Weekly auto rail, with tips for the family road trip, Car Q&A with Junior Damato and more.

Tip of the Week

Few things bring a family together and create wonderful memories better than a summer road trip. And after several years of taking backyard "staycations" to save money, experts say families are again packing their cars and hitting the roads to see beautiful natural and manmade landmarks all across the country.

Whether planning for a ride into the city or being more adventurous with a cross-state trip, planning ahead for your road trip will help make the journey seamless and fun for everyone. Here are some hints from travel expert Emily Kaufman to keep your family road trip full of wonderful memories:

- Pack an activity bag. Turn a hanging travel cosmetic case - or even a plastic bin that can fit under a seat - into a case full of fun. This case needs to be fully accessible at all times, with pockets stuffed full of age-appropriate activities for every person in the vehicle. For children, consider adding a roll of tin foil for sculpture creations. Or coloring books with washable markers and a cookie sheet to use as a drawing board. Also throw in a couple paper bags so everyone can make puppets and put on a show while in the car. For older riders in the vehicle, audio books, music, cameras and journaling or blogging materials help to fill the space between sightseeing destinations.

- Consider the snacks that you pack. Avoid packing anything that's easy to spill like juice boxes, or snacks that melt. Try plastic bottles with sports tops or lids that can be tightly sealed for drinks.

- Include a first-aid kit. Injuries can happen at any time, and having basics like bandages, pain relievers, wet wipes, anti-bacterial ointment, tweezers and sunburn creams for "just in case" can make all the difference in the outcome of your trip. Blisters, splinters, small cuts and bruises can easily happen, especially as your family leaves the car and explores the countryside. Keep the kit small so it can tuck away in the corner of your vehicle until it's needed.

- ARA

The List

Here are the cutest cars, according to CNNMoney:

1. Fiat 500
2. Volkswagen Beetle
3. Mini Cooper
4. Kia Soul
5. Nissan Cube

Did You Know

General Motors is closing two truck plants for two weeks in July; this will cut truck production by about 16,000.

Car Q&A

Q: I have a 2008 Dodge Ram 1500. I want to buy new tires. What do you think of Cooper’s Discoverer H/T or A/T3, General’s Grabber HTS, Firestone Destination LE or AT?

A: Let’s talk about tires for all trucks and SUVs. Unless you are going off-roading or plowing snow, do not buy anything but an H/T (highway tread design). A/T (all terrain) is made for off-road and broken pavement and snow plowing. You can also look at an LT for truck verses a P-Metric for light duty. The LT will give a harder ride and handle extra weight. It doesn’t matter what brand you buy, just buy the correct tread pattern for your driving needs.

- Junior Damato, Talking Cars columnist

GateHouse News Service