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A Stress-Free Car Trip

When I ask adults to name the childhood vacation they most loved and remember, the answer is almost always a road trip. When I ask parents what their family vacation nightmare is, the answer is almost always  -- you guessed it  -- a road trip.

What's great about family driving trips is also what's potentially awful  -- long hours close together in unfamiliar places with no means of escape. Which is why, if you'd told me eight years ago that I was destined to log more than 25,000 miles on the road with my family (Kira, now 18, Molly, 12, and Hutch, 9), I might have put the minivan up for sale on the spot. And I would have missed out on some of our best, and most memorable, family vacations.

To date we've covered 43 states, one province, and cities from coast to coast. We've visited president's houses, alligator farms, five-star resorts, and ten national parks. We've checked out the world's largest thermometer (or so the sign said), and had our picture taken on a giant, but, alas, not real, "jackalope." We've seen America as it can only be seen on a driving vacation, and we've had a blast  -- surprises, wonders, problems, and all. If I had to boil my recipe for success down to just one word, it would be this: planning. It can almost guarantee success  -- which is not always synonymous with problem-free. It can also help you handle whatever hazards and detours the road throws at you. One more thing you'll need before you hit the highway: Your sense of humor in case disaster strikes. That and a master plan will get you through anything.