The Essential Road Trip Checklist for Your Car

Summer isn’t just a time for swimming pools, sunburns and Cleveland Indians games. It’s travel season! If you’re planning to take a road trip outside Ohio this summer, you’re not alone. Just last year, more than 35% of Americans planned to take a vacation 50 miles or more away from home with at least two family members, according to an AAA survey.

The only question is, are you ready? More importantly, is your car ready? Use this article as your road trip planning guide, and you’ll minimize or hopefully eliminate any potential issues on the road. 

Road Trip Checklist: Destinations

First off, do you know where you’re going? Whether you’re interested in a day trip, weekend trip or something a little further outside of Cleveland, here are a few destinations to consider:

  • Chicago: While you can’t jump on the Hyperloop to travel from Cleveland to Chicago in 30 minutes just yet, the Windy City makes a great getaway destination for pizza, sports and more. Be sure to cover the essentials and take a picture at the Cloud Gate and visit Navy Pier.
  • Pittsburgh: Named one of the 17 Best Places to Travel in 2017, Pittsburgh is home to the Andy Warhol Museum and a mouth-watering selection of up-and-coming restaurants. There are also plenty of vintage shopping opportunities.
  • Pennsylvania Dutch Country: After visiting Pittsburgh, why not push on through to Amish Country for some unique, family-friendly activities? Embrace the history of the area and drive the Heritage Trail.
  • Niagara Falls: Just 329 miles from Cleveland, Niagara Falls is about even more than the awe-inspiring, famous waterfall. Other attractions include caves, theaters and aquariums.
  • Detroit: The Motor City is becoming more and more of a travel destination, with plenty of summer events and historic landmarks, museums and restaurants to visit.

To find the best route, be sure to check road construction and traffic conditions along your route. Once you figure out where you’re going and the route you'll take, you can start packing.

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Road Trip Checklist: Packing for the Trip

Pulling over every 30 minutes at a gas station because you forgot necessities like water bottles is no fun — and not very efficient. Here are a few items to keep in mind when packing for your road trip:

  • Charging cables: Phones are so important these days, they might as well be another appendage on the body. Don’t forget to bring cables to charge them, as they’re sure to lose battery life in no time.
  • Snacks/drinks: You need fuel for your car, but you also need fuel for your body if you want to actually enjoy your trip. Stocking up on protein-rich snacks and healthy drinks like water will ensure you don’t go over budget on food during the trip.
  • First-aid kit: You never know what might happen on the road, and a first-aid kit will help you stay prepared. Make sure you have bandages, antibiotic cream and cleansing wipes in case you or the kids have a minor accident or injury.
  • Clothing, gear and and toiletries: You don’t want to spend all that time packing and preparing for the trip and then forget your luggage, do you? Make sure your clothing, gear and toiletries are packed early and placed in a spot by the door where you won’t forget them.

Now that you’ve packed, what will you do on the road?

Road Trip Checklist: What to Do During the Trip

When kids don’t have anything to do on the road, it’s a scary situation. Make sure you and your children are entertained by bringing along some stuff to do, such as:

  • Podcasts: Whether you listen to a topic on the car stereo that everyone can enjoy, or something on your headphones that’s just for you, podcasts are a great way to pass the time. If you don’t have any that you already subscribe to, check out this list of the 101 best podcasts for 2018. There are even great podcasts for kids
  • Games: Board games, mobile games, singing games and good old-fashioned games like “I Spy” can help you pass the time. Here are a few ideas that are great for both adults and kids.
  • Music/videos: This is more of a reminder to bring your phone or tablet, as that’s where most people keep their favorite playlists or watch streaming videos these days. But have you considered playing music everyone enjoys for a change? Or watching a video together? (Except for the driver, of course.)
  • Photo ops: Taking breaks will help everyone’s morale, so why not make the most of them and take some selfies or landscape photos? There are plenty of breathtaking places to photograph in Ohio and beyond.

Finally, make sure your car is ready for the road trip.

Road Trip Checklist: Car Systems to Check

Nothing ruins a good road trip like a car problem, which is why most people would rather avoid them in the summer. Fortunately, there are several systems you can check before you hit the road to limit the chances of that happening. Here’s a road trip car checklist to help you out:

  • Oil: Has your oil been changed lately? Are all your fluids topped off? Getting a comprehensive oil change and preventive maintenance inspection is a wise decision, as it can stop other potential issues from popping up.
  • Tires: Checking your tires before your trip ensures they have the right amount of air pressure and is an easy way to improve the way your vehicle handles. Plus, it will boost your gas mileage and extend the life of your tires. If it's time in your maintenance schedule, be sure to get a wheel alignment or balancing while you’re at it.
  • A/C: Going on a road trip during the summer without air conditioning is a recipe for disaster. Make sure yours doesn’t fail in the middle of the journey by getting a heating and cooling inspection to check your coolant, water pump, thermostat and more.
  • Brakes: You’re probably ready to get going, but what if you can’t stop? Brakes should be inspected once a year, so why not do it before your trip? (Definitely don't skip this step if your brakes are making noise or are less responsive or if your brake light is on.) Make sure the technicians look at brake pads and rotors as well during your brake inspection.
  • Other systems: If you want extra peace of mind or are going on a particularly long trip, it’s a good idea to get a full computer diagnostics report, so experts can inspect and diagnose any problems, then recommend the best solutions. This is especially important if your car is showing signs it needs a tune-up.

Lastly, if your vehicle has been sitting unused for some time, it's wise to consult our car maintenance checklist for your sitting vehicle to ensure your car or truck is ready to stretch its legs. 

A good road trip car checklist is crucial for ensuring your trip goes as planned. Review the above tips, call or visit a Rainbow Muffler auto repair shop near you to schedule a pre-trip checkup and happy travels! 

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