If you’re planning a road trip this summer, a little advance planning can go a long way toward making your vacation safe and fun for everyone.
Here are 12 tips to help make your next road trip memorable — and prepare for whatever may come your way.
- Pack smart and make a checklist. To avoid leaving any essentials at home, create a checklist a few weeks before you leave — and add to it as you think of new items. Then, pull out the list as you start packing and check items off as you go.
- Make extra space. Avoid the temptation to fill your vehicle to the roof. This obstructs the view from your rearview mirror and severely limits visibility. Instead, consider a rooftop cargo box or hitch-mounted cargo carrier to create extra storage space.
- Keep pets safe. Is the family dog headed to the beach with you? Pack a portable water bowl and some extra food for rest stops. Use a pet carrier or harness device to keep him safe for the ride. Don’t ruin a getaway with a trip to the vet.
- Use your GPS and plan for traffic. Before you leave home, enter all your destinations into your vehicle’s GPS system or a mobile navigation app. This will give you real-time updates on travel time and save you from searching for addresses at the last minute.
- Bring an atlas. Even though you haven’t used one in ages, keeping a road atlas in the car is always a good idea. With an old-school paper map, you don’t have to worry about losing your GPS signal or running out of battery. And if you have kids, they may get a kick out of tracking your travels.
- Prepare your vehicle. Schedule a multi-point inspection to get a good snapshot of your vehicle’s overall condition. A trained mechanic can let you know of any maintenance issues to fix before they get worse (or more expensive).
- Check your tires. Before you leave home, inspect the condition of your tires and inflate them to the pressure recommended by your vehicle’s manufacturer. If your tires are low on tread, replace them before you hit the road. You can check by using “the penny test.” Just insert a penny upside down into a tread groove. If you can see the top of Lincoln’s head, it’s time for new tires.
- Change your oil and top off fluids. Road trips can rack up the miles on your car in the span of just a few days. Look ahead to preventative maintenance, like oil changes, that may come due while you’re traveling. Check all of your vehicle’s fluid levels too. That includes windshield washer fluid, antifreeze, brake fluid and power steering fluid. Top them all off as needed.
- Check your emergency kit. If you find yourself stranded, a well-stocked emergency kit could help you get back on the road quickly and safely. Include first-aid kits, water, blankets, flares and jumper cables.
- Organize your glovebox. If you happen to get in an accident, it’s nice to have the documents you need at your fingertips. Make sure you have a copy of your vehicle registration and an up-to-date insurance ID card.
- Make regular stops. While eliminating stops can help you get to your destination sooner, it’s not the most enjoyable way to travel. Stopping to take a short break every few hours will give everyone a chance to stretch their legs and can help you stay more alert behind the wheel.
- Pack healthy snacks. Chips, chocolate and soda — every kid’s dream meal. To avoid the sugar highs after every rest stop and gas fill-up, pack a small cooler filled with bottled water, cereal bars, fruits and vegetables. It’s best to avoid salty foods and sugary drinks, as they may actually make you thirsty. Heavy foods can also make you tired.