There is a lot to think about before a road trip. However, the most important issue is preparing your car for the joureny.
To do that you need a vehicle that is good working order and have a plan in place should things go wrong.
Here are 10 essential road trip-prepping tips to help you on your way.
Unless your vehicle has recently rolled off the forecourt and has that delightful new car smell, you should perform some basic maintenance before you leave.
Don’t worry, were not asking you to pick up the wrench and climb under the chassis, just a few easy inspections that all auto owners should know. These include:
- Checking the oil and break fluid levels
- Check wipers, and screen wash levels
- Check the radiator water levels
- Check that all your lights are working
- Check your tyres for wear / air, (including the spare in the trunk)
If your vehicle is due a service it is wise to take it to your local dealer / auto shop and have the work carried out.
Checking your battery is actually very easy to do if you have the correct equipment. If you don’t have the knowledge or gear it may be a time to call a helpful neighbour or friend.
Ensure the power is strong and that the terminals are nice and clean. (For more on checking battery levels head here.)
You won’t get very far on your road trip if your car fails to start.
Check Your Brakes
If it has been a while since you’ve had your brakes checked, now is the time to do it.
Heat build up and the extra wear during a long journey could be the straw that broke the camel’s back.
This one will involve your local auto shop. If you are taking the vehicle for a check-up, make sure they inspect your car’s brake pads too.
The Emergency Kit
In Germany it is against the law to travel in your car without a first-aid kit or a reflective warning triangle.
Following their innate national caution is a wise move. Make sure you have packed sufficient supplies in the event of an accident, breakdown or medical issue.
An emergency kit would include a first aid box, a blanket, flashlight with spare batteries and a small box of tools.
Non-perishable snacks are also a good idea, (you don’t know how long you might be stuck on the side of the road).
And yes, if you wish to go that little bit further, a fluorescent jacket with the aforementioned triangle could also be dumped in the trunk.
Finding your way
If your car has a built in GPS, take time to program in the destination (along with any detours you plan on taking) into the system.
These days many people obviously use their phones for the same job. A dashboard mount plus a cable to power the phone is a worthwhile purchase.
You should also download the relevant maps into your phone before you leave. There could easily be areas with little or no reception along your route.
Being stranded without a clue where you are going is never fun.
There’s also no shame in going old school. If you have a dog-eared atlas in the cupboard that hasn’t seen the light of day since 2005, pull it out and put it in the car. There is no better backup than that.
Keeping the kids happy
We’ve covered some essential tips when road-tripping with children here. However, at the very least you will want to make sure all gadgets are fully charged and that sufficient food and drink has been packed. (Don’t over do it with the fluids if you want to avoid too many toilet breaks).
Keep sweets to a minimum too. A kid high on candy can be annoying in a confined space. You’ve always got the risk of seeing it all again in liquid form should the road not agree with them.
Pack Smart / Pack Safe
If your road trip involves strapping equipment on to the roof, you should take time to ensure that everything is safely strapped into place.
These days there are many purpose designed brackets and mounts for such gear. These make for a good investment. Not only are they safer, they will do far less potential damage to your car.
Your Dad may have stacked suitcases to the roof using frayed bits of rope and electrical wire, but it doesn’t mean you have to.
Be aware of the load capacity of your car. On most new cars such information will be visible inside the driver’s door jam. On older vehicles you may have to look through the relevant documentation or simply Google it.
The load rating includes all the passengers and cargo. If you’re going to be carting a fat uncle across 12 States you will need to factor this in.
Not only is fuel economy reduced when the car is fully loaded, handling diminishes too.
If possible you should only mount lighter items onto the roof. A top heavy vehicle is more likely to roll should such horrible circumstances occur.
A suitable departure time
Obviously you will want to avoid heavy traffic. If you have the luxury of leaving at a time of your choosing, allow yourself more than enough time to reach your destination. Leave during the early hours for clearer roads.
As soon as you begin rushing to meet a deadline, you will turn into an unsafe driver. You will be stressed and the road trip will be nothing but a nightmare.
Be patient. Take time for refreshments and restroom breaks. And never, ever drive while too tired.
If you follow these steps, drive safely and obey the rules of the highway your journey will be an enjoyable one. There’s nothing quite like hitting the road in America.