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Car Packing Tips For Holiday Family Trips

No matter if you are driving or flying to your holiday destination, packing always involves some stress. According to a recent Dodge survey, nearly eight in 10 Americans plan to drive for their next family vacation. Packing expert and author Susan Foster (www.smartpacking.com) has developed these simple tips to help families pack more efficiently and make automotive travel easier and less stressful.

Pack Your Car Efficiently

1. Clean out the interior and trunk/cargo area and get rid of everything not needed on this trip. Make sure the trunk/cargo area light works. Check the emergency kit and pack it last. Have seasonal emergency gear such as tire chains handy.

2. Pack the car/van the night before you leave -- it always takes longer than you think it will. This way you can actually leave first thing in the morning, thus avoiding frayed nerves and the holiday rush.

3. Gather everything you plan to take and selectively edit to fit. Decide where things should go based on when they are needed. Remember: last in, first out. If you are planning to overnight at a hotel before arriving at your final destination, have your suitcases within easy reach. Make sure to stow valuables out of sight.

Consider Packing These Important Items In Your Car

1. Fill a bag or cooler with snacks and drinks and place within reach of the front seat so you can get to it without stopping. Keep a trash bag in both the front and back seat.

2. Picnic supplies can save parents' money and sanity -- just a few picnic meals can cover the increased cost of gas and avoid frustrating restaurant experiences with fussy kids. Picnic breakfast can be cereal in the motel room, lunch might be sandwiches in the van at a rest stop, dinner can be take-out pizza or chicken. Pack the right picnic supplies to bring with you on your trip: plastic tablecloth, paper plates/bowls, plastic utensils, napkins, pocketknife, and
a can opener.

3. Pack plenty of clean-up materials, such as:
** Tissues - travel-size boxes fit into a door pocket, glove compartment or console
** Paper towels - a partial roll fits into the door pocket
** Wipes - look for travel-size pop-ups
** Anti-bacterial hand cleaner
** Plastic trash bags - tuck inside the paper towel roll

4. Help kids feel at home in the vehicle. Pack favorite blankets, pillows, and stuffed animals inside the car so kids feel snuggly for naptime, and comfortable no matter the temperature outside.

5. Have a flashlight handy in the glove compartment or console.

Minimize "Are We There Yet?"

1. Bring a selection of toys and games, avoid items with lots of small pieces that may get lost, as well as liquid or messy things that can spill.

2. Classic family games make the time pass quickly. Look for license plates from different states, count a specific type or color of car, tell jokes -- nothing to pack or moving parts to lose!

3. Get kids involved in the trip with assignments appropriate for their ages. For example, one child can keep track of all expenses; another can be the official map-reader.

4. Children's books on tape and kid's music help to pass the time, even though they may not be the parents' first choice. Let the kids bring along their iPods or MP3 players if they have them.

5. DVD players may be the key to your sanity -- one for each child means less fighting.

6. Stop frequently. Visit local parks or sights, have a picnic or visit a fast-food restaurant with a playground. Although stopping adds time to the trip, it keeps travel interesting for kids. A quick stop to burn off energy is often all they need to happily get back in the car.

Good planning and smart packing creates a well-planned road trip that is a family bonding experience instead of a holiday nightmare. Start planning now for a great trip!

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