The holiday season is upon us and that means more than 54 million Americans will be traveling 50 miles or longer just for Thanksgiving. AAA Road Service predicts that 48.5 million of those travelers will embark on a road trip to visit family or friends for the holidays, many of them right here in New Jersey. Keep your child and entire family safe while traveling by motor vehicle this holiday season through adequate preparation, skilled driving practices and safe judgment when the roads aren’t up to par. Plus, liven up your road trip with fun on-the-road games and a variety of snacks and activities to fill bellies and entertain everyone.
Designing Your Road Trip Packing List
Packing for your road trip requires thoughtful preparation. Beginning by crafting a packing list that will cover everything you need for entertainment, eating safety. Avoid hearing the monotonous refrain “are we there yet” by planning out your travel time as bonus family time to share together over fun activities and nutritious snacks. And be prepared to react or respond to less-than-idea condition with all the supplies you need for emergencies.
Fun-Yet-Nutritious Car Food
Even if you feed your family a full meal just before hitting the road, your children will be ready for some munchies by the time you’re at the end of the block. There’s something about a road trip that just inspires snack cravings. At the same time, you won’t want your children on sugar highs for the duration of the trip or making a mess in your car with hard-to-eat foods. Consider these items for your impromptu in-car pantry:
- Carrot, celery, or green pepper sticks
- String cheese
- Granola bars
- Applesauce or yogurt tubes
- Apple slices
- Ham or turkey with mustard or mayo
Always bring along more than enough water for everyone in the car, as well as sugary drinks if anyone suffers from hypoglycemia or diabetes to have on hand. Also, bring medication to cover a time period at least twice as long as your trip, so you have enough in case winter weather leaves you stranded.
Entertaining Games for Road Trips
It’s time to teach the road trip games of your youth to your children – and add on some fun new additions to enable family game time while on the road. A few oldies-but-goodies to try are:
- I Spy
- A-Z Road Sign Spotting
- Spot the License Plate
- 20 Questions
- I’m Going on a Picnic
Now, let’s add some new options to the list. You can craft some of these on your own ahead of time or buy pre-made game kits at your favorite retailer.
- RubberNeckers: a hilarious game that combines elements of I Spy and Charades
- Would You Rather: deciding which absurd scenario you’d rather fulfill
- MadLibs: fill in the word, read the resulting hysterical story
- Road Trip Bingo: find all of the elements, fill your card and win!
Some children will need other types of stimulation or activity after group events. Pack handheld devices or books to allow for individual quiet time when it becomes necessary.
Safety Supplies for the Road
Sometimes, you can plan for unfortunate scenarios that will impact your road trip ahead of time because of expected storms, ongoing road construction or major accidents that shut down roadways. Other times, freak storms, smaller accidents that still impact traffic or other emergency situations hit without warning. Either way, finding space in your car for necessary supplies can mean the difference between riding out issues in comfort and scraping to get buy.
For your road trip, plan to pack:
- A well-stocked first aid kit that includes bandages, ointments, medications and more
- Enough blankets to cover everyone
- Flashlights and extra batteries
- Spare tire, tire jack, and tire pressure gauge
- Kitty litter or sand to help with icy situations
- Window brush/scraper combo for ice and snow
- Jumper cables
Preparations for the Road
Now that you’ve packed your food, games and safety supplies and your luggage is also ready, it’s time to prepare for the trip itself. Begin by mapping out your travels. Take a look at your routes ahead of time so you can prepare for situations like:
- Road construction that closes exits and necessitates alternate routes
- Long stretches between gas stations so you can fuel up appropriately
- Overloaded roadways that cause normal travel times to double or triple
New Jersey experiences a lot of in-state traffic, as well as traffic passing through from and to surrounding states. That means that New Jersey roads suffer their fair share of collisions and incidents. Some roadways are especially troublesome. Check this list to see if you’ll be traveling on some of the ;deadliest roads in New Jersey so you can mentally prepare for how you’ll navigate and react defensively when needed. Should you experience an incident and need ;help after a car accident, seek legal counsel as soon as possible to protect your rights.
Apps for Your Trip
Download or familiarize yourself with apps on your phone ahead of your trip so you are well prepared. Include these options so your trip comes off without a hitch.
- Google Maps or the iPhone Map app – plug in your starting and ending destinations and see your trip options along the way
- Waze – add user-entry guidance as an overlay to your map experience to know about accidents as they happen, where speed traps are located and when to swerve to avoid a pothole
- GasBuddy – never pay a dime more for gas with this app that relies on user input to indicate where the cheapest or nearest gas is to your location
- Weather.com – look ahead at your hour-by-hour forecast in each area you’ll be in or driving through to know when storms may disrupt your plans
Road Conditions in New Jersey
Rely on 511NJ.org to help you with breaking news conditions throughout the Garden State. This site auto-refreshes every two minutes so you always know which roads are impacted. The state also runs NJCommuter.com to check maps and weather reports for adequate trip planning. Should you find yourself in need of road service or with help while stranded, New Jersey offers the free Safety Service Patrol program to all state motorists.
Road trips and visits with family and friends are fun and fulfilling during the holiday season. After you use this guide to prepare, you’ll be ready to make the most of that wonderful time.