There is something spectacular about driving mile after mile on a good road trip. I love watching the countryside pass by as we drive. I love having all seven of us together in our minivan. I love the flexibility of being in control of our schedule and timelines. This Christmas we were hoping to enjoy a cold, snowy road trip to ski in Pennsylvania for a few days.
Christmas came and went, but with unseasonably warm temperatures all along the East Coast this year, the ski resorts remained closed. We waited and watched, but as the temperature in Washington D.C. hit 70 degrees, we changed our travel plans. Instead, our holiday road trip this year took us through the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.
I think twice about preparing for a road trip with my large family. One epic road trip from my childhood left us stranded in Carlsbad, New Mexico, when the old Suburban we were traveling in died as we rolled into Carlsbad. It wasn’t worth the cost to repair the destroyed engine, so my dad sold it to the repair shop for parts, and we walked away with a small amount of cash and seven of us stranded in a very hot campground 1000 miles away from home. After a sleepless night for my parents, we decided IF we could locate a minivan or Suburban and IF our camping gear fit in the car, we would continue on our epic road trip, which was supposed to take us all the way to Orlando, Florida.
Long story short, we located a minivan several hours away and after some very creative packing by some highly motivated kids, we drove east toward Florida and finished one of the most interesting road trips of my life.
When I take a road trip, I remember this trip and do my best to be prepared when I leave home. Here are a few tried and tested tips I use to help us Leave Worry Behind® when we road trip.
My oldest daughter just got her learner’s permit. We tested her driver’s education skills by having her inspect our minivan. Before we headed to the Shenandoah Valley, she thoroughly cleaned the windshield inside and out. She checked the tire pressure, lights, and other gauges.
She found out that one of our brake lights was burned out, so I took a quick trip to Jiffy Lube to replace the brake light and add air to the tires before we left town. When the cold weather hits, I usually need to add air to my tires.
I never start a road trip without a basic emergency kit, which for me includes the following:
- Dramamine for kids
- wet wipes
- gallon ziplock bags
- extra water bottles
- granola and protein bars
- extra blanket
Then of course I always pack my favorite road-trip activities, which for my kids often includes ipads, chargers, and their favorite movies. I usually bring at least some of these 10 Travel Toys for Kids that will fit in one backpack. Our recent favorite is Wikki Sticks, which my 6-year-old and 4-year-old love.
We set out on our road trip through the Shenandoah Valley. Minutes after leaving, our 6-year-old, who is prone to car sickness, needed the Dramamine, and we put on a movie to help her focus her eyes on something other than the movement. Crisis averted. A few peaceful hours later, we arrived at Luray Caverns.
Luray Caverns is a perfect family destination in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. This cave tour lasts a little over an hour as you walk through an amazing cave filled with stalactites and stalagmites, draperies (“cave bacon”), and columns. The musicians in my family enjoyed the world’s largest natural musical instrument. Luray Cavern boasts a pipe organ that plays 37 different notes by tapping on stalactites. We enjoyed a short concert on the pipe organ at the end of our tour.
We spent most of the day enjoying the cave and the museums at Luray Caverns. Our entrance ticket also gave us admission to the Luray Valley Museum, the Car and Carriage Caravan museum, and Toy Town Junction. My kids loved the sunny, outdoor Garden Maze as much as the cave tour. We divided into teams and raced through the maze.
For us, no trip to the Shenandoah Valley is complete without a stop at our favorite burger and custard joint, Spelunkers in Front Royal. We ended our day with award-winning burgers, fries, and homemade frozen custard.
Knowing that our brake light was fixed and our car was in good working condition, I was able to leave worry behind and enjoy our holiday road trip. For thorough road-trip preparation, follow these great Jiffy Lube travel tips.
Jiffy Lube Road Trip Preparation Tips
- Let it Flow: Check the levels of all vital fluids, including motor oil, coolant, transmission fluid and windshield wiper fluid, and top-off, or change fluids, as needed. Motor oil does more than just lubricate moving parts. In colder temperatures, it keeps the engine from freezing, too.
- Maintain a Clear View: Make sure your headlights, taillights, turn signals, parking lights and license plate lights are all working properly. Replace any bulbs that may have burned out and consider getting lights cleaned to remove haze and clarify the lenses for better visibility during night driving.
- Keep ‘Kit’ Together: Be sure that you have a car emergency kit in your trunk for any unforeseeable car issues that may arise during your trip. Kits should include a flashlight, jumper cables, batteries, electrical tape, a rain poncho, a reflective safety vest and an emergency blanket. Drivers should also pack a medical kit equipped with band aids, gauze, alcohol antiseptic pads, insect bit relief and any necessary medications.
- Watch Your Weight: Matching the load rate of your vehicle (found in the owner’s manual or inside the driver’s side door) with the estimated weight of your family and the luggage you’ll be packing for the trip will help improve gas mileage. Excess weight makes the engine work harder and consume more gasoline.
- Keep Rollin’: Check tire air pressure, including the spare. Over- or under-inflation can weaken your tires, cause uneven tread wear and impact your gas mileage. Many drivers think the proper tire pressure can be found on the actual tire, however, that’s incorrect. Refer to your vehicle owner’s manual or to a decal often found in the doorjamb or glove compartment for the proper tire pressure. Check the pressure when the tire is cold/at air temperature. Do not check the pressure after an extended drive on the highway or after driving for more than five minutes.
- Stay Charged: A weak battery is unreliable and may take longer to start on cold mornings. Have the battery tested before long road trips to make sure it has enough cranking power to withstand the cold. To minimize strain, start the vehicle with the heater, lights and window defrosters turned off.
Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Jiffy Lube. As usual, all opinions are my own.