Summer Road Trip Prep

A couple driving in a convertible on a sunny road

When I was ten, my parents and sisters and I went on a road trip from New York to Nashville in our family’s motor home. What was planned to be a leisurely drive through some of America's greatest sights turned quickly awry when the wrong gas got put in the engine and we were stranded on the side of a forgotten highway. This article will work as an introduction to road trip prep, and as a checklist of things to remember when planning an epic summer adventure.

The Car - Your Number One Priority

A hand pouring some sort of fluid into a car.

Whether it’s a short trip or a long haul across the country, making sure your car is in working order is the greatest way to arrive at your destination in one piece. Though you should get your automobile inspected often, there are a number of things that can still go forgotten, which can cause a detriment to your safety. The following are some things one must be sure to check before embarking on a summer adventure.

Battery: Before a trip, a wise car owner inspects the car battery. Clean its terminals if necessary (using a light brushing of baking soda and water), and be sure to research the life span of your equipment.

Tires: The best time to get new tires is before they are needed. Look yours over for nails, holes, and other potential issues, rotate them if appropriate, and make sure your set are in alignment with the trip ahead. For instance, do you still have your heavy traction snow tires on in the warm months?

Brakes: A car's brakes are understandably important. Therefore, if you are no expert, have them looked over by a professional before beginning a journey.

Wipers, Fluids, Oils: Finally, check the fluid levels. Though oils and windshield wipers can be bought on the road, it will be less expensive in your hometown's shops, rather than on the highway.

Maps and Navigation

Does anyone really use a map these days? The answer to this is yes—my father does. Though I have a hand-held GPS system and a map app on my phone to aid me in everyday navigation, experts say that when preparing for a trip, it's always best to have multiple sets of directions. In my family’s case, when we drive long distances we have a map, our phone’s GPS and “TripTick” provided through our AAA memberships.

Readiness Kit

I was a Boy Scout—admittedly not a very good one—but if I learned one thing, it was to always be prepared for the worst possible occurrence imaginable. When packing for a car trip, this means packing a bag of essentials in a readiness kit, just in case. A basic kit includes a flashlight, blanket, first aid kit, and basic tools. Also be sure to pack snacks such as crackers, granola bars and bottles of water, that are only to be eaten in emergency situations.

Electronics and Power Cords

As someone who likes to pack for trips at the last minute, I frequently encounter the moment of dread when it's discovered I've forgotten a key piece of personal electronics. In my experience, this is often not my lap top or phone—it is usually the power chords that get left behind which, in a short while, means my lap top and phone will be useless. What I recommend doing is a day or so before a trip, simply make a check list of all the devices and accessories necessary so you don't forget anything.


A driver with a hand on a steering wheel and another hand holding a smart phone with an map app open.

As detailed above, different generations of people value different tools when on a road trip. If you’re like me, you like to have a set of apps at the ready for all potential situations. Today, there are applications for everything.

Some I recommend are hotel finders, restaurant finders, a music streamer, an app to find the most inexpensive gasoline no matter where you are, and a reader to be able to read while someone else drives.

Above all, have fun! Preparing for a road tip can be just as much fun as embarking on your journey, so do some research, plan ahead, and enjoy seeing the sights!