Think of the excitement of the open road in front of you. The opportunity of seeing the sights and sounds of different surroundings not at home. Driving with the wind in your hair and daydreaming of your destination. There is nothing like driving across the country on vacation. Whether visiting family or dropping children off for school, cross country driving is an experience everyone should have at least once.

Summertime is in full swing. This means thousands of families will pack up their cars with suitcases, coolers and children in hand and drive to vacation somewhere away from their home. Driving across country as most of us now refer to as a "road trip" is the epitome of the "perfect" vacation. Children sit in the backseat entertaining themselves with games, the sounds and sights of their travels or in the new generation, watch movies on small DVD players as their parents take turns driving long distances to arrive at their "home away from home" destination for a relaxing experience.

I have experienced this more times than I can count, both as a child and then as a parent with a carload of children wanting to stop for a "potty break." We have driven from New York to New Mexico, San Diego to Alabama, and New Jersey to Utah. Driving back and forth over this country's roadways creates a great appreciation of our country's vast lands and beautiful backdrops not seen in most places around the world. Road trips are a part of the American experience. Taking the idea a step further, Defrees Productions created a "drivelapse" video which is a road trip time lapse tour around America in five minutes.[](%20http:/

A road trip across the country does need some preparation and planning, so here are a few tips to take into consideration when planning a driving vacation.

1. Know your destination

Make sure you have a hardcopy map of where you are going. GPS is great, but it's not foolproof. Having a map as a backup is always a must.

2. Know your stops

If you have mapped out the roads you will be traveling, then make sure you can find a place to stop along the way to sleep. Depending upon your budget, your stops don't have to be fancy, just a place to lie down and rest.

3. Recreational places

If you are in a hurry then it's no use scouting out recreational places, but if you plan on taking your time, know what is available during your travels, which makes for an enjoyable trip. Research places of interest and recreation ahead of time so that you will be prepared for the cost and the time spent.

4. Funds for budgeting a trip

Always figure more cost for gas and emergencies. Gas prices vary from state to state, so it's always smart to keep extra cash on hand for the unexpected.

5. Service your vehicle

Get the oil changed; check all the fluids, windshield wipers and lights so everything is working. There is nothing worse for a vacation than car troubles so it would be wise to get a checkup for your car before you leave.

To find more information on how to prepare for a road trip, check out

Awesome memories are created by the travels we choose in our life. Driving long distances is a great way to connect with family and visit beautiful places.

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