Does the thought of a family road trip strike fear into your heart? During the past 25 years, my family has taken many road trips traveling thousands of miles and we have great memories from those trips.

When we first started out, truthfully, we just threw our trips together and hit the road. But as time went on, we came to see the wisdom of planning our road trips a bit. If you are considering a family road trip, you'll find some simple upfront planning will make all the difference in your travels.

Using a road trip checklist, you will save money, sanity, and time, as well as make sure your vacation is as fun as it can be. You can also make sure each member of your family pulls their own weight (depending upon age, of course), teaching them that great vacations are made, not born.

You can make your own road trip checklist (keep it on your computer for repeated usage) or feel free to use mine (see the resource box at the end of this article). On it, you'll want to keep track of such things as...

- your travel budget (make sure your money gets spent on what you REALLY want),
- what food to take in the car (save big over buying snacks in gas stations),
- travel activities and games (you want to have fun, right?),
- vital extras that can actually make or break a family road trip,
- and destination details such as directions, phone numbers and ticket information.

When it comes to family road trips you will find success is in the details. For example,

- a mess in the car is no big deal when you have plenty of extra plastic bags and moist towelettes. But if you don't have any of these items, a sick kid or a spilled drink can ruin everyone's vacation mood...for many, many miles.

- Worried about hearing "are we there yet" so many times your ears will pop? You can cut these words significantly with the right amount and type of travel activities. But do you know how to structure those activities for maximum effectiveness?

A road trip can save you quite a bit of money compared to the cost of flying your family to your vacation destination. In addition, you won't need a rental car once you get there.

However, you will be, in effect, living in your car with several people for several days. The more detailed your road trip checklist, the more satisfied you will be with your overall road trip experience. For example, by scheduling your meals and activities, you can make the trip itself as much a part of your vacation as your destination.

A road trip is an especially great way to spend long chunks of quality, unhurried time together as a family. This is where you will make the sweetest memories, Mom or Dad. It will be just your family in that car, to talk, to sing, and to laugh together for hours on end.

Just remember to take along your patience and your flexibility. Those are two qualities no successful road trip can be without.