As the days grow longer and the weather warmer, many families are gearing up for annual summer vacations. Whether your vacation destination is 50 or 5,000 miles from home, there are certain road rules that apply to all parents traveling with children. Some of the rules mentioned here are actual laws while others are simply smart suggestions to ensure your trip to and from your vacation destination is one that promotes safety first and sanity second.

Rule 1: Be sure your vehicle is road-worthy

It is one thing to get a flat tire or experience minor mechanical problems when you are a few miles from your house, and quite another when you far from the safety of home. If you or your spouse are mechanically inclined and your vehicle shows no signs of problems, a simple pre-trip check can be performed at home. On the other hand, if you don't trust yourself or your vehicle, consider making an appointment at a local (trusted) repair shop. They can give your vehicle a once over to make sure it is road-worthy and dependable for the trip ahead. Part of your vehicle prep should include inspecting car seats and booster seats which are required for younger children.

Rule 2: Don't count on GPS

GPS is a great navigation tool, when it works. For long trips take the time to map out your route the old fashioned way, with up-to-date maps. Don't forget to pack the maps in the event you get off track or have to detour from your prepared route. This precaution might seem a bit excessive on the planning side of things, however you will be grateful for the time spent on this minor task should you find yourself lost and modern technology is of no help.

Rule 3: Make your list and check it twice

Few families embark on a vacation without first making a list of what they will need on the trip. Call ahead to confirm what amenities are provided at your destination. When traveling with kids you can never be too prepared. Even if you will have access to laundry services, consider packing "extra" clothes for younger children who have a knack for getting dirty or wet at the most inconvenient times. You need not only pack essentials but also entertainment for the kids for the trip as well as once you arrive. There is no need to go overboard here, after all there is only so much room for packed items, however something that will keep them happy in the vehicle as well as during periods of "down" time while on vacation will certainly come in handy.

Rule 4: Anticipate emergencies

The last thing you want to think about on vacation are the "what if's" of life; however it is the reality with which you have to deal. Prepare and pack a small basic first aid kit as well as emergency contacts should something happen to you while away from home. Let someone know your itinerary including the route you plan to take, where you will be staying and how long you will be away. Talk to your children about what they should do if they get lost, injured or separated from you while on vacation. It is best to have all the bases covered before you head out on your trip versus scrambling around in the event of an emergency.

With the proper planning and a bit of good luck, your family vacation- travel time included can be as stress-free as possible which will result in many fond memories that last a lifetime.