Summer is officially here; the kids are out of school, and families are looking forward to summer roadtrips and vacation plans. We at Tischer Auto want you to be able to enjoy your summer travels in a manner that is, of course, fun but also safe. So we’ve rounded up some of the best car prep and travel advice around the Internet and compiled all in one place—this post. The more prepared you and your cars are for travel, the more likely your trip will go smoothly.
1. Car Maintenance and Service: Before your travels, we recommend your local car professional or you inspect various aspects of your vehicle such as:
- Engine oil and filter
- Transmission fluid
- Radiator coolant
- Brake fluid
- Windshield washer fluid
- Air filter
- Belts and hoses
- Air conditioning
- Lights—headlights, brake lights, blinkers
- Tires and tire pressure
Some of these maintenance checks can be done yourself, while other inspections might be best suited for your local mechanic or dealership. Either way, it’s best to have a properly-serviced vehicle before you hit the road. The nature and time of your last service on your vehicle will determine how far out you will need to schedule service. We suggest a minimum of two weeks before your travel plans, and one-month out if you want to be extra cautious in the event your vehicle is long-overdue for service.
2. Check your spare tire. Nobody likes to get a flat tire, but the situation will be all the more bearable if you’ve made sure you have a properly inflated spare tire on hand, as well as a wheel wrench, jack, and wheel lock key (if applicable). If you don’t know how to change a tire on your car, also plan on speaking with your local car professional about that process. Thanks to the miracle of YouTube, many tire-changing demo videos can be found online as well.
3. Have an emergency kit. In the event of a true emergency, it’s best to have an emergency kit on hand and a few car emergency essentials.
4. Have roadside assistance. While we’re on the subject of emergencies, make sure that you have some sort of backup assistance such as an AAA membership in the event the going gets tough. If you’ve added roadside assistance to your insurance plan with your local insurance provider, we suggest double-checking the nature of this coverage with your insurance company. We speak from experience; we’ve had customers who thought they were paying for roadside assistance as part of their insurance coverage only to find out during an emergency that this was not the case!
5. Have a GPS navigation system or road atlas. Most cars today come with a built-in capability for navigation, but depending on the package you may or may not have purchased with your dealership, not every driver takes advantage of this option. At Tischer, our Acura models have AcuraLink® options and our Nissan models have NissanConnectSM with Navigation options. But no matter what car you drive, anyone can purchase a third-party navigation system for their car. If you’re feeling extra adventurous and are looking forward to truly “hitting the open road,” buy a road atlas. About.com makes a good point: “Getting off the beaten path can add an entirely new dimension to your trip.”
6. Pack your smartphone and car charger. One way to handle navigation is through your smartphone! Having your smartphone with you for summer travels is probably a no-brainer, but don’t forget to also invest in a car charger if you’re heading out for a long trip. Plus, many new cars have the ability to stream music via smartphone or iPod connections these days. Good tunes will make all the difference when cooped up in the car!
7. Download essential automotive apps. There are a ton of travel apps these days. In fact, Tischer has its own car care app and we’ve written previous blog posts about essential apps for both Nissan and Acura drivers. However, even if you’re not a Tischer customer, Nissan driver, or Acura driver, apps are your friend when venturing into new territory. For example, Gas Buddy will help you find the most affordable gas prices wherever you are. This list from Edmunds.com might be a good place to start.
8. Know the texting and cell phone laws wherever you go. If you’re not sure what the laws are in the state/city you’re visiting, just play it safe. Use hands-free options whenever possible and don’t ever text and drive.
9. Have all your paperwork in order. By paperwork we mean making sure you have your license in your wallet, and your up-to-date proof of insurance and car registration in the glovebox (or wherever you prefer to keep it). Also, having an owner’s manual on hand is probably prudent (although we realize most people don’t take the time to check it out). If you’re renting a car, make sure that you have been told where these documents are kept in the rental.
10. Smart-load extra cargo. Naturally, when people are traveling they pack extra luggage which can create quite a hefty load for your car. Distribute extra weight evenly throughout the vehicle and in the trunk. Here’s a great explanation from Consumer Reports:
Check your vehicle’s load capacity to make sure you aren’t putting too much weight in the car. On most new cars, the total weight you can carry is printed on the door placard inside the driver’s door jam. This load rating includes all the passengers and cargo. Be aware that fuel economy is reduced with extra cargo. Roof-top cargo boxes should only be filled with light bulky items. Heavy loads on the roof can make the vehicle more difficult to handle in emergency situations and increase the risk of a roll over. If not in use, remove the roof rack as if can significantly worsen your fuel economy.
11. Fill the gas tank. If you make smart use of the mobile apps we’ve referred to, you should be getting the most bang for your buck at the pump. However, it’s always smart to fill up the car before you go. Prices can be higher in cities and tourist-y areas, and gas stations are notorious for marking up gas prices just in time for holiday travel.
12. Have a schedule. If you’re planning a long trip, you’ll want to take a break. Having a driving schedule will help you stay on track but also keep you safe and alert. Decide how long you will drive, when you will take breaks, and where you’ll stop.
13. Have a clean record. We found this tip from the DMV (of course!), but it’s a good point: “Make sure all traffic tickets are paid. The cleaner the driving record, the better for you if stopped.”
14. Clean your car inside and out. While cleaning in general isn’t usually associated with vacation plans, we all know that extended car travel can result in accumulated stuff in the car—gum wrappers, food and beverage containers, personal items, etc. Giving your car a thorough cleaning inside, and even a car wash on the outside, will leave you feeling all the more prepared. Plus, it’s a good feeling to start off with a fresh, shiny car!
15. Don’t forget something for the kiddies! Four words that grate on parents’ nerves: Are we there yet? It’s tough to keep young ones entertained for more than a couple of hours in the car. Having music, games, and snacks for the kids will help distract them during travel time. So, load up the iPod and iPad with plenty of fun before you head out. Here’s something else to consider: certain models we sell at Tischer such as the Nissan Rogue, Nissan Quest, and Acura MDX, among others, have optional Entertainment Packages that are ideal for keeping kids and other company entertained during travel.
For additional tips on traveling with kids, check out “10 Tips for a Stress Free Road Trip with Kids.”
16. Relax. Planning a vacation, budgeting for vacation, and travel itself can indeed be really stressful. Most people don’t focus on relaxing until they arrive at their destination. Try to incorporate a positive attitude prior to that moment and enjoy the travel time with your friends and family. You’ve earned a vacation, so why not start relaxing immediately?
We at Tischer hope that you enjoy your summer plans and vacations this season. We hope the tips we’ve shared help you plan effectively and safely. If you have more tips to add, please feel free to do so in the comments below or share them with us on Facebook or Twitter. Make it a great summer!
*image courtesy of Floor/Flickr.com