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Tips for family road trip

Consider renting a car, or make sure your own is up to speed.

AUSTIN, Texas - You've made it to Christmas. Now the kids are out of school, and you may be planning to head out of town.

If you're planning a road trip, here are a few ideas to help make getting there half the fun, or at least not an exercise in agony.

1. Consider renting a car for your road trip. It's a good option if you don't trust your car to get you there, if your car's a gas guzzler and you want to save on fuel, or if you just want to avoid wear and tear on your personal car. Call around and look online at various rental companies. Often, one quote will mysteriously be hundreds of dollars less than the others.

2. If you're driving your own car, get it serviced before you go. Make sure your oil's good, your tires are roadworthy (and properly inflated), your windshield wiper fluid is topped off. If there's one thing worse thanhearing "I'm bored" on the road, it's the same chorus in the waiting room of an auto repair shop. Make sure you have an inflated spare tire and the tools to change it with. And do you know how to use those?

3. You know to bring along activities - card games, an iPad, a portable DVD player, and other distractions - for the back-seat crowd. But also consider board games for those nights in a hotel along the way. And do pack bathing suits, just in case you run into a pool you want to enjoy. (One of the advantages of taking the car is that you can take pretty much anything you want to take.)

4. If you don't have a GPS device, remember to take maps. Even if you've driven to your destination a thousand times, construction could make you want to hunt down a new route.

5. Take along water and healthy snacks so that you won't be tempted to stop at Dairy Queen for a Blizzard. Don't think you'll be in the car long enough to need snacks? Think again. You never know when children will get hungry.

6. Keep a camera in the car at all times. The one time you don't have it is when you'll want it. (Hey, isn't that Willie Nelson walking his dog on the side of the Atlantic City Expressway?)