Every trip in the car should have a road trip checklist that you run through, especially long haul trips that cover multiple days. From cleaning your car to filling up on gas, snacks and even making sure you have the right charging cables, there is a lot to do before you even start to working your way through your road trip packing list.
Clean out your car
There is nothing worse than a stinky car when you are hitting the open road. Trust me, my youngest tells me my car stinks all of the time (it doesn’t and if it did, guess who’s fault it is). From old socks and random flip flops to crackers, water bottles, spilled coffee and everything in between, a lot can accumulate in your car.
Do a thorough dig under the seats, in the glove compartment, pockets and especially your center console (if you have one).
Once you have your vehicle cleared out, head to the carwash. We are lucky enough to have a car wash that will vacuum the interior, clean the mats and wipe everything down before the exterior even gets washed. It costs around $25 and is well worth it.
If you don’t have a comprehensive car wash in your area, grab your vacuum and go to town on all of those cracker crumbs. Use those little extensions to your vacuum that can get into all of the nooks and crannies too. Wipe down your dashboard and give the inside a little spritz of air freshener (Febreeze is great!)
Get the oil changed
If your oil hasn’t been changed in a while, schedule an appointment ASAP. Getting regular oil changes is one of the easiest ways to keep your car in good condition.
When you are on a long road trip, you don’t want to worry about the gears seizing up (and anything else oil in a car does).
Top up any fluids
Top off your windshield washer fluid, antifreeze, etc. Many places that do oil changes will also do this, but if you don’t need an oil change, give everything a quick look.
You can also bring your car to your local dealership or oil change quick lube for them to check your fluids (wipers and air filter) too.
Check your spare tire
If your car comes with a spare tire, give it a once over. Many of us never look at our tires or spare tire, unless we get a flat.
Before your trip is when you want to know if your spare or donut needs to be patched or replaced. Stay safe and don’t get stuck on the side of a busy highway like we did one summer after a massive tire blow out and a flat spare in the trunk.
Get any chips in your windows repaired
Recently, I had a rock hit my windshield. It left a nice chip in the glass. I haven’t been driving much lately, so I forgot about it.
As we prepped for a road trip, I made an appointment to have it repaired before we left.
No way was I going to see that small, quarter-size chip turn into a giant vein running across my windshield. I didn’t want to slow down our vacation with a trip to the shop, not to mention, there might not be a shop close by when it happened.
Load up on barf bags
Two of the four of us in my family get carsick. Hot days stuck in traffic are not fun for me or my oldest son.
I always have vomit bags and wet wipes (road trip essentials) in the pocket in front of him and a few in the glove compartment. We also have kid’s and adult Dramamine, a first aid kit and garbage bags in the car.
I use these barf bags for long car trips, as you can easily tie them off and toss them when you pull into the next rest stop.
Grab long charging cables
We travel with a lot of devices. I’m not one of those moms who likes to have her kids unplugged for an entire trip.
We use tech in moderation, but we also load up tablets with music, movies, games, books and audiobooks. If one small device will hold a box worth of entertainment, I’m all for it.
However, those devices need to be powered and the standard cable isn’t going to cut it when the kids need to play on a device at 6% battery life.
We have a toiletry bag of 6-foot USB cables for the car. The cords also come in handy when hiding out in a hotel room late at night and there are no plugs for your phone near the bed.
Map out your route
I’m all for winging it, especially on a road trip, but I like to have some idea of how we will get to our destination(s).
The kids and I will gather around a big paper map, tracing with our fingers where we will go. We also pull up Google maps to see where else we could stop along the way.
Grab some cash
You just never know when you will be somewhere that only takes cash. Tolls can also be a problem when only the correct transponder or cash is accepted.
Take out a bit of money, preferably in small bills. This is great for tipping too, but don’t forget to bring your credit card.
Book hotels (or not!)
Generally, I like to know where I’m sleeping, but sometimes you may want to wing it.
Sometimes, we want to drive farther one day, or find something cool another day that sets our trip schedule off course.
Using a hotel booking app, like Booking.com, can save you time and money when you are just too tired to keep going.
Grab water bottles
Wash out your water bottles and have them ready to roll before you leave. We have taken too many daytrips where someone is running back in because we forgot water. I hate buying water when we don’t need to, so I’m a stickler on this one.
As you clean out your car, wash out those water bottles your kids left from their last sports practice. Load each up with cold water and ice the night before so you are ready to go. These water bottles will stay cold for up to 28 hours, which is perfect for a long day in the car.
Clean your cooler
Remember that cooler or cooler bag in your basement/closet? Yup, it’s time to give it a nice scrub, and throw some ice packs in the freezer in preparation for your trip.
Having everything clean and ready will make it easier to start packing for a road trip.
Clear out the refrigerator
Throw away any old food that has been pushed to the back. Look at expiration dates and toss anything that will go bad while you are gone. There is nothing worse than rotting milk, trust me.
You may also find some fresh fruits and veggies that need to be eaten, and will be great snacks in the car. Apples, bananas, carrots and cucumbers all make great road trip snacks.
Set your out of office notice on your email
One thing I always forget to do is set an out of office message on my email. If you have a Gmail account, it’s so easy to set one up and even schedule it for a later date. You can also set your OOO to auto-shut off when you are home.
Things to include in your OOO message:
- Dates you will be gone
- Who to contact for urgent questions and needs
- Whether you will be checking email or not
Load up on snacks
Grabbing your favorite snacks in bulk before a long drive can save you a lot of money. We always have fresh fruits and veggies on hand the first day or two, and may reload at a local farmer’s market along the way.
Fruit bars, granola bars, dried fruit and other non-perishables are perfect to grab in bulk to last your entire trip.
Goldfish snack crackers are a favorite, as are Nutrigrain cereal bars in our house. We always have some candy (M&Ms, Skittles, etc.) and special treats on hand too, which save money on those one-off expenses at the gas station.
Double check with your travel insurance company that your trip will be covered with the policy you have bought. Not every policy will cover damages on your car, or medical expenses if something happens along the way.
We are longtime Allianz Travel customers. The peace of mind that comes with an annual insurance policy is pretty nice, especially in uncertain times.