Every year, millions of people jump into the car and trade the monotony of their daily routine for the excitement of the open road. Unfortunately, unpredictable events can cause a fun vacation to go very wrong.
When it comes to road trips, a little planning can go a long way. By anticipating problems that you may encounter and taking steps to prepare for them, you can make the best of a bad situation. Don’t let car trouble, screaming children, or bad weather ruin your trip.
1. Preventive Maintenance
Take your car in for an oil change, top off your antifreeze, brake fluid, and power steering fluid. Inspect your hoses, belts, and brakes for signs of wear. If the weather is going to be warm during your trip, check your car’s
air-conditioning system. Fill your washer fluid reservoir and check that your wipers are in good condition. Finally, make sure your tire pressure falls within the manufacturer’s recommended range to prevent flat tires and blowouts.
2. Be Prepared for a Breakdown
Consider subscribing to a roadside assistance service like AAA, which will send someone to change your flat tire, provide a jump start, bring gasoline if you run out, and open your car if you’re locked out.
3. Clean and Organize Luggage
Before packing anything in your vehicle, remove the clutter that has built up from your daily routine. Once your car is cleaned and you’re ready to pack, put some thought into organization. Pack lesser-used luggage, like suitcases, in the trunk or under more frequently accessed items, like snacks and children’s toys. Your passengers will be able to retrieve much of what they need without having to stop the car.
4. Plan Your Route
Every decision you make doesn’t have to be scripted, but it’s a good idea to have a general plan of where you’re going and staying. If you make reservations, ask about the accommodation’s cancellation policy, so you’ll know when it’s too late to change your plans. If you want a little more freedom, call the hotel or campground where you plan to stay a couple of days ahead of time and ask if they expect to be full on the night you arrive.
5. Plan for Your Kids
Before you leave, pack a “car kit” including crayons, paper, travel pillows, familiar toys, and a few treats. Kids may also enjoy travel games in which they find license plates from every state or common objects along the roadside. Try to use electronics sparingly; road trips provide an excellent opportunity for kids to learn about the areas through which they’re traveling.
6. Plan for Your Pets
Pets should be kept in carriers when traveling to ensure the driver and pet are safe in case of an accident. Help your pet get used to the carrier by taking them on a series of short drives, gradually increasing the length of time
spent in the car. Preparation will prevent your companion from experiencing anxiety and carsickness and reduce stress for both of you. Bring along a “pet kit” including food, a bowl, a leash, a waste scoop, plastic bags, grooming supplies, medication, treats, and a favorite toy or pillow. Stop every couple of hours to let your pet stretch its legs, use the bathroom, and expend some pent-up energy.
7. Plan Together
Cooperation starts with planning. Everyone should be involved in scheduling the itinerary so no one feels that their ideas were left out. Try not to plan too many activities into each day to avoid stress.
8. Crank the Tunes
Make sure to bring a library of music or audio books to help you relax and enjoy the road ahead.
9. Save Gas
The potential for fuel savings starts when you pack the car. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, for every 100 additional pounds you put in a car, you cut your gas mileage by two percent.
10. Be Safe
At hotels and restaurants, try to park your vehicle where you can keep an eye on it, especially if you have luggage in or on top of your vehicle. If you need to stop for a food or bathroom break, choose rest areas, gas stations, or
restaurants that are busy and well lit.