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Some of my fondest childhood memories come from road-tripping each year to see my grandpa in Iowa. It was a 16-hour drive from our house in Pearland, so we always split the trip into two days. Forced into close quarters with my siblings (my worst enemies and best friends), it was here that I spent the best kind of quality time with my family.

And now, when shelling out your savings to purchase airplane tickets is scarier than any turbulent flight could ever be, road-tripping is an increasingly enticing idea. Admittedly, sitting comfortably in a plane sounds much better than sitting in a small and claustrophobia-inducing car. But when you compare the cost of flying to the cost of driving, there’s no question: road-tripping, even while adding extra travel time, is a better deal, and you can get a better experience out of it, too.

If you haven’t gone on a summer vacation yet, there’s still time before school starts in August. Here are a few tips to successfully go on a car trip with your family (or friends):

Plan your route beforehand (but don’t be afraid to take some detours)

It’s always good to know your starting and ending location, as well as a general idea of how you’re getting there. But the good thing about road trips is that you have all the time go off course for a bit and see new territory. We have a whole country to explore, and there’s bound to be some hidden treasures in places you might not expect. And while you’re at it, stop at any landmarks on the way. You’ll be sure to check some places off your bucket list.

Be familiar with the lay of the land

If you know you’ll be driving though some more rural areas, it’ll pay off to map out your gas stops. Depending where you’re going, you could wind up in the middle of a desert low on gas. No one wants that. The moral of the story: don’t pass up those “last stop in 50 miles” places. If you think you can make it, you probably can’t.

Bring plenty of food

If you have kids, this is a necessity. My parents kept us from whining by feeding us the not-so-healthy stuff, like Twizzlers and Pringles. And how often do you want to stop in gas stations or McDonald's to get snacks, anyways?

Make your own fun

Besides listening to music (making a killer playlist is a must), you may not think there’s much to do on car rides. Not everyone can read while in the car, and we don’t all want to spend the data YouTube-ing movies on our phones. This is where you need to get creative. We always brought our Game Boys, Mad Libs and a deck of cards. When that gets old, pull out a blank notebook and play those middle school games you liked (MASH, anyone?). Looking for license plates from each state is a classic, and so is the A-Z road sign game.

So have at it, you explorer, you! Go out and see America for all it’s worth.

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