Survival Skills: How to Survive Your Summer Family Vacation

Intro
Heading out with the family for a long weekend in the mountains, a few days at the lake, or a week at the beach? Summer vacation can turn into a high-stress nightmare without the proper planning. Before you even drag the suitcases out of the attic, give some thought to these seven factors that can make or break a family getaway.
Vehicle
Get Your Vehicle Road-Ready If you’re taking the family truckster, it’s wise to get it serviced before you hit the road. An oil change and a tune-up are great places to begin. Make sure your AC is fully charged if you’re heading someplace hot. Get your coolant system checked too, as an overheated engine will stop you dead in you tracks. If your ride does start to overheat, turn off your AC, open your windows, and turn on the heat. Yes, you’ll feel like you’re in an oven, but your car’s heater pulls heat from the engine. Keep an eye on the temperature gauge, and if the needle starts to drop, you might be able to make it a few more miles to a service station.
Car activities for kids
Keep The Kids Busy "Are we there yet?" Those four little words are enough to drive any parent to the brink of madness—especially if the kids keep asking it over and over. If the little people aren't old enough to understand the passage of time, distraction is your best bet for a quiet car ride. Bring a DVD player with some new movies, and you can all enjoy the drive. If you're not interested in pacifying them with electronics, pack books to read (assuming the kids aren't prone to motion sickness), play games, listen to a book on tape, or any number of other enriching activities. Perhaps they'd even be interested in reading a bestselling survival manual.
Safety
Be Smart With Valuables Once you reach your destination, figure out what you’re going to do with your valuables. In-room safes might be an option, but if you’re not staying in a motel, it’s best to limit the valuables you take with you, keep what you bring hidden on your person, and try not to flash your wealth around. If you stick out as a clueless family on vacation, you’re more likely to be targeted for theft by unscrupulous locals.
Car trip home
Plan For The Long Ride Home If the ride to get there seemed long, the trek home will feel doubly so. You’re all tired, you all hate traffic, and you all know that “fun time” is over. It never hurts to have a few surprises up your sleeve for the grueling ride home. Get the kids a new game or movie while you’re at your destination. Buy your spouse her favorite snack. Pick up a few new books to occupy the readers in your family. The same distractions that worked on the way out may not work on the way back, but a few alternatives might just save the day.
Map
Plan Alternate Routes Home Being on the same road at the same time as all your fellow vacationers is a sure recipe for frustration. Study a few alternate routes before leaving and try to get a handle on peak traffic times. If you know that a certain highway has a reputation for resembling a parking lot at certain times (i.e. the only highway coming back from the beach on a Sunday evening), avoid it like the plague. It might be better to add a few miles to your trip if it means subtracting an hour or more of stop-and-go traffic.
Home safety
Check Your Home-Safety Preps You finally made it home! Before you kick back to recover from the drive, though, give the house a once over to check your home-safety preps. Make sure the food in your freezer is safe to eat by checking the glass of ice cubes you were smart to place in there. If the cubes have melted and refrozen, it means that your food could have melted, spoiled, and refrozen (misshapen popsicles signify the same thing). Check that your computer, checkbook, and other valuables are in the same place and state they were in when you left. Check the trail cams you positioned near doors and windows for any sign of trespassing.
Recovery day
Plan A Recovery Day Quite often, you’ll need a vacation to recover from your vacation. Though most of us spend every available vacation day away from home, it makes sense to get back a day early to get your life back in order before your reluctant return to the workforce and summer chores. This vacation day at home will give you a chance to rest up from your travels, wash all of the foul clothing you’ve been carrying around, clean out the vehicle, and ease back into your normal routine.