Last Updated on October 22, 2020 by Corinne Schmitt
As I mentioned yesterday, my family is gearing up for a cross-country road trip so this week I’m sharing all my tricks and strategies for traveling by car. Yesterday, I went over apps that will help save you time, money, and frustration on the road. If you missed it, click here for the list. Today, I’m going to share with you my pre-travel checklist. These are all the things I tend to forget until the last minute (or completely) so I try to print it off a week before our trip and knock them out early to enjoy a stress-free vacation.
Things To Do Before You Travel
- Vehicle Maintenance: Before setting out on a long road trip, I like to make sure everything is in good shape. I get the oil changed if I am near the mileage deadline. While I am there, they usually top off all my fluids and check my tire pressure. Also, if it is time (or nearly so) for my tires to be rotated, I get that taken care of before the trip. Make sure your windshield wipers are working properly (you don’t want to figure out they need to be replaced when you are stuck in a rainstorm on the Interstate). And fill up with gas while you’re still in your hometown where it will be cheaper than along the highway.
- Make Sure Documents Are Up-To-Date: The only thing worse than getting a speeding ticket in another state is getting another ticket on top of it for having an expired license, insurance, or registration. Make sure you are current on all of these items and that you have the proper documentation with you in the car.
- Pay Your Bills: Check your calendar and checkbook to figure out what bills will be due during your trip and make sure you pay them before you leave. You’ll be spending enough money on your vacation, don’t add to the financial strain by throwing in late fees to the mix.
- Place Holds On Mail and Newspaper Delivery: Don’t alert potential burglars to the fact that your house is empty by letting newspapers stack up in your driveway. If you don’t want to bother with placing a hold on these services, ask a neighbor to pick them up and hold them for you.
- Leave A Key With A Friend Or Neighbor: You never know what will come up when you are away. If a neighbor sees smoke coming from your home, wouldn’t you rather they have a key to get in and check it out rather than waiting for your house to burn down or breaking a door or window to get in? Also, if you need information or an item that you forgot at home, you can easily remedy the problem by having a neighbor retrieve it for you. Also make sure that you leave your contact information with whoever is holding your key so they have a way to reach you if something does come up at home.
- Provide Travel Info To Family Members or Friends: It’s common courtesy for you to let whoever you are planning to visit know when you plan to arrive and how long you intend to stay. Beyond that, it’s also nice if your friends or family know your general travel route so that they can alert you to potential hazards along the way, especially if you tend to listen to CD’s rather than radio stations when you are driving.
- Plan Stops Along Your Route: Traveling can be stressful, especially if you put too much pressure on yourself to make good time or stick to a strict schedule. Instead of focusing entirely on your final destination, plan a few intentional stops along your trip to make the entire journey a vacation. Look for landmarks, attractions or special eateries along your route to break up a long drive and have fun along the way.
- Borrow DVD’s and Audio Books From the Library: Sure, you could buy audio books or DVD’s or even rent Redbox movies and return them along the way, but if you borrow them from your library you won’t pay a penny.
- Stock Up On Travel Necessities: When traveling by car you don’t have to obsess about squeezing all your personal hygiene supplies into 3 oz. containers. However, you will be trapped in a car with your family for several hours which opens you up to the risk of spills, crumbs, wrappers on the floor, etc. Keep your traveling space tidy with a supply of wet wipes, disinfecting wipes, plastic grocery bags for trash, and napkins or paper towels.
- Be Prepared For GPS Failure: In the world of navigation systems and smart phones, most people have abandoned the habit of printing off directions before they travel or carrying a road atlas with them. Don’t make this mistake! Even an updated GPS system isn’t always right. And if you should end up in an area where you aren’t getting good reception, technology might fail you altogether. So, put a road atlas in the car and a copy of the directions to your destination (including any planned stops along the way).
- Pack Per Day Not Per Person: If you are going to be making several overnight stops during your trip, pack bags for each day rather than for each person so that you only have to carry in one or two bags rather than unloading your entire trunk or luggage carrier at each stop.
- Get Cash: Although it seems credit and debit cards are accepted almost everywhere, systems do sometimes go down and you don’t want to be stuck if it happens when your car’s gas tank is empty.
- Charge All Electronics: Make sure your phone, the kids’ gaming systems, iPods, etc. are fully charged before the trip. This is especially important when you have more than one child since fighting over the solitary plug is one of the most frustrating arguments to endure during a road trip (second only to the “He’s in my space,” aka “She’s touching me!” argument).
- Give the Kids A Camera: This will not only entertain them during the entire vacation, but it will also provide you with some great photo memories after the trip.
- Bring A Thermos: Most gas stations will allow you to fill your thermos for the price of a large coffee. Depending on how much coffee you and your driving companion(s) drink, this could save you several dollars.