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Sometimes your dream vacation can be just a drive away, whether you enjoy hiking, sightseeing or lying on the beach

Dream vacation can be a drive away

When you don't have time for a full-blown vacation but need an escape, there's no better way than to hop in your car and drive to a favorite getaway spot.

Whether you enjoy hiking, sightseeing or lying on the beach, it's tempting to just pick up and go. But planning ahead can help you avoid the potential pitfalls of day tripping without the essentials.

"If you are well prepared before leaving the house you can maximize travel's upsides and minimize its potential downside," according to world traveler and packing expert Anne McAlpin.

Here is some advice from McAlpin on how to be prepared and make the most of your next day trip:

• Bring a good map of your selected destination. It is important to know exactly where you are going so you don't waste time getting lost. To prevent fumbling with an awkward map, cut out the area in which you'll be traveling, highlight it and slip it into a plastic sleeve, making it easier to read.

• Do some research about your destination. You may want to look into places to stop along the way, things to do at your destination, and places to eat.

• Check the weather before leaving. Dress in layers to be prepared for a change in the weather without having to pack extra clothes.

• If you are traveling by car, check your oil and make sure you have a full tank of gas. Also, be sure you have access to these emergency essentials: a spare tire, a jack, some basic tools, and jumper cables.

• Keep an extra swimsuit, sarong and sandals — packed in a gallon-size plastic bag — in your car just in case. For the trip home, pack your wet swimsuit in the bag to keep other items dry.

• Bring a small bag of supplies you may need on your trip. Some items you might want to include are aspirin, a first-aid kit with bandages, tissues, bottled water, insect repellent, camera, extra batteries and film/memory card.

• Make sure to apply sunscreen and insect repellent before spending a day outdoors. Some aerosol brands work especially well for any kind of outdoor activity because it is splash- and sweat-resistant and lasts up to eight hours. You can apply it to clothing for added protection.

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