Get road-trip ready with these tips

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Summer—or spring break—will be here before you know it. But before you throw your family, friends and loved ones (including four-legged furry pals) into the car and head out on the road trip of a lifetime, there’s something you’ll want to take care of: your car.

Throwing caution to the wind and setting off on a trip can be exhilarating, but give yourself and your fellow travelers peace of mind by being prepared. Let’s start with making sure your vehicle is ready to go.

Maintenance checklist

To ensure your trip goes as seamlessly as possible, take time to make sure you’re up to date with all vehicle maintenance.

  • Perform routine maintenance. Ensure your vehicle is current with its routine maintenance, including oil changes, fluid checks, tire rotations and brake inspections. If any maintenance will be due while you’re on your trip, get it done before you leave to save yourself the hassle and maintain peace of mind.

  • Check all fluid levels. If all fluids aren’t covered under routine maintenance, make sure you check the following fluid levels: engine oil, coolant, transmission and windshield wiper.

  • Inspect tires. Before hitting the road, check your tire pressure, including your spare tire, to ensure they’re all properly inflated. Also, inspect the tread depth and check for any wear and tear.

  • Test lights and signals. Check all exterior lights, like headlights, brake lights, turn signals and hazard lights. Replace any bulbs that are burned out.

  • Check heating and cooling. Test the air conditioning system to make sure it’s working properly, especially if you’re traveling in hot weather. If you’re traveling to colder climates, ensure the heat is working as expected.

Preparation checklist

Once your vehicle is in good condition, there are some other ways you can prepare to ensure your trip goes off without a hitch.

  • Emergency kit. Pack an emergency kit that includes essential items, like a first aid kit, flashlight, jumper cables, basic tools, blankets, ponchos, water, non-perishable snacks and a portable phone charger. Also, ensure your spare tire, tire jack and tire iron are packed in case of a flat tire. (And it wouldn’t hurt to add a portable tire inflator to your checklist either.)

  • Alternative navigation. If you use a GPS or navigational system other than your phone, make sure it’s updated. Keep a map in your car in case you lose navigational service along the way.

  • Documentation. Ensure you’ve packed all important vehicular documents—especially your driver’s license and/or passport if you plan to cross borders—and keep them in an easily accessible place. This should include your vehicle registration, insurance information and any roadside assistance memberships.

  • Planned route. Plan your route in advance, including alternate routes in case of inclement weather or construction. Be sure to factor in rest stops and gas stations (or charging stations if you drive an electric vehicle) along the way.

Enjoy the ride

Before you embark on your (hopefully) carefully planned journey, don’t forget to plan for entertainment along the way. Earmark favorite podcasts or audiobooks, stock up on car games, and have each passenger create their own playlist for the trip. Get lots of rest, take lots of breaks and enjoy the trip. Happy travels!