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Don’t Hit the Road Without Reading this Essential Road Trip Survival Guide

According to, there's extra incentive to plan to travel by car with your kids this summer: Fuel prices are currently the lowest they've been all year, and filling up your tank is at an almost ten-year low. Before you hit the road, though, don't miss these tips to get the most out of your car and your road trip vacation.

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Get your car a checkup

According to a recent AAA survey, more than one-third of Americans will plan a road trip vacation of 50 miles or more away from home this summer—and AAA estimates they’ll be called on to rescue nearly 7 million of them. Don’t be one of them! Just like you take your kids to the doctor before school starts, you want to make sure your car is healthy before you take a cross-country road trip or even just head to the nearest lake in the heat. Find a mechanic you trust, and have them do an oil change, fluid level check, battery test, and tire inspection, all of which go a long way toward reducing the chances of a breakdown. Here are seven summer car tips every driver needs to know.

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Pack up your car safely

Summer is the perfect time to take a road trip, but it is important to make sure you’re packing all your beach gear and kids toys safely. “To start, put heavier items on the bottom of the cargo area and toward the front to preserve the integrity of the car in case you need to swerve suddenly in an emergency,” advises Rebecca Lindland of Kelley Blue Books on behalf of Chevrolet. Lindland also recommends avoiding loading SUVs and hatchbacks beyond the height of the rear seat backs, which both helps keep a clear rear view and also prevents items from flying loose and possibly hurting someone in a collision. Check out these life-saving road trip planning apps.


Stock your car with kid savers

In the summer months, hydration is key, so bring plenty of water for everyone in the family as well as snacks in case traffic keeps you on the road in the heat longer than you anticipated. For a cross-country road trip, refillable water bottles for each person in the car are economical as well as practical. Let little ones make bento-style snack boxes using sectioned plastic craft boxes and fill each compartment with bite-size (non-choking hazards) such as Goldfish crackers, raisins, cereal, and apple slices. And don’t forget some quiet crafts and games, such as stickers, etch-a-sketch, and a fidget spinner or two. (Here are some great car games to play with your kids.) While you’re at it, make sure to tuck a first aid kit and roadside emergency kit into your car, too; they’re always good to have, along with portable chargers for your mobile phone so you can call for help if needed.


Go hands free and Wi-Fi

Tech has changed the way we drive; but you never want to text or have your phone to your ear while driving, not least of all because you have your family in the car. Instead, consider choosing a car that allows you to go hands-free while staying connected such as the Chevrolet Equinox which offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, allowing you to send and receive texts and access your music, maps, and more all while you keep your eyes focused on the road. The Equinox also offer Wi-Fi connectivity, which is a true crowd pleaser for kids of all ages (and often a lifesaver for parents who’ve heard a few rounds too many of “are we there yet’). If you don’t have a car with this feature, consider a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot, such as Verizon’s Hum, which provides Internet access as well as emergency assistance.

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Keep the kids safe

Road trips make for a great family vacation, but make sure the kids are safe throughout your road trip. Of course, everyone in the family needs to wear their seat belts and all children under 13 should ride in the back seat, according to Lindland. With soaring temperatures, never leave a child unattended in a parked car as they can quickly experience heatstroke. Bring along some ginger and other natural remedies to beat motion sickness. And plan on stopping at least once every two hours to let the kids stretch and take a bathroom break so they don’t get a stomachache or have an accident. Remember, getting there should be half the fun!

Melissa Klurman
Melissa Klurman is a freelance travel writer and editor with more than 27 years experience who reports on travel trends around the planet for Reader's Digest. Winner of a Lowell Thomas Gold Award for excellence in travel writing, she started her career as an editor at both Frommer’s and Fodor’s travel guides, then went on to write about travel for many publications including Family Traveller, Parents, and Working Mother magazines. More recently she has been a contributing editor at Saveur, Islands, and Caribbean Travel and Life and a senior contributor at Travelocity. A New Jersey native, ice cream addict, and a lifelong Bruce Springsteen fan, Klurman lives in Montclair, New Jersey, with her husband, son, and rescue dog.