We are in the process of planning a military road trip! You know one of those multipurpose trips where you see the relatives, attend a military function and end up at another installation! Ours is going to be long one but we learned a few things during a 30 year military family career!
We are going to first attend a welcome home for our soldier son in law, Paul, from Iraq near Wright Patterson AFB in Ohio; then visit family in Kentucky (a much loved aunt and uncle with cousins nearby); and then head to Ft Sill in Oklahoma to attend Tara Crooks and Star Henderson’s Field Exercise . During the trip home we plan to spend a night at a nephew’s place to say hi to their new member of the household! I think it is about a 3,000 mile odyssey and we have some plans made, travel routes, calls and facebook comments made and hotels booked but here are some ideas for planning for a trip like this one.
First the Plan
What are the reasons for the trip? Pure business? Pleasure? Family reunion? Etc. Good questions to ask: Can I save some funds by combining trips? Start date and end date are important for planning stops, hotel nights, family times, etc. Is there a national park, zoo, or other neat place to visit to break up the trip if its long?
How old and numerous are the travelers? You might be able to do 500 miles in a day but can they in a car seat that long? Plan a reasonable distance and frequent breaks for the younger set. At the other end of the age spectrum (grandparents, like us) some medical authorities recommend taking an aspirin when you are sitting for a long time to avoid clots, aches and pains, etc.
Then the wheels
Check the car or vehicle for general maintenance items such as new filters, oil change, tire pressure and wear, full fluids such as windshield cleaner, brake fluid, etc. Ask your mechanic how trip worthy it is–worse thing to have a road trip is sitting in a garage waiting for the car to be fixed after being towed. Have more than one vehicle? Which gets the best mileage and provides for the comfort features as well? How about music? Often entertaining and makes the miles go by quicker.
Staying with family enroute? Do you have the address and phone number? We communicate so much with social networks and email that I had to find a physical address and phone number for one of our stops. Staying on a military installation? Most allow space available quarter signups in advance and the price is right! If not available what about hotels?
Are you a member of hotel group giving points? If not, why not? They provide free nights or upgrades after you stay several times. One, Choice Hotels even provides upgrades for military members! They sent me an Armed Services Elite Gold rewards program for being a military retiree. We are members of several so we can choose which hotel family is the best for us in a particular location. Also, most allow online reservations and you can cancel up to 6 PM if the trip is rerouted or your planned distance is just not working out that day!
I like to travel early and get to the stop before or at dinner time. But… are you going through any major cities that day? Consider the rush hour in your start time and avoid it if possible. We have had to travel through St Louis and Chicago frequently in the past and we can save hours by not going through at rush hour. If you leave early keep those young ones in their pajamas and let them go back to sleep for a couple of hours. But don’t forget their entertainment! My bride used to provide a great happy moment crossing state lines. Whenever we crossed the line the kids got a small new toy that could entertain them for a while. 🙂
Safety and Patience
This is hard for me to write without sounding hypocritical or preachy. But remember that an extra 5-10 mph may save some time on a trip but the potential speeding ticket will make you wished you had arrived on time with a fatter wallet. Recent news reports have included some states and municipalities that are short of funds using the radar gun as a way to help their balance sheet too! Local officials often appreciate out of state dollars more than the at home crowd too. Keeping a cool head with the passengers fatigued during a long trip is often a challenge but find a way to take them someplace fun for a break for them and you!
Have a great trip!