The Ultimate Summer Road-trip Checklist

Guest post by: Charles Krome

If your upcoming travel plans include a summer road trip, the first item on your agenda should be reading the following checklist. After all, while hitting the highway for a summer vacation can be plenty of fun, we all know what isn’t any fun at all: getting lost, breaking down and/or hearing a constant chorus of “Are we there yet?” from your passengers.

A little preparation can go a long way toward avoiding those road-trip pitfalls. Tick off these boxes, and then take to the road.

Get Your Car Road-trip Ready

Even if you’re diligent about keeping up with your vehicle’s regularly scheduled maintenance—but especially if you aren’t—a key to a successful road trip is making sure your ride is in tip-top condition. That means the obvious things, such as checking and possibly changing the oil, updating any other routine-maintenance needs, and verifying that all tires, including the spare, are correctly inflated and have plenty of life left. But don’t forget the details, either. Are your windshield wipers ready to handle stormy weather? Did you top off with wiper fluid? Are all lights, including brake lights and turn signals, in proper working order? Did you pack the highway emergency kit? (Not sure what that entails? We’ve got you covered with the next slide.)

What Every Emergency Kit Should Contain

Even with a carefully planned vacation route, it’s still hard to know exactly what will be coming around the next curve. The best advice: Be prepared for emergencies large and small. For your vehicle, it’s a good idea to carry extra oil, coolant and wiper fluid, along with resources for both flats and dead batteries. An all-in-one tire-repair kit with inflator and sealant can cost as little as $30 and can fix most flats in a few minutes. Another good ideas is to buy self-contained units for jump-starting vehicles, which run around $100. Both items are well worth the cost to save your road trip, and your sanity. Reflectors or flares are also handy if you have to pull off to the side of the road.

Pack and Prepare for People, Too

Whether it’s in case of emergency or merely to satisfy a case of the munchies, stocking up on appropriate snacks and beverages (including plenty of bottled water) can prevent hunger and thirst from slowing you down on a road trip. But be sure to keep things simple—and clean. Skip packaged foods that are tricky to open when driving, as well as anything likely to cause a mess (bring napkins and a garbage bag just in case). Also, don’t forget emergency supplies such as blankets, a flashlight, and a well-equipped first-aid kit stocked with adhesive bandages, scissors, tweezers, hand sanitizer, gauze and antibiotic ointment, for unplanned circumstances.

Go Mobile with Mobile Electronics

No matter how scenic the scenic route, watching the world roll by outside your window can become a bit boring. That’s particularly true today, when people are more used to watching video screens in the first place. Luckily, it’s no problem to stay online on the road, provided everyone has packed, and charged, their personal digital devices. Some auto brands, like Chevrolet, even offer mobile Wi-Fi hotspots for their newer vehicles. And many vehicles come with rear-seat entertainment systems, complete with dual screens for independent outputs. If they’re not in yours, you can add stand-alone units, although they can get pricey. Or, you can always go old school, and ask passengers to bring books or puzzles.

File Your Paperwork

Despite the push for a paperless world, a lot of good old fashioned paperwork remains essential to our daily lives. It’s important to bring certain documents with you on your road trip, including insurance cards, both for your health and for your vehicle; your vehicle’s registration and any reservation-confirmation numbers you may need for the trip. If international travel is involved, you’ll also need your passport and birth certificate. Equally important is taking care of business back at home, by having mail and other delivery services temporarily stopped.

Follow These Final Directions

Perhaps nothing has revolutionized road-tripping quite like the rise of in-vehicle navigation systems. They may not be perfect, but they can be much more helpful than paper maps, since they can actively deliver turn-by-turn route instructions, show three-dimensional images for easy understanding, and assist in finding gas stations, restaurants and other points of interest. It’s nothing less than a modern-day “must have.” That’s why if you don’t already have one for your car, you absolutely should buy one for your road trip. Portable, GPS-backed nav systems can be tracked down for less than $100, too, so pricing is relatively affordable. Still, maps and road atlases are even more affordable, and you should always bring those along as backup.

So, check your mirrors, fasten your seatbelt, and start your engine. And keep this final must-do in mind: Have fun!

About the Author

Charles Krome has been a car enthusiast since a young age as he fondly remembers long road trips such as these. As a writer for CARFAX, Charles enjoys sharing his car knowledge and travel tips.