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Lifestyle

Road-trip tips from Mid-Atlantic AAA

Are you and your family hitting the road for Memorial Day weekend? You won't be alone -- more than 1.8 million motorists are expected to drive throug Maryland's toll facilities for the three-day weekend, according to a story by Candy Thomson

To get you ready for all those hours in the car -- and to avoid "Are we there yet?" syndrome -- Mid-Atlantic AAA released a list of tips for summer road travel. Here are some highlights:

Plan ahead.  Pack the night before and travel on off peak-times to avoid heavy traffic.  Visit www.MD511.org for current traffic conditions and travel information for Maryland’s roads.

Safety first.  Never let a child ride on an adult’s lap in the car, and always buckle up.  Children are safest in the back seat, wearing seat belts or in federally approved child safety or booster seats.  Maryland law requires children to be buckled in safety or booster seats until they are eight years old.  Children who are at least 4 feet, 9 inches tall are exempted.  The law applies to out-of-state vehicles driving in Maryland and not just to Maryland registered vehicles.  Many other states have similar requirements.

Keep it comfortable.  Pack the car before you put your children in it and make sure they have plenty of room.  Stop every two hours to let children and drivers stretch their legs.  Make sure children are dressed in comfortable clothes with good walking shoes and that they are prepared for weather changes with sweaters or raincoats.  And do not forget a child’s favorite pillow and blanket.

Prepare for the worst.  Keep a photo of your child in your wallet in case you lose them in a crowded area.  Children should always remain under direct supervision, especially at a rest stop.  It only takes a second for a child to be lost, especially in unfamiliar areas.

Keep them entertained.  For babies, teething toys, cloth books, a set of keys to jingle and a purse to search through all can help pass the time.  Older children may enjoy coloring books, erasable slates, books, puzzles, portable travel games or CDs and cassettes featuring songs and stories.  Play games to help pass the time.  How many license plates have you seen from different states?

Carry plenty of snacks and drinks.  Bring nutritious and familiar snacks and beverages.  Be sure to include napkins, wet wipes, travel-size packets of tissue and plastic trash bags.

Have an emergency kit.  Be sure to pack one first aid kit for passengers and another for the vehicle.  Car care kits should include: reflective triangles; jumper cables; jack and spare tire; extra motor oil; antifreeze; windshield wiper fluid; a flashlight with fresh batteries; blankets; cellular phone; non-perishable food such as granola bars and bottled water and juices; and copy of motor club membership card and other emergency numbers.

As someone who took a 9-week-old and a 3-year-old on a road trip to North Carolina by myself a couple of months ago, I can say a lot of these tips sound great. (I might skip letting my kids play with my purse, though. But that's because it's a mess.) And I definitely agree with checking on the weather and road conditions. I didn't look at the weather report before we left on our trip, and we got suprised by a snowstorm in Virginia. (That's not likely to be an issue this weekend, but be prepared for heat!)

What are your tried and true suggestions for traveling with kids?

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