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Fall is just around the bend. Prepare your ultimate travel checklist!

We’re coming upon that magical time of year; the one that yields leaves turning from green to golds and reds. Fall scenery offers opportunities for travel unlike any other time of year.

If you love fall this is the perfect excuse to make fall travel plans. Before you pack up the family minivan, SUV, or sporty hybrid, not only do you need to decide which location you want to visit from the many best places to travel in the US -- you need to make some basic preparations too.

Prepare for your travels: your ultimate road trip checklist

Whether the trip you’re planning is near or far from home, there are some basic steps you should take to make sure everyone has a great time.

Here are just a few of these tips to add to your ultimate road trip checklist:

Choose the right trip for you and your family. There are several possible categories of trips you might want to take this fall, which include fall foliage viewing, iconic destinations like the Grand Canyon, fall festivals, and finally, your last chance to spend time on boats and beaches before the deep fall chill sets in. Poll your fellow travelers to come to a happy and workable consensus to maximize the chances for a memorable (and stress-free) fall trip.

Plan your route. You might have the perfect route in mind when planning your family vacation, but you never know when there might be surprise road construction. Check for construction and plan contingency routes to avoid long delays and frustrations in case of unexpected detours.

Choose your accommodations. Do you like roughing it by pitching a tent and building a campfire? Or, would you prefer to stay in a climate-controlled hotel room with comfortable beds, hot water, and Wi-Fi? No matter which you choose, make sure you reserve space at your destination as early as possible. There are probably many other people with the same idea planning their own fall adventures.

Plan your eating strategy.Restaurant dining on the road is part of the fun, but so are those picnics and snacks. Be sure to stock a cooler in your Honda Odyssey or Honda CR-V with goodies like sandwiches, yogurt, sliced fruits and veggies, trail mix, and jerky. Throw in bottled water for thirsty throats. And if you are considering grilling along the way, don't forget those essential tools. Pack paper towels and hand sanitizer for quick clean up roadside or on the go.

Pack clothing for weather changes and any occasion. Fall weather is unpredictable, so take a variety of clothing items with you and dress in layers. Consider bringing shorts, jeans, a short-sleeved and long-sleeved T-shirt or two, a jacket, and sneakers. If you plan to do some hiking, bring along some waterproof hiking boots or comfortable sport sandals.

Bring the right gear for your planned activities. Whether you plan to visit an apple orchard that promises bushels of granny smiths, or you just want to spend long days playing volleyball on the beach, be sure to create a list of everything you’ll need. While you can buy some forgotten items at your destination, they will probably cost significantly more, or may even be sold out due to high demand.

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The best fall road trips to put an exclamation point at the end of your summer.

This part of your fall road trip planning may be the most difficult of all. Unless you already have your heart set on a visit to someplace like Redwood National Park or Rockland, Maine, you may need some help figuring out which way to go and what to do.

Look over the following list of some of the best places to travel in the US and things to do this fall.

Fall foliage tours to bask in autumn's spectacular glow

Each fall — from late September to early November — Nature decides to put on the ultimate color show. Americans make travel plans for fall foliage tours all over the country to see the kaleidoscope of gold, orange, and red leaves through autumn sunlight.

There are outstanding fall foliage tours all over the country that people visit time and again. Take a look at just a few US regions that feature the best places to catch the turning of the leaves.

  • New England.Molly Stark Byway in Vermont is a favorite spot for autumn family drives. The byway, highways, countryside, lowlands, and breathtaking Green Mountains all serve as the perfect stage for the leaves to put on their annual performance.
  • The Southern states.The Smoky Mountains of Tennessee and the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia and North Carolina offer awe-inspiring fall foliage. The Smoky Mountains region are special since the region features more than 100 species of trees native to the area, providing one-of-a-kind scenes each autumn day The nearly 470 miles of roadway along the Blue Ridge Parkway features plenty of easily accessible hiking trails just off the roadway to stretch your legs and get a closer look at the foliage.
  • The Southwest.The Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway in New Mexico offers you a nearly otherworldly experience for your fall foliage pilgrimage. The terrain is the superstar at the Enchanted Circle where you will traverse over mesas, through valleys, and along mountain curves to catch a glimpse of the glorious trees and their late fall offerings.

If you’re in the Pacific Northwest, pack up your Toyota RAV4 SUV and head to the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon. Or if you live in Michigan, drive up to the stunning Upper Peninsula. As long as you’re making your way to one of these vibrant areas, you won't be disappointed.

Other unforgettable destinations that deliver  

Maybe you and your family are simply yearning for the classic late-summer vacation. If you are feeling the spirit of Clark Griswold nagging at you, there are plenty of amusement parks, aquariums, museums, and zoos awaiting you.

Following are a few destinations in the US that promise excitement, education, and fun for everyone:

  • Aquariums, museums, and other educational centers. If you and your family love learning, options are many and spread across the US. Get lost in an underwater wonderland with beluga whales and sea ottters at the Shedd Aquarium in Illinois. At the Audubon Aquarium of America in Louisiana you can visit the insectarium and the massive Gulf of Mexico Exhibit, which features sharks, tarpon, and rays.

  • Amusement Parks. For sheer exhilaration and classic summer fun, take a trip to an amusement park that features the craziest and scariest rides is often a crowd favorite. Disneyland in California and Six Flags Magic Mountain are perennial favorites that your family is sure to love.

You might also consider visiting a large museum like the Metropolitan Museum of Art in California or the Getty Center in California. You don't have to pack and haul a lot of gear for these types of fall trips, so you can just enjoy the family drive in your roomy Honda Odyssey.

Fall festivals to suit every possible taste

Who doesn't love a visit to the Pumpkin Festival in Circleville, Ohio or the National Apple Harvest Festival in Biglerville, Pennsylvania? The sights, sounds, and tastes draw people from around the country each year.

Take a look at some of the following fall festival events you and your family can enjoy together:

  • Adirondack Balloon Festival in Queensbury, New York. The year 2017 marks the 45th anniversary of this fantastic festival that takes place as much on the ground as in the sky. The Adirondack Balloon Festival in Queensbury, New York comes around the third weekend of each September, and it features exquisitely designed and decorated hot air balloons. Whether you want to simply watch the balloons and snap photographs from the ground, or you want to take a ride, the choice is yours. Browse around the crafts fair while listening to live music and trying out snacks from local food vendors.
  • Sonoma County Harvest Fair, California.With 43 years of history, the Sonoma County Harvest Fair, California focuses on the glorious wine of the region at harvest time. This fall trip, like the German Village Oktoberfest in Columbus, Ohio, may be better for couples than families. Couples need a good fall trip of their own sometimes, so treat yourselves. Give your sporty-but-luxurious Chevrolet Equinox a chance to shine in wine country. This versatile cross-over compact SUV has helpful features like foot motion controls to open the rear hatch, so your trip to Sonoma can be about kicking back, sipping wine, and enjoying life at a slower pace.
  • Fall festivals in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania is a cornucopia of fall festivals that focus on pumpkins, wine, beer, bratwurst, apples, garlic, and many other tasty treats. You can create a tour out of festivals in PA, all on its own, making it one of the best states to visit in October.

Other fall festivals worth visiting include the Cranberry Harvest Festival in Plymouth in Massachusetts, and the National Shrimp Festival in Gulf Shores in Alabama for anyone looking for tasty delights.

The fall festival choices are nearly endless. No matter what your taste or interest; it is probably covered somewhere across the US.

Beaches and boats: one last dip before the frost arrives

For beach and water lovers, this time of year is bittersweet. If you want to commemorate another fantastic summer weekend in the sun, pack the floaties, water skis, snorkel gear, and swimsuits to successfully launch your voyage to your favorite water-centric area.

Keep in mind that if you are planning a jet skiing or boating adventure, you need to make sure you have all the necessary gear it takes to attach your boat trailer to your compact crossover or Jeep. The trailer sway control feature on the Ford Escape provides stability to this fuel-efficient, eco-friendly SUV is handy for hauling a water-bound vessel.

Now that you are ready to get your boat lakeside, riverside, or oceanside, you need to figure out which body of water and surrounding area attracts you most.

  • Hilton Head, South Carolina.Featuring 12 miles of pristine beaches along the Atlantic Coast Hilton Head is tough to pass up. Travel to this world-famous location in your Jeep Grand Cherokee for maximum comfort and utility. With a towing capacity of 7,400 pounds, you can bring along your fishing boat, motorboat, or sailboat. Remember to bring your horseback riding gear, tennis rackets, and walking shoes to get the most out of your Hilton Head visit.
  • Wild Rivers Coast Scenic Bikeway, Oregon. You can have it all when you take your fall trip at Wild Rivers Coast Scenic Bikeway, Oregon. Bicycling, hiking, and swimming — all tucked away in this lush Pacific Northwest paradise — are all there for the doing. Waste no time filling up your Ford Explorer with kids, bicycles, swimsuits, running shoes, hiking boots, and anything else you can think of to celebrate your time at this destination. Prepare for a scenic bike ride in one of the most beautiful places in the US. This one-of-a-kind cycling route starts at the shoreline of Port Orford and goes to the shoreline of the northern tip of Cape Blanco State Park.
  • Cape May, New Jersey. The shoreline along New Jersey is riddled with beautiful beach resorts, but Cape May, New Jersey is something special. Besides frolicking in the surf and sunbathing on the sand, you can participate in world-class shopping, schedule a spa day, enjoy a tour of the Hawk Haven Winery, or simply stroll through the laid-back community.

Other wet and wonderful spots you might consider for your fall adventure include West Beach, Alabama and Point Reyes Beaches in California. Each beach, lake, and river offers a special experience for you and your family. Whether you are looking for a family bonding experience, or you all want to set off on your own adventures, beaches are some of the best places to travel in the US. If you are near the water, there is usually plenty to do to keep everyone busy, relaxed, or satisfied, depending on the goal.

Keep the kids entertained.

Sometimes, long rides in the car can be a challenge for kids. They need space to wiggle and a little entertainment to distract them.

The latest SUVs, Jeeps and minivans have all gone a long way toward addressing this issue and offer parents relief. Minivans like the 2017 Honda Odyssey offers features that include an advanced rear seat entertainment system, 4G LTE Wi-Fi, and Apple CarPlay™. The 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee features a media hub and an Alpine® audio system while the 2017 Ford Explorer offers SYNC®3 to manage audio and video options via Wi-Fi. The Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, Chevrolet Equinox, and other family vehicles are built with kids in mind.

Have you started your ultimate road trip checklist?

You still have time to work on your checklist to help you come up with the perfect fall trip. We hope that our list of preparations, along with some of the best places to travel in the US, will help you get started. Keep in mind that the perfect car for your road trip gives you a great foundation for a memorable excursion with your family.

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