With the holidays coming up, you may find yourself traveling to spend time with family. If you choose to take a road trip to your final destination, there are some things you should do to ensure maximum safety and preparedness while traveling.
Things to Pack
- Navigation Materials: Be sure to have hard copy maps, a GPS system, or a smartphone with a GPS or trip planner capabilities. If there are particular cities you are stopping at along the way, it’s also a good idea to have city guides and travel books on hand.
- Emergency gear: Make sure to check your spare tire, stow a set of jumper cables and a jack, and take note of any phone numbers that you might need for roadside assistance. Consider a service like AAA if you aren’t already enrolled in one.
- Proper Documentation: Make sure you have your license, registration, and proof of insurance, and if you’ll be crossing borders, don’t forget your passports!
- Sun Protection: A road trip without sun glasses would not be fun! It’s also recommended that you wear sunscreen on your face, neck, arms, and any other places that may be exposed to the sun while you’re driving. The sunlight streaming in through the windows can cause more damage than you may think.
- First Aid Supplies and Spare Toiletries: Bringing along some basics like ibuprofen, antacids, bug repellent, bandages, cortisone for bug bites, an ointment for cuts and scrapes (like Neosporin), and hand sanitizer will make your life easier if some unforeseen ailment occurs. If anyone in the car is prone to motion sickness, some dramamine or a similar medicine could come in handy. If you take any medications or vitamins regularly, it’s also a good idea to keep them with the first aid gear so everything is easily to find.
- Paper Products: You can never have enough tissue, napkins, or paper towels. And yes, you should bring along a roll or two of toilet paper; you never know when it may come in handy. Also, bring along a couple plastic bags to throw away all the trash that accumulates.
- Food: While grabbing McDonald’s on the go can be easy, sometimes it’s nice to avoid all this grease. Pack fruit snacks, granola bars, protein bars, pretzels, and crackers for a quick and healthy snack. You can also pack sandwiches or a picnic lunch for your first day on the road. For drinks, have a small cooler with some ice packs and refillable water bottles. And don’t forget your chip clips to seal open bags of snacks!
- Activity Gear: Bring along some activities such as a frisbee, a ball, or cards to play at road stops or evenings with little entertainment options. You’ll also want some in-car activity gear, especially if you’re traveling with kids. Coloring books, a portable DVD player, laptop, or iPad for movies, and travel versions of board games are good options. Everyone should also be sure to bring plenty of good reading material for those long stretches on the road.
- Music: Have everyone put together a playlist so that everyone can have some music that fits their tastes.
- Comfort Items: You should wear comfortable clothes for your time in the car, but you should also consider bringing along blankets, pillows, or a sweatshirt. Shoes that can easily be slipped off are also a plus.
- Tech Gear: Aside from the navigation and entertainment items mentioned above, you’re going to want your phone charger (and perhaps even one that plugs into the cigarette lighter), your camera, a spare camera battery, a travel alarm clock (a phone alarm will also do), and extra batteries for any gear that might need it.
- Good Company: The whole point of a road trip is to have fun with family and friends, so make the most of it and enjoy those hours in the car!
Things to Check to Make Sure Your Car is Good to Go
Before you hit the road, it’s important to spend a little “quality time” with your vehicle. You’ll need to perform some quick checks and assemble an emergency kit. It’s also a good idea to have your favorite technician perform a “road trip check” on your vehicle before you take off.
- The Walk-Around Inspection
- Wiper Blades: Check the condition of the blades to make sure they are soft and pliable
- Lights: Check your turn signals, headlights, brights, and turn signals
- Tires: Check for excessive or uneven wear and tire pressure
- Under Hood Inspection
- Fluid Levels: Check the engine oil, automatic transmission fluid, brake fluid, power steering fluid, radiator coolant, and windshield washer fluid levels. Top off if necessary.
- Belts and Hoses: Check hoses for proper fit, leaks, brittleness, loose clamps, and softness in the elbow areas. As for the belts, check for alignment, glazing, adjustment, and tearing and cracking. Replace if necessary.
- Air Conditioning: Test the A/C system to see that it is working and cooling the vehicle down in a reasonable time. Also, inspect the refrigerant lines for evidence of leaks. Remember, on most late-model vehicles, the defroster system utilizes the air conditioning for more efficient defrosting and defogging so even during these cool months, A/C is important!
- Battery Connections: Check/clean battery posts and cable terminals for corrosive buildup. White fuzz that surrounds the cable terminal ends at the battery posts can easily identify a corrosive condition.
- Under Vehicle Inspection
- Fluid Leaks – Examine the ground where you park your vehicle for leaks. Any fluid residue found should be examined for the type of fluid and the leak repaired immediately to avoid any problems.
- Exhaust Leaks – Listen and look for leaks from the exhaust system, and if something seems marginal, have the system checked by a professional mechanic prior to leaving for your trip.
- Brakes – Test-drive the vehicle for brake response and feel. Listen for noises (high-pitched squeal, grinding, or clunking). Look for fluid leaks from flexible brake hoses and steel brake lines.
Upon packing the ultimate road trip bag and finishing the tasks above, you will be more than ready to set off on the road! We hope you enjoy your holiday travels and wherever else the road may lead you.