8 Ways to Increase Pit Stop Efficiency During Family Road Trips
As schools wrap up their academic years, families are thrown into transition. We must adjust from spending too much time cooped up with each other in our homes to spending too much time cooped up in the family vehicle. Based on the traffic on our nation's roadways during the summer months, I would venture to say road trips are the norm for vacationing families.
When preparing to travel, families need to plan for necessities such as food. And while some will pack a cooler for the trip, many make use of the thousands of fast food stops that dot our highway system. As those with extensive road trip experience know, however, you cannot just wing it when it comes to pit stops. Here are my suggestions to make the stops along the way less challenging.
1. Keep chewing gum on hand. There will be someone who complains that they are hungry four minutes after you pull out of the driveway. The gum serves to quiet the rumblings during these frustrating first moments as well as during those times when pangs of hunger are not in synch. Which brings me to my next suggestion.
2. Before deciding it is time to make a food stop, everyone must be hungry. The last thing you want to do is make individual stops for each family member as this one or that cries, "I'm hungry!" Feeding on demand may have its place in child rearing, but it is not suitable for road trips. Family vacations are why scheduled feedings were invented.
3. Adopt the two birds with one stone rule. In addition to everyone being united in hunger, another requirement for a food stop must be that the car is low on gasoline. By taking care of fueling both the family and the car, you eliminate excessive stops and save time.
4. The last stop must have occurred at least two hours prior before another stop can be considered. In addition, you must be at least one hundred miles from your destination. Again, these rules cut down on excessive stops and gets you more swiftly to your destination where everyone can scatter for a little much needed alone time.
5. Wait until you approach an exit with multiple fast food restaurants and gas stations. Once you have determined that all food stop requirements have been met, you do not want to pull off the road at the first exit you encounter. Exit selection is crucial if maximum efficiency is to be achieved.
6. Once you find a potential exit, beware. Even if a blue sign on the highway suggests there are restaurants and gas stations ahead, absolutely do not pull off the highway unless you can see golden arches and a big orange burger from the road. Experience has taught me that exiting without confirming a visual sighting of neon fast food signs could result in following road sign after road sign through desolate lands until you finally discover a hot dog stand next to a defunct fill station fifty miles out of your way.
7. Adopt the "first one" rule. Democracy does not exist in the confines of the family vehicle. While you might think voting on which fast food restaurant drive-thru the family prefers is a fair way to handle food selection, doing so will only cause the adults in the vehicle miles of grief. Rather, keep it simple and pull into the first one located just to the right of the exit ramp. Then, cross the street to the gas station located next to the entrance ramp.
8. Bathroom breaks must be coordinated during the food and gasoline stop. While refueling the car, require everyone to visit the rest rooms. If everyone at least tries every couple of hours, you can dramatically cut down on extra bathroom-only stops. If you're sharing driving responsibilities, this is the optimum time to change drivers, as well.
Our personal family record for shortest food-refueling-rest-stop-driver-switch is just under ten minutes. But it took us years, and thousands of miles, to hone our pit stop efficiency.