Before you stop, plan what needs to be accomplished: bathroom breaks, diaper changes, gas fill up, eat-in or eat-out, etc.
Don't ignore all the safety lessons you learned from your mother. Thieves, kidnappers, and rapists travel too. Be on the lookout. If you're suspicious of another driver or vehicle, either drive away or park in another location. If you're headed back to the car after a rest stop, look around before you step into the parking lot and check the cars next to yours for suspicious looking people. Walk in a group (of strangers, if necessary) and keep your cell phone in hand. If you get into a threatening situation, do not hand over your handbag. Throw it in one direction, grab your child, and run in the other.
Instead of a fast-food restaurant, stop at a supermarket salad bar. Usually, salad bars offer soups, salads, fruit, cottage cheese, pasta, breads, and other kid-friendly---and healthy---foods.
Not all rest areas (if you're lucky to find one exactly when you need it!) have diaper changing tables. Instead, make do with a relatively level back seat, the back of the station wagon (if you don't need to remove everything first!), or a picnic table.
Have some fun. Have a picnic. Bring bubbles or a ball to play with at the rest area.
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