I recently returned from a road trip with my family: Arkansas to New York, driving in a Toyota Camry with my 9yo and cramped giant of a husband. Planning for this trip, after having this job at Interstate Signways, helped me organize what to consider, what to take, and what to have done beforehand. It was so helpful for me and if you’re traveling with your family this holiday season, maybe it’ll be helpful for you too!
First, check your routes. Is there a lot of construction happening along the way? What’s the weather going to be like along the journey? I wore comfy house shoes and already had to change out to something more waterproof on our first stop–since I had already considered this, I had my alternate pair of shoes at the ready in the backseat. Check to see if your vehicle can withstand the weather in a location that’s different than where you’re going. We’re in the south: I made sure that the weather wasn’t going to be snowy or icy because if so, I would have probably gone ahead and gotten some newer tires. If there is a faster route, are there as many cities in between? We took a shorter route but this ended up meaning longer stretches without bathrooms, traveling alongside Lake Erie. I was more familiar with the longer route but opted for the shorter because I was traveling with my child; however, I know that the longer route has more bathroom stops along the way.
Check the distances between cities/towns so you don't end up on a quarter tank of gas or lower, hoping to pass an open gas station in some rural town where everyone is staring at you because you’re obviously “not from around here.” As you enter the one gas station you can’t afford to pass up, a little boy keeps saying, “Hey Morgan, I haven’t seen you in a while. Where’ve you been Morgan?” Yes, this has happened to me and no, my name is not Morgan.
Here is a quick checklist for things to check before traveling along the interstate:
Check tire treads
Top off fluids
Check windshield wipers
Include jumper cables, spare tire, jack
Check car tags
Here is a checklist of things that I’ve found to be helpful and happily had ready in my car:
2 Outlet charger
Wet Wipes (skin safe)
Snacks (salty, sweet, crunchy, chewy)
Don’t forget the dramamine and motion sickness bands if you or someone else might need them, too!
I always feel more likely to forget to do something before leaving home, versus actually leaving an item behind. Most things can be purchased while on the road so other than things specific to YOU, don't be as concerned about things like toothbrushes or shampoo. I make sure that I have my glasses, contacts case, saline solution, and my own prescription medications–things that I couldn’t easily pick up at any random gas station and would hate to be without on the road.
The more tedious part of leaving for a trip is making sure that everything at home is taken care of. Do you have pets and do they need to be checked up on? I had two different people check on my cat and plants. I also have an extra house key hidden just in case I need a third person in case of an emergency. Take out all trash, empty out the dishwasher, and wash all dishes. You do not want to come home from traveling to a weird smell or moldy dishes. Unless you do, in which case, have at it!
For me, I love to come home to everything clean, with my home feeling fresh, my bed made from before the trip, so I can return exhausted, unload the car, and feel that cozy gratitude one feels upon returning home. Remember to look out for your future self, be safe, and have a little grace for yourself and each other. Happy travels!