Going on a road trip is a classic American tradition, but before you take to the highway you need to be ready. Organization is key, and a little research and planning can go a long way in avoiding bumps in the road (literal and figurative). If you want to avoid breakdowns, make sure the vehicle has been recently maintained and is in perfect working order. Autumn and Spring are the best times to schedule these checks, but right before a long road trip is also a good idea. Your mechanic can pinpoint any issues or worn-out parts that should be addressed so you don’t spend the majority of your road trip waiting for AAA to show up.
Whether you’re renting a vehicle or taking your own, how can you tell if your car is ready for the trip—and how can you help it out? Here are a few tips
- Get the tires checked. Not all mechanics also carry a wide variety of tires that are readily available. Even if a tire check is included in the overall maintenance appointment, it’s still a good idea to take your car to a tire company for at least a rotation and to make sure you have enough tread.
- Clean and organize your car. Nobody wants to kick off a road trip with a dirty car. You don’t need to spring for detailing, but a little wiping and vacuuming can go a long way. Depending on the length of the trip, you may also want to organize your storage area with bins and bags. Having snacks, water, and must-have items neatly labeled and stored is going to ease stress and make the trip a lot smoother.
- Get your emergency bag packed. All cars should have an emergency bag in them at all times. If you don’t, gearing up for a road trip is the perfect time to put one together. What you include depends on you and your needs, but a first-aid kit, solar-powered chargers, defense items (such as pepper spray), protein bars, water, and a few extra hygiene items like underwear, toothbrushes, and toothpaste are all popular. You can also buy a ready-made emergency bag at a number of shops.
- Keep your insurance and registration readily available. Of course, this should always be the case, but double check that you have your registration and a print copy of your car insurance with a valid expiration date. It’s common to depend on apps to pull of insurance cards these days, but road trips often take you away from Wi-Fi availability.
- Get an old-school map along with a GPS system. If your car doesn’t have a built-in GPS system, get one to complement your phone in case one of them stops working. Additionally, keep a map of the areas you’ll be traveling with you. Particularly for parents, teaching children how to use a print map is a skill that can be taught on a road trip.
- When traveling with kids, make sure games are included. It’s easy to let little ones (and even adults) depend on technology like their phones during road trips. If this is a bonding vacation, commit to limited technology. Instead, keep car-friendly games within reach.
A road trip used to be a rite of passage, and it remains one of the best ways to re-connect with loved ones. When you’re getting ready for your road trip, spend a little time making sure your vehicle is up to the task. A little care and preventative measure now can work wonders when you’re miles from home.