Have your auto service technician perform a vehicle inspection to make sure the car is good to go for a road trip… what could be worse than being stranded on the side of the road with your kids screaming in the back seat?
Don’t leave this to the last minute. Make sure your technician has availability in his or her schedule to properly check your car and perform any necessary repairs. It’s not a good idea to get any major repairs done days before you leave town — if there are unexpected delays (like bolts seizing, unavailable parts, etc.) this could really throw a wrench in your schedule (pardon the pun). If there are any warranty issues after the repair, you want to have them addressed while you’re in town and not find out while you’re on the highway in the middle of nowhere.
Do-it-yourself items like checking fluid levels and tire pressures should be done. Don’t forget to check the tire pressure in your spare tire! Don’t go by the maximum tire pressure written on the tires themselves. Instead, remember that tire pressures for your car are written on a placard in the driver’s side door jamb and/or in the fuel door.
Check your light bulbs and wiper blades too — many owners’ manuals have instructions on how to replace these items.
Kids can help out too during this prep time; why not make it a family affair? They can check fluid levels and light bulbs with you, older kids can check tire pressures too.
Sometimes travelling with the family means I have to play a bit of Tetris with all our gear. The strategy is to help free up space inside the passenger cabin so it’s a more comfortable ride and fewer loose items are hanging around.
When there’s not enough room in our SUV, we use a Thule cargo box that hooks up to our car’s hitch. If you don’t have a hitch for that option, consider using a rooftop carrier.
Remember to bring your car emergency kit (filled with energy bars, water, blankets, wind-up flashlight, etc.) just in case.
Remember to keep loose items secured. If you have anything tied down or tethered, check them every time you get to a pit stop. Make sure your windows are clear (including your rear windshield) and your mirrors are unobstructed. If you have a cargo mat that covers the contents of your trunk, that's a good guideline of how high you can safely pile up your luggage.
I know it seems like all this shouldn’t need to be said but I’m sure you’ve passed one or two vehicles on the road that have stuff piled so high in their car, you wonder how the driver can see properly.