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Holidays On the Go

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author photo by Autotrader November 2006

With worries about a sluggish economy, and falling gas prices, it's likely that more families will take to the road this year for the holiday season. "Actually, we're finding that the economy is playing a larger role than the perceived safety and security of air travel," says Jim Rink of AAA Michigan.

What that means is that some families accustomed to the convenience of air travel may decide to endure a long drive instead this time. With the right type of vehicle and proper planning, it's not as bad as it might sound. Avoid a hooligan holiday and plan your trip with the kids in mind:

Kids love minivans. Take a minivan, if you have one. Most of the popular minivans are among the safest vehicles in crash tests, and kids love them because they have plenty of personal play space and storage bins for toys. Many newer minivans have an optional TV/DVD player with rear headphones and power outlets and inputs for game consoles, and many also have separate heating/ventilation controls for rear-seat passengers.

Make frequent stops. Stop at least once every two hours to stretch your legs and walk around a bit. Encourage a physical activity during these stops (away from traffic and parked cars), like throwing a Frisbee or kicking a soccer ball.

Keep the little ones engaged. Magnetized board games, travel bingo, and word games are saviors. Plus, on the newer vehicles with video displays and DVD players for the back, there are often inputs for game consoles. Otherwise, bringing a Game Boy can keep them busy, if you can endure the sound.

Bring snacks. Most kids are the most content with small snacks throughout the day. Greasy "road food" definitely isn't the right thing for staying alert or feeling good on trips. Bring fruits and vegetables that are easy to eat, like carrot sticks, bananas, and apples, and easy snacks like granola bars and fig bars. Stay away from excessive caffeine and sugary soft drinks, in favor of juice and water. If you need to use caffeine to stay awake, you shouldn't be on the road, and giving it to the kids will only make them overactive.

Make it an adventure. Stop at a zoo, a park - or even a toy store - along the way to give the kids something to look forward to and break the trip into manageable pieces. Try to get ideas from relatives or friends on where to stop and what the kids might enjoy. If you're not sure, kids almost always enjoy tacky tourist destinations.

Use Internet planning resources. Use sites like Rand McNally, MapBlast, or MapQuest to figure your route and get turn-by-turn driving directions (but bringing your old-fashioned road atlas is still a good idea). For off-the-beaten-track ideas, check with www.roadtripamerica.com and www.roadsideamerica.com for inspiration, or consult with your favorite travel book series.

Be prepared for inclement weather and bad road conditions. If visibility is down or the road might be slippery, slow down.For a refresher on the basics of winter travel and how to stay on the road, see our winter driving tips. And check out our quick advice on what to do in a winter breakdown. Prepare in advance for any problems by packing a winter emergency kit. See TCC's Winter Survival Kit, and make sure to pack extra blankets, clothing, and water for each passenger.

Have patience! Holiday travel - especially in bad weather - might take much longer than anticipated. Allow extra time for weather and traffic, and arrive safely.

©2007 by The Car Connection™ All Rights Reserved - The Car Connection is a Trademark of DA Acquisition
This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Holidays On the Go - Autotrader