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Editorial: Be ready to hit the road

Getting away on a trip doesn’t necessarily mean getting away from the family.

In fact, Alisa Abecassis, who has launched a website filled with resources for travel in the U.S. called, recommends making vacations and school breaks count with everyone in the family, including the children. A modest investment of time and money creates a lifelong return for each family member, said the mother of three who began traveling with them as a way of forging new bonds with them.

Here are her reasons why parents should take their kids on a road trip:

—Memories. Visiting the same amusement park over and over again isn’t the stuff of lasting memories. Experiencing some of North America’s greatest natural wonders is! Plan theme trips to specific regions of the country. A Fourth of July theme was “Rebels and Revolutionary Ideas,” and others have included “Pioneers in the Heartland” and “Lewis and Clark, and the New Frontier.”

—Bonding. “Perhaps the most common experience all parents share is how quickly children grow up,” Abecassis says. “It won’t be long before they’re out of the house and having their own families.” This is especially true for a family or an individual member who has experienced a rough patch. “After a death in the family, divorce or some other painful life event, every day is an opportunity for setting a new tone,” she says.

—Tangible history lessons. Ignorance of U.S. history by the native population is a problem recognized by many historians and new citizens alike. Physically being at historical sites-smelling the grass at Gettysburg or seeing the living conditions at the Alamo-breathes life into the past.

—Feeding the domestic economy. Many Americans set their sights on exotic and, sometimes, less-than-safe destinations overseas. Confusing roads to nowhere, foreign diseases and cultural missteps are all potential pitfalls in foreign travel. Why not stay in the states, which are safe and family friendly, and help out an economy that could use the dollars?

While those traveling the U.S. are at it, they’d be advised to follow some driving tips from Valvoline Instant Oil Change to prepare their vehicle and ensure it’s in optimal driving condition for hot-weather getaways.

—Change motor oil regularly. Regular oil changes with the correct grade of motor oil can improve gas mileage up to two percent. Synthetic oils are best for high temperature driving conditions and for added protection when towing.

—Check tire pressure. Keeping tires properly inflated can help improve gas mileage up to three percent. Be sure to check the pressure before beginning driving for the day. This allows for getting a cold pressure reading.

—Clean the fuel system. This helps improve fuel economy and maximize engine performance by removing dirt and deposits from the fuel system.

—Use cruise control on highways. This helps maintain a constant speed, which in most cases helps improve fuel economy.

—Don’t idle. It requires less gas to restart a vehicle than to let it idle.

—Park in the shade or a garage. The sun zaps fuel from the gas tank. The shade or garage will lessen the amount of evaporative emissions.

—Check the cooling system (radiator). It protects the engine from overheating in hot summer conditions. Follow the owner’s manual for regular maintenance.

—Check the serpentine belt. Replacing the serpentine belt when needed helps prevent breakdowns. It keeps the vehicle’s power steering, alternator, water pump and air conditioning running.

—Check the air conditioning system. Nothing makes the heat more unbearable than traveling with an air conditioning system that won’t cool properly.

—Check the windshield wipers and wiper fluid. The combination of bad wipers and a downpour can leave drivers with no view of the road. Be sure to have plenty of wiper fluid to help keep the windshield clear of dirt and debris.

Also, remember to check the transmission fluid, rotate the tires regularly and check the gearbox fluid.