to read while you’re away.

Even with a good plan, accidents happen.  I’ll never forget the trip with my son when he was 3.  Still in a car seat and not realizing that he was getting  car sick, he asked for some chocolate milk thinking he was hungry.  I happily gave it to him because I was driving and couldn’t see that his face was stark white.  He no sooner emptied the container and it came right back up, all over and in the car seat.  I pulled over immediately and took something out a suitcase for him to change into and something already in the dirty clothes to wipe up the mess with for the time being.  When we arrived at the next stop, a cleanup was in order and then I used a blanket to line the seat where it was still wet.

My other favorite tragedy came on our next long trip when we stayed in a hotel on the way home.  My son is always happy to try new things as long as he has a comfort with him.  At nine the comfort is a book and his favorite pillow, at 4 he still carried around a stuffed bear named Taddy.  Well Taddy never made it home the next day.  I called where we stayed but no one found Taddy, so I found a replacement, not another Taddy, but a fuzzy blanket that has bright colored Taddy’s all over it.  It’s a reminder of his old friend and one that thankfully now stays on the bed buried under his other blankets where none of his friends will find it.

Now that your prepared.It’s time to go.  Enjoy your holiday vacations, family and friends.
Happy Holidays
Joanne Smith

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