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While summer doesn't officially begin until June 21, it unofficially kicks off on Memorial Day. Although it's an important day to remember those who have died serving in the armed forces, it’s also a time to sit back and enjoy unscheduled family time together.

If you’re planning on taking a family road trip this Memorial Day, make sure you’re ready for anything. Road trips tend to reveal how much can go wrong when a lot of people are crammed into a tight space. But the benefit of driving is that you won’t have to deal with airline germs or drama. Here are some things to bring to keep your journey smooth and enjoyable.

1. Individual carry-on bags

Keep family members entertained by helping them create a personal carry-on bag. Depending on the age and interests of your child or other family member, items could include:

  • Coloring books and crayons/colored pencils
  • Favorite snacks
  • Magnetic travel games
  • Charged devices
  • Skill-building activity books such as Sudoku

These bags should also take up minimal space — don’t overpack, but have about four entertainment activities per family member to take up some time on the long drive.

2. Easy-access snacks

Food is probably your No. 1 defense against the road-trip blues. People are always happier when their stomachs aren’t rumbly. To avoid overeating or gaining vacation weight, focus on healthy items that are easy to access, distribute and eat. Here are some suggestions:

  • Individual bags of trail mix or just nuts and raisins
  • Carrot and celery sticks
  • String cheese
  • Grapes and other small pieces of fruit
  • Granola bars

As for meals, stopping on the way is always an option, but you could pack individual salads, bean dip or sandwiches. Go for snacks that aren’t smelly or messy but offer a nice diversion from staring out the window for hours.

3. Car games

Although magnetic board games are fun for road trips, there are limitless games you can play as a family that only require your mind and/or your eyes. Group games like I spy, psychiatrist or the ABC game are all fun ones. As you spend time searching for specific letters, license plates or objects, you’ll notice the beautiful scenery and the time will pass even faster.

4. Comfort aids

No one likes dozing off without a pillow, but avoid packing full-size pillows and comforters. Instead, invest in some small travel pillows and thin blankets to provide just enough comfort for quick catnaps. However, make sure the driver is wide awake and alert — even if the passengers are all asleep!

5. Maps

GPS and mobile devices seem to find everything for us these days, but it can actually be a lot of fun planning your trip the old-fashioned way. Take out a map and figure out the best route together, including must-see landmarks or stops along the way. This allows your family to learn about new things and have a particular interest in the journey while adding meaning to your destination.

6. Gadgets in moderation

It’s impossible to escape using various gadgets on a road trip, but don’t let them turn your passengers into tuned-out zombies. After all, endless hours of screen time aren't good for anyone, so plan to have “tech-free” windows of time. Have a designated box or basket for all gadgets so you can put them away and interact with one another by playing some of the games mentioned above. You’ll notice that screen-free time helps you connect better and makes the driver less tempted to join in on their own device. If you’re driving, do not use mobile devices of any kind, as this jeopardizes everyone in your vehicle and out on the road.

To find out more about how to encourage safety on the road by putting away devices, visit www.endtextwrecks.org today.