A Road Trip Survival Guide: Seven Practical Tips to Keep You Sane on the Road

If you’ve ever taken a road trip with children before, you know it can be a long, difficult, exasperating event. Even the best-behaved kids can get antsy and irritable in the car. And even the most patient parents can lose it after being locked in a super-sized tin can for hours on end.

But while taking a road trip always presents some challenges, it doesn’t have to be torture for you or the kids. With a little strategic planning, it can actually turn out to be rather fun. Here are a few tips to help you survive the trip with your sanity intact.

No. 1. Plan in advance

We’ve said it before, but it always bears repeating. The first prerequisite to a successful family vacation is a good plan. Make a list well in advance of all the things you need to do before you leave (check the oil and tire pressure; buy new wiper blades; shop for snacks; download audio books and movies, etc. ) Then think about what you need to pack for yourself and each child, and begin setting items aside. If it looks like it’s going to be more than will fit in your family sedan, consider renting a mini-van. It will increase your vacation budget, to be sure. But the potential benefits — more leg room, more space per child, more room for suitcases and backpacks — may be worth the cost.

No. 2. Pack strategically

If you’re traveling any distance with a couple or more kids, you’ll undoubtedly have one or two large suitcases on board. But rummaging through a crammed suitcase for a fresh tee shirt for 4-year-old who spilled his juice is definitely not what you want to do while you’re on the road. A better plan: Bring a backpack for each child that holds a change of clothes and appropriate outdoor attire. If you’re coming to Atlanta in the spring or summer, pack a swimsuit, too, in case you find someplace to take a dip. And if you’re traveling with young children, don’t forget to include their favorite stuffed animal or toy. If there’s room in the car, a pillow and a blanket for each child can making napping both more likely and more comfortable.

No. 3. Keep essentials handy

This may seem like a no-brainer, but after a few hours in the car, its very easy to lose track of everything your brought along for the ride. To minimize “Where’s the (fill in the blank)” conversations, pack a bag for the front seat that holds essentials like face wipes, paper towels and small plastic trash bags. If you’re planning to stop for an outdoor adventure along the way, include sucnreen, insect repellant, hats and anything else you need to keep everyone safe and comfortable outdoors.

No. 4. Bring lots of snacks

We all know that boredom makes us hungry…or at least we think we’re hungry when there’s nothing else to do. So, to fill in the long spaces between stops and keep everyone’s blood sugar (and mood) in a good place, pack an abundance of healthy snacks. Granola bars, dried fruit, pretzels and dry cereal are good choices for snacking on the road. If you can squeeze a cooler into the car, add things like yogurt tubes, string cheese, some PB&J sandwiches, juice boxes and small containers of milk. Hint: if space in the cooler is limited, bring along containers of shelf-stable milk.

No. 5. Explore the route

An essential part of a successful road trip is stopping — a lot. Children, even school-aged children and teens, aren’t built to sit in a car for long periods of time. (For that matter, neither are you.) Older kids may be able to tolerate four hours of sitting still fairly well. But toddlers will typically need to get out and burn off some energy every couple of hours, at most.

Before heading out on your road trip, explore the route using an app like Roadtrippers. Just enter your start and end points, and the app will show you an amazing array of attractions, from parks to motels to restaurants and bars. Or try the Roadside America app, which promises to take you to “crazy places” that other guides miss. Note: As of this writing, both apps are available for iOS devices, but only Roadtrippers is available for Android.

No. 6. Plan your pit stops

The best family road trips include some off-road entertainment, like a trip to a national monument or amusement park. But if you’re pressed for time, you may have to make do with well-planned pit stops where everyone can get out and stretch their legs, use the restroom and freshen up. If you’re traveling on the Interstate, download the  iExit app to your Apple or Android phone. It maps out every exit on your route and highlights what’s available there, including food, lodging, gas and ATMs. It also integrates with Gas Buddy (for real time fuel prices), Yelp, and Travel Coupons, (for inexpensive, same-day hotel deals.)

No. 7. Bring lots of entertainment

Technology has been an enormous boon for parents on the go. Portable DVD players and iPads are pretty much standard fare for any family road trip these days. Just keep in mind that wifi can be spotty, even along major routes. So make sure you download enough movies, games, TV shows and age-appropriate audio-books to keep the children engaged. But don’t rely just on screentime to keep your children occupied. If you’re traveling with young kids, bring along some stickers, washable markers and some blank paper for them to entertain themselves. If you’ve got slightly older kids, engage with them in interactive games, like the old stand-bys “I Spy,”  ”20 Questions” and our favorite, “Hangman.”

A family vacation road trip should be fun. And with a little forethought, it definitely can be. Sure, being locked in a car for hours on end can be tiring and boring. But if you think of it as an adventure and present it that way to your kids, you’ll be way ahead of the game

About Us

Atlanta Family Vacation Rentals is your go-to venue for affordable family vacations in the Atlanta Metro area. Check out our beautiful family vacation rentals here. Or, if you have questions or want to speak to us before booking, give us a call or reach out online.  We will help find a great vacation home for your family at the best possible price. 

Flying This Flu Season? Here’s How to Stay Well

Prevent the flu on crowded airplanesThe United States is in the grip of one of the most widespread flu outbreaks in over a decade. Every state is affected, and the number of cases is climbing every day. To make matters worse, the currently available flu vaccine is only 30 percent effective against this season’s flu strain. What this means is that all of us — particularly air travelers — are especially vulnerable to getting sick.

Everyone knows that air travel increases the risk of developing an illness. According to an article published in the Journal of Environmental Health Research, air travelers are up to 10 times more likely to report cold symptoms after flying than those who stayed on the ground. The main culprits, say experts, are limited air space per passenger and low humidity. Exposure is a factor too, of course. And when more travelers are sick, your odds of being exposed to the flu go up.

So how do you protect yourself from the flu if you have to travel? Here are a few common sense tips.

No 1. Stay hydrated

Low humidity is a fact of life on aircraft that travel 30,000 to 35,000 feet in the air. In fact, the humidity at that altitude is only about 15 percent, far too low to keep your mucus membranes moist. And when your nasal passages and throat dry out, viruses tend to stay in the respiratory tract rather than traveling to your gut, where they’re destroyed.

To defend against the dry air, hydrate yourself before, during and after your flight. Drink at least 16 ounces of water before boarding the plane, and keep drinking once you’re in the air. (Alcohol doesn’t count! In fact, alcohol causes dehydration. So if you’re going to have an alcoholic beverage, you need to drink additional water to compensate.) And keep drinking water when you’re on the ground.

No. 2. Disinfect your space

Anyone who has ever waited in a boarding area of an airport knows that turn-around times between flights are brief. This allows the airlines to get passengers on board and in the air more efficiently.  But it also means that no one has cleaned the area where you will be sitting, eating and/or drinking for several hours of more.

To protect yourself against germs of all kinds, take disinfectant wipes on the airplane, and wipe down your tray table, your seat belt and the arms of your seat. The flu virus isn’t particularly resilient, but it can live on hard surfaces for up 24 hours, says WebMD.

No. 3. Wash your hands

Soap, hot water and friction are a great way to keep flu germs at bay. Wash your hands before you get on the plane and frequently throughout the trip. And to be on the safe side, use a paper towel as a barrier between your hand and the restroom door handle when you’re done.

If you’re not fond of moving around on an airplane, bring along a small bottle of hand sanitizer (remember the TSA 3-ounce rule). According to Dr. Trish M. Perl, M.D., an assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins Medical School, these alcohol-based cleansers are just as effective against the flu virus as washing your hands. Just rub it in well and wait for it to dry.

No. 4. Stay away from people who are sick

This advice may be a bit hard to follow on a crowded commercial airliner. But if the person sitting next to you is coughing and hacking, it’s worth asking the flight attendant to seat you somewhere else. According to a 2009 report from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, you are 77 percent more likely to catch the flu from someone sitting directly next to you than from even two rows away. Sitting within two rows of an infected person increases your risk by only 3 to 6 percent.

If separating yourself physically from an infected person just isn’t possible, try to keep your mucus membranes hydrated with a saline nasal spray. Putting a little Vasaline around your nostrils may also act as a barrier to flu germs.

No. 5. Take care of yourself!

Contrary to folk lore, there is little evidence that certain nutrients can prevent a cold or flu, not even vitamin C. However, eating a nutritious, well balanced diet and getting enough exercise can boost your immune system, which may help ward off the flu. Follow the CDC guidelines and eat lots of fruits and vegetables, which contain immune-boosting antioxidants. According to the University of Tennessee Medical Center, some good choices are broccoli, red onion, blueberries, grapes, oats, barley and tea. And make sure you get at least 30 to 60 minutes of exercise every day, which can boost your immune system too. Last but certainly not least, get enough sleep. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that healthy adults between the ages of 18 and 65 get 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. 

 

Obviously, there’s no surefire way to keep the flu at bay, especially when you’re traveling by air. But keeping yourself healthy and hydrated is a great place to start

About Us

At Atlanta Vacation Rentals (???) we’re committed to making your travels as safe, convenient and pleasant as they can be.  Check out our available properties here on our website, or  contact us by phone at  404-618-2661.

Ten Packing Tips from Seasoned Travelers

If you’re like most Americans, taking your family on vacation is a once or maybe twice-a-year event. And, unless you or your spouse travels a great deal on business, that means you’re probably not very good at packing efficiently. Not to worry, though. We’ve gathered these 10 smart packing tips from some seasoned travelers we know. They should help you get the whole family packed up and off on vacation in no time flat.

No. 1. Make a list

We’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. There’s no reason to wait until the last minute to start packing for a family trip. As soon as you have your plans set, start a packing list for everyone in the family. (Older kids can start their own and let mom or dad review it as it gets closer to your travel date.) The lists will give you a very good idea of how much luggage you’ll need. And starting early will give you time to trim items from the list if it looks like you’ll have more luggage than you can carry (or afford!)

No. 2. Know your airlines’ baggage policy

If you’re flying domestically, most airlines charge a fee of between $25 and $35 if you want to check a bag. (No-frills Spirit Airlines charges $50 and $50 for a carry on, too. ) Most international flights allow one free checked bag, but it’s a good idea to check before you book. Carry-on bags are typically free, but they must fit in the overhead bin or you’ll have to check them whether you want to or not.  

If you’re traveling with a large family, managing carry on luggage can be a nightmare, especially if you have young children in tow. Although it will be more costly, some frequent fliers we spoke with said it’s worth it to check one or two large bags so your hands are free to help your children manage their things.

No. 3. Roll, don’t fold

According to the seasoned travelers we asked, one of the most helpful packing tips they know is “Don’t fold, roll!” Rolled clothes take up less room in your luggage, and  are usually far less wrinkled than folded clothes when they’re unpacked.

No. 4. Use the inside of shoes for more space

Shoes are big and clunky and take up a lot of precious real estate in your bag. But you can minimize the impact of packing a couple of pairs of shoes by using the the insides to store small items, such as belts, scarves, ties or even toiletries.

No. 5. Try compression packing sacks.

Just like those nifty plastic storage bags that you use for storing bedding, Eagle Creek Pack-it compression sacs feature a one-way valve at the end that allows you to expel any air trapped inside. Just pack the bag, roll it down towards the valve, and then zip it shut. The sacs come in three sizes and are reinforced with nylon, so they’re sturdy enough to use again and again.

No. 6. Know the TSA rules.

Getting through security with your family can be a major event, but knowing the rules and following them can make it a lot easier on everyone. Here’s a quick rundown on the most important packing tips to keep in mind:

  • Government issued ID — All adults over the age of 18  will need to show a government issued ID such as a drivers license or passport when they check in with TSA. [Note: If you live in a state that is not yet in compliance with the Real ID Act, you will need a passport or other acceptable form of ID as of Oct. 11, 2018.]
  • The 3-1-1 Rule — Each traveler is limited to one quart-sized plastic bag holding liquids and/or gels. The volume of each item can be no more than 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters. Medicines, breast milk, formula, contact lens solutions and other essential items are exempt from this rule.
  • Shoes off — When you go through security, you must remove your shoes. To make life easier and move through security more quickly, have everyone in the family wear slip on shoes. Coats and jackets must come off too.
  • All electronics larger than a cell phone must be taken out of your carry-on luggage and placed in a plastic bin. This includes laptop computers, tablets and e-readers like Kindle or Nook. Make sure your family stows these someplace where they’ll be accessible, not buried at the bottom of a carry-on or tote.

For a detailed explanation of all TSA rules (there are quite a few) check out the website here.

No. 7. Keep valuables and essentials with you

Obviously, you’re not going to put your passport or credit cards in your checked bags. But you should try to keep things like electronics and high-end jewelry with you as well, just in case your luggage disappears. Keep at least a three-day supply of any medicine you take regularly with you too.  It can be hard to get a refill when you’re not in your home state.  In fact,  it may be impossible if you’re taking certain types of drugs, such as pain medicine or sleeping pills, so keep this in mind.

No. 8. Wrap your curling iron in an oven mitt

If you’re curling iron is still hot and you’re ready to run out the door, stick it in an oven mitt to protect your clothes.

No. 9. Bring a tote bag

Almost all airlines allow passengers to carry-on one piece of luggage and one personal item, such as a purse. Make the most of this policy by picking up a large tote bag, backpack or briefcase and using it to hold books, tablets, magazines, water bottle, snacks and miscellaneous items to entertain the kids. Bring along a small purse that can hold credit cards and a cell phone, and stash that in the bag as well. Just make sure the tote fits under the seat in front of you. If it doesn’t, take out a few items and stash them in your carry on bag. You can take them out once the plane is in the air. 

No. 10. Use an egg carton to pack jewelry

With it’s ready made compartments, an egg carton is a perfect place to stash earrings, bracelets, watches and the like. Just put your jewelry in the compartments, and seal the carton  with a piece of tape. Keep necklaces separate and tangle-free by threading them through a straw, then fastening the catch.

Now, there are probably dozens more smart packing tips that we haven’t included here. But we hope these will buy you a little bit more freedom and a little less stress when you take your next trip. And if there’s anything we forgot, feel free to reach out and let us know. We’ll be happy to pass them on!

About Atlanta Family Vacation Rentals

At Atlanta Family Vacation Rentals, your comfort is our top priority. Our rental homes are centrally located, tastefully appointed and outfitted with all amenities you and your family need. Make the most of your stay in Atlanta! Give us a call at 404-618-2661 to learn more about available properties, or use our handy scheduler to book your stay online. Or if you’d like us to give you a call, just fill out our online form and we’ll get back to you at a convenient time.

Plan Your Spring Break Family Vacation Now

Kids playing in water during spring breakSo, you’ve just finished doing your income taxes for 2017, and you’re getting a hefty refund this year. If you don’t need the money to pay bills or replenish your savings, you may be thinking about using it for that family vacation you’ve been thinking about for some time. After all, spring break is right around the corner. The kids will be out of school, and you’ve got some time off coming to you, too.

If an impromptu spring break vacation sounds like a great idea about now, start planning right away. Spring break (officially the period between February 24th and April 9th, says the LA Times.) is one of the busiest travel times of the year, so make your reservations for air travel and a vacation rental as soon as you can. Then get the family together and decide on some of the things you’d like to do.

Sounds simple, right? And with the dozens of travel websites and apps available today, it actually isn’t that much of a chore. But we all know that the planning isn’t finished until everyone is packed on their way. And those last minute preparations can be the most taxing and stressful of all. That’s why we’ve put together a couple of tips to help you get the family out the door with everything they need.

Tip #1. Start Early

Many people think that packing for a family vacation has to happen right before travel day. But, especially if you’re leaving winter weather for a warmer locale, a lot of packing can be done well in advance. If you’re heading to Atlanta from somewhere up North, you can leave your heavy sweaters and woolen caps behind. The average temperature here in March during the daytime is about 65 degrees, and it dips to just about 45 at night. So pull out the family’s spring wardrobe and start organizing now. If your children are old enough, have them sort through their clothes and decide what they want to take. Then you can cull through the selection and make necessary changes later on.

Tip #2. Buy extra

Another early packing tip — buy an extra set of toiletries for the family and pack them up now. You’ll wind up buying them eventually anyway, so why not pick them up ahead of time and put them aside for the trip? If your children are teenagers with individual preferences (what teen doesn’t have a favorite shampoo?) buy a travel-sized set of toiletries for for each one, and put them in plastic bags labeled with their names.

While you’re out shopping, pick up some extra batteries (AA and AAA are usually all you’ll need) and a couple of extra mini-USB chargers for phones, Kindles, tablets and the like. And put them aside in your “packing pile” too. Lastly, buy some pre-packaged snacks, like raisins and other dried fruits, crackers and granola bars and set them aside for the trip.

Tip #3. Plan Some Fun Activities

The wonders of modern technology can keep kids entertained for hours these days. Just hand them an iPad with some age-appropriate apps and games, and they’ll be glued to the screen for quite some time. But if you’d like to interact with your children while you’re traveling, or if you think limiting screen time is a good idea, try to plan to play some fun, interactive games as well.  

If you’re driving to your spring break destination,  ask school-aged kids to search for license plates from all 50 states, or find as many different kinds of cars as they can. (You can print a list here.) Or play 20 Questions, Hangman, or Tic-Tac-Toe with them on a plane. If you’re traveling with a toddler, pick out a few books, some blank paper, crayons and a package of stickers, and set them aside. Better yet, put them in a backpack that you grab as you run out the door. Teenagers? Just make sure they have their phones and chargers, and you’re all set.

Tip #4. Make a List

After you’ve packed everything you can think of in advance of your trip, make a list of all of your and the family’s last minute needs. Start with the items you typically forget on every trip, whether that’s a toothbrush charger, reading glasses, baby wipes or a contact lens case. Then go through a typical day in the life of your family, and make a list of essentials that you’d rather not buy on the road. Do you need to a hairdryer or an iron? How about running shoes? Do your kids wear braces and use a Waterpik? The last thing you want to spend your money on while on a family vacation is high-priced items that you forgot at home.

Tip #5. Have Fun!

When all is said and done, the most important thing to remember about a spring break vacation is that it’s supposed to be fun! Planning ahead to take the stress out of the preparations is a great idea. But leave some room for improvising and spontaneous changes in your plans. Sometimes the best laid plans go awry anyway, due to things like weather issues, travel delays or unexpected snafus. Approaching your vacation with an open mind and a relaxed attitude will go a long way towards helping you deal with those little surprises too.

Learn More

Are you coming to the Atlanta area for business or pleasure? We at Atlanta Family Vacation Rental offer comfortable accommodations in some great locations at outstanding rates. Give us a call to learn more about what we have available, or visit our online scheduler to view properties and availability, or to book online. 

Five Tips to Finding a Great Vacation Rental

The short-term vacation rental industry has exploded in recent years. Websites like AirBnB, VRBO, and HomeAway.com book millions of vacation rentals for travelers around the world every day, most of the time with outstanding results. Still, if you’re looking to book a vacation rental for the first time, the sheer quantity of websites and available properties can be enough to send you running in the other direction — right back to a familiar overpriced resort.

But navigating the vacation rental market doesn’t have to be a harrowing experience. In fact, if you follow these few simple tips, the process can be rather simple, satisfying, and even fun.

#1. Know what you want
The reason so many people have trouble finding the “perfect” vacation rental is because they have yet to decide on what they want. Sure, you probably know whether you plan to spend your days relaxing on the beach or sightseeing in the city. But have you thought about what your ideal accommodations would be like — what are your “must haves” and what can you do without?

Start with how many people will be sharing the rental, and how many bedrooms and bathrooms you will need. Think carefully about this one! Sharing a bedroom may seem like no big deal until you discover that the person you’re sharing with snores. And if you’re on a timetable (for sightseeing tours and the like) optimizing the number of bathrooms available can help get everyone out the door on time.

Think, too, about what you and your traveling companions like to do. Luxurious accommodations and extras like a swimming pool are nice perks, but if you’ll be doing little more than sleeping in your vacation rental they might not be worth the price. And a gourmet kitchen isn’t strictly necessary if breakfast is the only meal you’ll eat at home. On the other hand, if day trips are your main goal, and you plan to stay in and relax at night, it’s worth looking for a rental with a big screen TV, streaming video, a nice stereo, a great kitchen and perhaps even a hot tub.

#2. Know what you need
Knowing what you want in a vacation rental is crucial, but equally important is knowing what you need. Are you traveling with an older person with limited mobility? Then you probably need a place with no stairs. Are you taking along your toddler? Then you’ll need a vacation rental that’s already baby-proofed or provides safety equipment such as cabinet locks and baby gates. Traveling with Fido? Make sure there’s somewhere safe and accessible to take him out to “do his business,” even at night. Confirm all of these things with the owner and/or manager in writing before booking your rental, and make sure you have a phone number where you can reach them if there are any problems when you arrive.

#3. Set a budget

There’s no point searching for your perfect vacation rental until you know how much you can spend per night. In Atlanta, for example, daily rates can range from under $100 to over $500 depending on location, amenities and the of the property. And while it might be nice to dream about something outside of your price range, when it comes down to planning, setting a realistic budget can keep you on track.

#4. Research the neighborhood
Most vacation rental websites provide an overview of the neighborhood where the property is located. But there’s nothing like speaking to a local to get a feel for what’s available to do and see. How close is the beach or the nearest restaurant? Is there shopping nearby, and if so, what kind? (An upscale clothing boutique won’t be much help if you need diapers at 11 p.m.!) Take the time to call the owner or the manager and ask them directly about how accessible the things that are important to you are. And don’t forget to ask if there are any areas you should avoid.

Remember, too, that unless you’re staying in a city where mass transit is available, you’ll probably need to rent a car. So don’t forget ask the manager if parking is provided and whether or not there’s a fee attached.

#5. Read the fine print
No matter what list price you see on a vacation rental website, every owner will charge a deposit and additional fees. These typically include a non-refundable cleaning fee and a damage deposit, which can be steep. Make sure these are clearly spelled out in writing before you book.

House rules are another important consideration that many first-time renters overlook. For example, most vacation rentals limit the number of people who can be on the premises at any given time (essentially a “No Parties” rule.) They may also specify quiet hours, and limit the use of certain outdoor spaces, such as a community pool. Again, make sure these and any other conditions and restrictions are clear before you book so you’re not disappointed when you arrive.

About Atlanta Family Vacation
Finding your ideal vacation rental should be fun, not a chore. So if you’re planning a trip to the Atlanta area, why not let us help you locate your perfect home away from home? Just give us a call at 404-618-2661. or visit our website to view available properties, check availability and view our rates.