Some of my fondest childhood memories are of the times that my family and I took road trips together. These were experiences that promoted bonding, fun, and adventure. My favorite mode of travel is by car, and I'd like to share my top seven tips for preparing for a road trip.
- Take steps in advance to ensure that your car is road worthy. If you take your car to your dealership or one of the national chain auto shops, such as Firestone or Pep Boys, and tell them that you're about to take a long-distance trip and want the car checked they will do a comprehensive diagnostic of the vehicle for a nominal fee. In some cases, they won't charge you anything at all. They will tell you exactly what the car needs to raise the odds that you won't experience any mechanical issues during your trip.
- Pack an emergency kit in the vehicle. Make sure that you have items like a tire jack, jumper cables, a gas can, and water stowed away so that you can handle minor emergencies on your own. Be sure that your auto club membership is paid and active. This one tip alone saved my husband and I on an overnight trip that we took that ended up with our vehicle blowing a tire on a dark deserted road.
- Plan your trip in advance. Map out your route on Google Maps and print it out. Send turn-by-turn directions to your phone, if you have a smartphone, or tablet. Google Maps will guide you to your destination just as well as any high-end subscription navigation service. Make sure that your phone or tablet has a working GPS or that your in-car navigation unit is fully functional.
- Make sure that you have all of your important driver documents on hand. Check to see that your driver's license, car registration, insurance card and/or rental papers, if you're renting a vehicle for the trip, are within easy access.
- Pack a few treats to save on food expenses. Eating on the road can be expensive, and if you're not careful this area of expense will eat into the majority of your trip's budget. Fill a cooler with bottled water, sodas, fruit, and sandwiches. Purchase cookies, chips, and other snack items from the grocery store in advance.
- Take a working cell phone, and be sure that you have a way to charge it. This is your number one defense against road trip mayhem. Nine times out of ten, if you have a cell phone you're never more than a call away from assistance if disaster strikes. Make sure that you don't forget your charger.
- Bring entertainment items for the kids. Nothing will drive you more crazy than the constant queries from children asking if you are "there yet." Bring books, tablets with movies downloaded, games, coloring books, and video games. Whatever keeps them entertained at home will keep them entertained on the road.
AskMen.com: Preparing Your Car for a Road Trip
DMV.org: Road Trip Tips: Plan a Fun and Safe Drive
CNN.com: RoadTrip! What to Do to Prepare
*Photo: Jak Sie Masz via Flickr
[Originally published on Yahoo! Voices on 07/01/2014 (no longer published there).]