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January 31, 2019

As the long, cold winter days drag on, it’s only natural to start dreaming about that upcoming, spring road trip. You know spring, when the flowers start blooming, the leaves pop out on the trees, longer days filled with warming sun and cool breezes, blue skies, and a refreshing beginning.

And if you’re taking your family on a spring road trip, your first priority is keeping them and yourself safe. The road is unpredictable, and unfortunately, you never know what situations you may encounter, from a flat tire to an overheated vehicle, from getting stuck in traffic to an accident, or even being broken down and stranded.

So what are some steps that you can take to prepare for your spring road trip, both now and as it gets closer? Let’s take a look below and get you and your family ready for a safe, stress-free road trip and vacation.

Create a Budget

You probably already do this on a week-in/week-out basis for your everyday life, with money set aside for groceries, bills, gas, and a variety of other essentials. The same should be done for your trip. The obvious expenses are food, gas, and accommodations. But go deeper, and consider expenses like tolls, activities, and souvenirs. And you can take it one step further and budget for potential emergency situations like a flat tire, dead car battery, or even an extra night’s lodgings somewhere should you get stranded. You may also want to consider working into your regular budget a membership to a roadside service like AAA. This will help give you a little peace of mind as you prepare for your travels.

Get Your Home Ready

Even though you won’t be there, you should prepare your home for your absence. Ask a friend or good neighbor to check on your home periodically while you’re gone. Not only will they know if something’s wrong, but it’s always a good idea to have some sort of movement and activity so that would-be burglars don’t think they have a home with no one around. And if you’ll be gone an extended period of time, set your indoor lights on a timer so that it appears someone is home.

Make sure your bills are up to date. Take care of any bills that will come due while you’re gone, and set up automatic bill payments if possible. Put a stop on mail and newspaper delivery, so that you don’t have mail piling up in the mailbox, especially important, sensitive documents. Putting a stop on your mail is easy to do. Simply stop in at your post office and fill out a form or click on this link.

The last thing you want is to come home to a refrigerator full of spoiled, smelly food, so clean it out and dispose of everything that may go bad while you’re away. And since you won’t be opening and closing the fridge while you’re gone, you can also turn down the temperature setting so they’re not as cold and don’t run as often.

And lastly, be sure to let your bank and credit card companies know you’ll be traveling so that you can avoid having your accounts flagged for questionable activity. You don’t want to be on the phone with the credit card company when you’re supposed to be enjoying your vacation and family.

Get Your Vehicle Ready

The most important thing on your trip, besides you and your family, is the vehicle you’ll be driving. Whether it’s brand new or on the older side, it’s very important that you have it serviced and inspected by someone or do it yourself if you have experience and knowledge of automobiles.

If you choose to do the inspection yourself, here’s a checklist of the key areas to check:

  • Oil and fluid levels, like transmission
  • Brake pads
  • All lights, including headlights, brake lights, and blinkers
  • Wiper blades and washer fluid
  • Belts and hoses
  • Tire pressure and tread, as well as the spare tire
  • Car battery

Double-check and make sure that your vehicle’s registration and insurance are up-to-date and current.

And if you don’t have one already, you should invest in a roadside emergency kit, which can include items like jumper cables, a flashlight, flares, blankets, and many other items.

Time to Pack

Ah yes, the dreaded “P” word—pack. No matter how old, most of us loath this annoying task, but it is a necessity for a successful and enjoyable road trip.

The first rule of packing is don’t over pack. Chances are you won’t need all of those extra items anyway, and they won’t do anything but weigh you down. Check and see if your final destination has laundry facilities. If so, you can pack lighter and do a small load while you’re there.

Wear lose, comfortable clothing while travelling. Comfort is key. If you’ll be staying somewhere a night or two on your way to your final destination, pack a small bag with pajamas and a change of clothes.

Check your destination’s weather forecast right before you pack to determine what the weather will be like and what type of clothing you’ll need. Will the temperature dip down at night? If so, a hoodie or light jacket may be a good idea.

Depending on your vehicle, with luggage and kids, it may be a tight fit. However, do your best to distribute the weight evenly in the vehicle to ensure a smoother ride.

Don’t Forget Important Items

We’ve all done it. You get about an hour away from home and suddenly realize you forgot your phone charger or a pillow. You’re too far away to go back, so you have to go to plan B. Instead, preplan and jot down every critical, must-have item you can think of so that you won’t miss anything. Some of these may include:

  • Chargers for electronics
  • Medications – both prescription and over the counter meds like allergy meds and vitamins
  • First-aid kit
  • For the kids – a favorite toy, book, or gaming system, plus headphones
  • Pre-bought tickets for any activity, like an amusement park
  • Sunglasses
  • Passport

Driving Tips

For longer-distance trips, it’s a good idea to set a driving schedule if more than one person is able to drive. A good rule of thumb is to switch drivers every two hours. This helps ensure that no one is driving for too long at a time, and that everyone remains fresh and alert. Remember, set a schedule and stick to it. If you switch every two hours, do it without exception, even if the driver doesn’t feel tired.

Drive defensively. In other words, be alert and try to anticipate what other vehicles might do. Check farther down the road so that you can see brake lights or any potential dangers that lay ahead. And make sure to give yourself plenty of space between your vehicle and the one ahead of you.

A Safe Road Trip is the Ultimate Road Trip

Although it may seem like a lot of prep work and planning to go on your trip, by investing that time and energy to do so, you’ll ensure that you’re the most prepared you can be to have a safe, hassle-free trip, and enjoy the precious time spent with family.