The Spark Plug

Summer Travel Tips

Now that schools are finally out of session for the summer, many families are preparing for vacations. I know in my family our normal day to day schedule is very full. Unfortunately this leaves us little time to pack and properly prepare for our trips. Because of this, there are things that I try to do each time we prepare for a trip to make things easier. I wanted to share some things I've learned and hopefully some of these things can help you prepare for your family’s upcoming trip!


  • Keep a universal packing list – I have realized over the years that many of the things that end up being forgotten when packing for a trip are often the seemingly obvious things we use everyday. I have created a digital list that has items that are used on many of our trips. This list includes phone chargers, extra shoes, hanging clothes, our camera & our pillows. Some items on your universal list may not be needed for every trip, but it’s best to keep them on the list. It may help you remember that item for the next trip.


  • Specific trip packing list – Because each trip is different, you need a specific list for each one. Best-case scenario, a few weeks before a trip takes place you should start making a list of trip specific items. Examples might be camping equipment, items for the beach, or things you need to take to a family member you are visiting. Be as detailed as possible because even though some of these items will seem obvious, as I said before, the obvious tends to get overlooked in packing.


Extra tip: Does your family take a reoccurring trip? Keep a permanent list for that trip and keep it up to date. If you learn that your trip would be easier with another item, add it to the list. Or if you find out that an item is unnecessary for future trips, remove it. This will keep you from taking the time to create a new list each time.


  • Packing for flying – There are plenty of restrictions when it comes to flying. To help you pack for your trip, keep up to date on the latest restrictions. The TSA ( has a great informational site and a brand new TSA Kids page that can help adults and children alike learn more about flying. Something important to note is that many airlines are now allowing portable electronic devices to be used gate to gate in airplane mode. This can be very helpful for anyone to pass the time.


  • Packing for car travel – One of the easiest ways to save some time and money is to pack a cooler for your trip. Instead of having to stop to pay for food and drinks along the way, you can pack them to allow more flexibility for your trip. Having electronic chargers for the car can help keep those electronics you have become accustomed to using running for your entire trip. Sometimes traveling at night is the best option, so having blankets & pillows available for passengers who may want to sleep is always a good idea.


  • Traveling with Kids – I feel like this topic could be an entire blog post in itself. As a relatively new parent, I have limited experience with this on the parent side. However, I remember some things about traveling as a kid that helped me pass the time, and I have read a few things that I look forward to try in the coming years. Having plenty of snacks and drinks is a good start. Also, packing activity books, favorite toys, movies or other electronic devices can be crucial to a happy trip. Keep in mind that children do not have the same patience level for traveling that many adults have learned to have. Even though it may make the total time of a trip longer, sometimes it’s best to stop to get children out of the car for a while. This could mean stopping at a park, a playground, or finding another point of interest on your travel route that might be fun, interesting, and allow everyone to move around.


  • Safety first – Just like airlines go through a safety check on each plane before every flight, always check your car to be sure that it is in top running condition before your trip. This includes checking fluid levels, tire pressures, battery charge and windshield wiper blades. If you are getting close to your next oil change and you normally take your vehicle somewhere to be serviced, it’s a good idea to do it early. Most places that do oil changes will also check all of these things while you are there for service. Always know your travel route ahead of time. Even though using a GPS is a great tool to help with driving, not knowing your route ahead of time can cause you to make quick and unexpected turns. It’s also handy to keep a map or atlas in the car as well. There are times that a detour may be necessary and while maps on a phone are great, there are times where cell service may be spotty.


  • Make reservations – It’s always good to have a plan, and by planning ahead you can usually save some money as well. Make your travel plans early in order to save the most money and ensure you get to do what you want. This includes hotels, airfare, rentals, tickets to shows or activities, or even some restaurants.


  • Think about your health – Always keep in mind that it is important to take care of yourself. Stay hydrated, get plenty of rest, use sunscreen, take medications and keep up with any healthy routines you keep at home.


  • Have fun and be flexible – Last but not least, make sure you make your trip what you want it to be. While it’s great to have a plan & schedule for your trip, be flexible. Plan some free time into your trip to give you options. You may reach your destination only to find something you want to include in your trip that you didn’t already know about. Since the weather doesn’t always cooperate with your plans, check it to help you plan your stay and if possible swap your plans to help maximize the good weather. However, keep in mind that in some cases a less than perfect weather day can make for a more enjoyable time since it will keep the crowds away.


I hope that you have seen something that can help you out this summer! Be sure to enjoy it!


Steve Durham

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Steve Durham

Steve Durham

Mtg and Tech Consultant

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  • Jenny Fox said Thanks for the great tips! My son has recently been experiencing some car sickness. So I have been packing a couple of ice cold wash clothes and putting them in a cooler. When he starts to feel a bit yucky I have him put the cold cloth on his face. It seems to help a bit. I also recently read an article on another family who travels. The father wrote a book about the experiences. The article is here if your interested: